Hot Docs Unveils 18th Edition Film Slate

Morgan Spurlock's 'POM Wonderful Presents' to open documentary festival on April 18.

TORONTO -- The Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival's 18th edition is to open April 28 with Morgan Spurlock's POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold.

Spurlock's feature doc on advertising and product placement paid for entirely by advertising and product placement comes to Toronto for a Canadian premiere at the Winter Gardens Theatre by way of Sundance and the SXSW Film Festival, and ahead of the Sony Pictures Classics release on April 22.

As Hot Docs unveiled its feature film program Tuesday, the festival said it will unspool 199 documentaries from 23 countries over ten sidebars.

Don't expect love-at-first-sight storylines or blue-lit love scenes. Hot Docs means mostly celebrity-driven pics or portraits about the realities of war and conflict and personal struggle.

Sean Farnel, Hot Docs director of programming, said the main film themes this year include the arrogance of power, problematic families and "directors becoming fictional characters in thelr own films." There's also a world premiere for Michael Galinsky and Suki Hawley's Battle for Brooklyn in the World Showcase program, which captures a community fighting to stop developer Bruce Ratner demolishing a Brooklyn community to make way for a New Jersey Nets basketball arena and commercial towers.

It's also David against a stylish Goliath in a world bow for British filmmaker Anthony Baxter's You've Been Trumped, about a grassroots fight in Scotland against Donald Trump building a luxury golf resort on an environmentally-sensitive shoreline.

There are also world debuts for films about overseas war and conflict: Thomas Selim Wallner's The Guantanamo Trap, about four lives forever changed by the infamous U.S. detention camp, Igal Hecht's The Hilltops, about West Bank settlements as a lightning rod of controversy, and The Pirate Tapes, from directors Matvei Zhivov, Roger Singh, Andrew Moniz and Rock Baijnauth, where a Somali-Canadian journalist uses a hidden camera footage to penetrate a Somali pirate cell.

The politics of personal identity figures in world premieres for three American docs: Jenifer McShane's Mothers of Bedford, which follows five women over four years in a New York maximum security jail who are both prisoners and mothers; Steve Lickteig's Open Secret, where the Kansas filmmaker searchs for his real birth parents, only to discover his parents are his grandparents and his older sister is his mother; and Linda Goldstein Knowlton's Somewhere Between, about four teenage American girls who were adopted from China because their parents couldn't keep them because of that country's one child policy, and who now seek out their roots.

World premieres for Canadian docs include Rohan Fernando's The Chocolate Farmer, Trish Dolman's Eco Pirate: The Story of Paul Watson, about the controversial Greenpeace co-founder, and Mia Donovan's Inside Lara Roxx, about a young woman who made world headlines in 2004 for contracting HIV while working in the Los Angeles porn industry, only to soon land in Montreal psychiatric ward on a path to a new identity.

The competitive International Spectrum sidebar has 34 films, including world premieres for Jet Homoet and Sharog Heshmat Manesh's Daughters of Malakeh, about traditional Sharia marriage in Iran, Tanaz Eshaghian's Love Crimes of Kabul, a look inside Afghanistan's Badam Bagh women's prison, and U.S. filmmaker Matt Boyd's A Rubberband is an Unlikely Instrument,, about a struggling Brooklyn musician and occasional rubber-band busker.

Other international premieres in Toronto include U.S. filmmaker Tristan Patterson's Dragonslayer, about Californian skate-punk Skreech, Danfung Dennis's Hell and Back Again, portraying U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan and back at home, and Peter D. Richardson's How To Die in Oregon, the Sundance winner about terminally ill patients seizing control of their lives and deaths.

Toronto will also host the annual Hot Docs Forum on May 4 and 5, featuring 27 projects looking to fill out financing from around 300 invited international broadcasters, funders and distributors, and nine filmmaker delegations from Brazil, China, France, Germany, Italy, the Nordic region, South Africa, the U.K. and the U.S.

Many of the producers will take part in the International Co-Production Day, and one-on-one meetings and social events aimed at sparking international co- productions.

Hot Docs will present IDFA's Ally Derks with the 2011 Doc Mogul Award on Tuesday, May 3.

Hot Docs is set to run in Toronto from April 28 to May 8.