or the first time in Hot Docs history, the festival has ahome venue: the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema. Apart from itsimportant role during the festival days, McDonalddescribes it as a way to continue the festival experiencethroughout the year. "There's a lot of great product that just hasn'tbeen able to find a place on the screen," he says, "so we're hopingthat we can leverage Hot Docs's reputation for programmingexcellence, and galvanize support for this new venture." Although this theatre turns the 11-day festival into a year-roundventure, McDonald says it's not a problem to fill the screensbecause Hot Docs receives many documentaries that don't fit intothe time constraints of the festival. This year, by the festival'sdeadline, the festival collected 2,000 applications, but not all ofthem are perfect films. McDonald says a good documentary musthave, at the heart of it, a good story. "Craft is extremely important as well, but ultimately the film, the story, or the characters haveto have some emotional resonance with the viewer," he says,adding that the emotion can be revilement - as long as there issome sort of emotional reaction. As for the contents of the films, McDonald says anything canmake a compelling story. It can be about something extremelymundane, about something technical, about a celebrity, or abouta historical anomaly. It can be about something as simple astypeface and fonts, with one very successful past film, calledHelvetica, being a perfect example. This film examined theproliferation of this particular font. "There's no magic formula,"McDonald says. "It's like catching magic in a bottle." IT IS THE LARGEST FILM FESTIVAL OF ITS KIND ON THISCONTINENT, AND IT'S SET TO TAKE OVER TORONTO NEXTMONTH. FROM APRIL 26 TO MAY 6, VARIOUS THEATRES AROUNDTHE CITY WILL HOST AN ASSORTMENT OF DOCUMENTARIES ATTHE ANNUAL HOT DOCS FESTIVAL. EACH YEAR, THE EVER-GROWING FESTIVAL FEATURES HUNDREDS OF DOCUMENTARIESFROM AROUND THE WORLD. IT DREW IN 150,000 PEOPLE LASTYEAR, AND THIS YEAR, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR CHRIS MCDONALDSAYS IT WILL BE BIGGER THAN EVER.FBLOOR CINEMA TO HOST ANNUAL HOT DOCS FESTIVALBy Cara Stern The festival has been running on an annual basis since its start in1993 by the Documentary Organization of Canada - then knownas the Canadian Independent Film Caucus. This group iscomprised of hundreds of independent documentary filmmakersacross the country. Now an independent organization, Hot Docsaims to showcase the work of Canadian and internationaldocumentary filmmakers. Essentially, McDonald says, the festivalaims to show everything that a documentary can convey. Since the festival's beginnings in 1993, technology hasprogressed, which has led to changes in the ways documentariesare made. For example, McDonald says the Internet has made iteasier for documentary filmmakers to tackle any topic due to theeasy access of knowledge from all around the world. "We're in aninformation age where any type of story is at our fingertips,"McDonald says. Additionally, with audiences becomingincreasingly less trusting of mainstream media, there's a hole thatcould quite successfully be filled by non-fiction films. "The moving image remains one of the most compelling andengaging means of telling stories, and it's still unmatched toexperience it sitting in a dark cinema with hundreds of strangers,"McDonald says. "No new technology has been able to replicatethat feeling, thankfully." Canadian filmmakers have come to the forefront of this changingtrend, he says, adding that last year's festival featured some reallystrong Canadian documentaries. "Canadians have a rich traditionin the documentary realm, and we still make some of the bestOpposite: If A Tree Falls: A Story from the Earth Liberation Front.Directors Marshall Curry, Sam Cullman. Hot Docs 2011.Above: POM Wonderful Presents the Greatest Movie Ever Sold.Director and Subject Morgan Spurlock. Hot Docs 2011. Photo by Joseph Michael.25
26films anywhere," he says, crediting some of the success ofCanadian documentaries to the public broadcasters, such as theCBC and TVO. These publically funded organizations giveopportunities to Canadian documentary filmmakers to shootcreative long-form documentaries that reach a wide audience."We have this long tradition in this country, and we're certainlyrecognized around the world for that," McDonald says. Hot Docs makes sure to reward many of its Canadian filmmakers.Last year, at the festival's awards ceremony, a feature calledFamily Portrait in Black and White, which examined thedifficulties of growing up as a biracial child in Ukraine, won a$15,000 prize in the category of best Canadian feature. Manyother Canadian films received awards both in the Canadian andgeneral categories. In addition to visiting the new theatre, documentary lovers whowant to continue the festival's activities year-round can alsosubscribe to Doc Soup, a program that screens documentaries ona monthly basis for seven months during the fall and winterseasons. For the majority of the screenings, Hot Docs brings thefilmmaker to Toronto to answer audience questions both beforeand after the show. Almost 1,400 people have subscribed to theDoc Soup program, demonstrating the success of the festival andthe documentary genre. "It's just a way for Hot Docs to keep intouch with its audience, and it's been an important way for us toconvert single ticket buyers into core audience members,"McDonald says. He says over the years he has loved getting the opportunity tomeet documentary legends, and watching the festival grow from asmall niche festival to the largest of its kind on the continent."Nothing beats seeing an enormous lineup around the block forany one of our venues," he says, adding that these successfulshowings remind him of the importance of the festival. Audiences vary in the ways they try to enjoy the festival. McDonaldsays some people - particularly year-round subscribers -purposefully enter a cinema blindly, having not researchedanything about the documentary to allow themselves to becompletely surprised. However, McDonald says he prefers to do abit of research beforehand. "Sit down for an hour or so on ourwebsite or with our program guide," he says. "Become as familiar as you can with the offerings, and make your choices accordingly,or open yourself up for surprise." Left: Highway Gospel.Filmmakers Subjects and Skaters. Hot Docs 2011. Photo by T. Andrew Morton.Top Right: Moviegoers at Hot Docs 2011. Photo by Joseph Michael.Bottom Right: Hell and Back Again.Director Danfung Dennis. Hot Docs 2011.FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THE HOT DOCSFESTIVAL BY VISITING WWW.HOTDOCS.CATHE FESTIVAL RUNS THIS YEAR FROM APRIL26 TO MAY 6. CHECK THE WEBSITE FOR APROGRAM GUIDE AND MORE.