Record crowds out for Hot Docs opener


TORONTO -- The Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival kicked off Thursday night with a record number of films and industry delegates in attendance.

"I know we have put together the finest collection of documentaries anywhere," Hot Docs CEO Chris MacDonald told the audience in the august Winter Gardens Theatre.

The festival's opening-night film was Sacha Gervasi's "Anvil! The Story of Anvil," a portrait of aging yet unstoppable Toronto heavy metal rockers that came to Hot Docs by way of Sundance.

Gervasi, who is based in Los Angeles, said that CAA has three U.S. distribution offers on the table, and hopes to close a deal in Toronto.

Also Thursday, Toronto gave a world premiere to Canadian director Sturla Gunnarson's "Air India 182," an investigation into the 1985 bombing of an Air India flight carrying 335 Canadians, whose death is billed as Canada's 9/11.

Gunnarson said the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks transformed Americans, while the 1985 Air India 182 attack killed 331 Canadians, and yet barely registered politically.

"There was no great outpouring of emotion, no state funeral," Gunnarson said of the tragic aftermath of Air India 182.

After the opening-night double-bill, 10 more days of documentaries, conferences and parties will unspool through the festival's April 27 conclusion.

About 1,800 industry delegates are due in Toronto, including a range of international film buyers and sellers that will congregate around the Toronto Documentary Forum.

The festival's 173-strong film lineup is a mixture of serious, cinema verite documentaries like Nettie Wild's "Bevel Up," a portrait of homeless drug users in Vancouver; and Patrick Reid's "Triage: Dr. James Orbinski's Humanitarian Dilemma," which follows Doctors Without Borders president James Orbinski on an emotional return to Somalia, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic Congo.

There's also lighter fare, which includes Adrian Wills' "All Together Now," a behind-the-scenes look at the creation of Cirque du Soleil's Beatles-themed show "Love," and "Green Porno," in which Isabella Rosselini re-creates the sex lives of insects and other creatures.