Hot Docs Unveils Glitzy Special Presentations

Canadian documentary festival goes for glamour with celebrity-driven sidebar.

TORONTO – Even documentary festivals go for the glitz and glamour: Hot Docs on Tuesday unveiled the latest documentaries from Lee Hirsch, Dori Berinstein and actor Michael Rapaport as part of its star-speckled Special Presentations sidebar.

The Toronto doc festival will give international premieres to Berinstein’s Carol Channing: Larger Than Life, a biopic about the Broadway powerhouse, now 90 years-old, Hirsch’s The Bully Project, and Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest, Rapaport's directorial debut about true hip-hop pioneers.

Other international premieres in Toronto, many direct from Sundance, include that festival’s special jury prize winner Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey, from filmmaker Constance Marks and narrated by Whoopi Goldberg, and Fenton Bailey’s Becoming Chaz, which portrays Chaz Bono, formerly Chastity, and her gender transformation in the public spotlight.

"Our Special Presentations program is the closest documentary gets to glitz and glamour," Hot Docs director of programming Sean Farnel explained.

Other celebrity portraits at Hot Docs include Conan O’Brien in Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop, from filmmaker Rodman Flender, Bobby Fischer in Elizabeth GarbusBobby Fischer Against The World, Mama Africa, Mika Kaurismäki’s portrait of South African singer and civil rights activist Miriam Makeba, and Douglas Arrowsmith’s Love Shines, a doc about Canadian songwriting legend Ron Sexsmith.

Other Sundance award winners coming to Toronto: Leonard Retel Helmrich’s Position Among the Stars, Cindy Meehl’s Buck, and Senna, British filmmaker Asif Kapadia’s film about Brazilian race car driver Ayrton Senna.

Hot Docs, North America's largest documentary festival, will also host nine official delegations at its upcoming April 28 to May 8 edition as part of its market, from Brazil, China, France, Germany, Italy, the Nordic region, South Africa, the U.K. and the U.S.

And Italian films will receive a spotlight as part of Hot Doc’s Made In program, with screenings in Toronto that include Castle, by Massimo D'Anolfi and Martina Parenti, Giuseppe Schillaci’s Cosmic Energy Inc., and Draquila – Italy Trembles, where actor and political satirist Sabina Guzzanti critiques government ineptitude and corruption after the 2009 earthquake that devastated L'Aquila.