When you’re a documentary lover fully immersed in film-going at Hot Docs, your soul can sometimes get a little squashed. If you’re taking in a lot of pretty heavy material during the festival, it’s helpful to also scope out some more lighthearted counterprogramming to give your heart and mind a bit of a breather between crying headaches.
Hot Docs announced its full slate of films last week and, after a couple of days of poring over the list, I’ve spotted a slew I’m psyched to check out. Obvious high-profile picks aside (looking at you, Steph Curry and Michael J. Fox docs!), here are a dozen that immediately landed on my to-see list:
Allihopa: The Dalkurd Story
If the world has learned anything from Ted Lasso, it’s that stories about underdog footballers make for heartfelt, super-entertaining viewing, and the synopsis for this film — about a Swedish soccer team made up of Kurdish refugees — quickly pinged my “oh, this is gonna be a feel-good crowd-pleaser” radar in a big way.
I’ll be honest: AI and deepfake technology scare the bejesus outta me, so my curiosity (and fear) are drawing me to this doc, which revolves around a young woman whose image was lifted from social media and used to create porn (!) without her knowledge or consent. The official Hot Docs synopsis also refers to it as “one of the most shocking documentaries of the year.” We’ll see!
The American Gladiators Documentary
This one had me at hello. I was an avid American Gladiators viewer back in the day, and spent many a Saturday watching Nitro, Ice, Laser and the whole super-jacked collective compete. So, it should surprise no one that I’ll be packing some snacks and excitedly diving headlong into this 170-minute (!) ESPN 30 for 30 two-parter.
The Deepest Breath
Anyone who’s read any of my previous Hot Docs coverage knows that there are a few catnip-for-Vickie documentary topics that I will always seek out, and free diving is one of them. There’s something simultaneously terrifying, exciting and fascinating about the extreme sport, so I’m all in for this chronicle of champion free diver Alessia Zecchini’s pursuit of a new world record.
The Lebanese Burger Mafia
Erm, is there anyone who wouldn’t want to see a documentary called The Lebanese Burger Mafia? Even before I read the synopsis, this was an instant must-see based on its title alone. In case it matters, the film tracks the history — and decidedly unorthodox approach to “franchising” — of a diverse chain of restaurants in Alberta, all operating under the Burger Baron banner (say that fast five times).
The Longest Goodbye
We at Moviepie love our space stories, so a doc about the psychology of space travel, and the mental-health implications of extended missions for both astronauts and their families alike, is right up our/my alley.
The Only Doctor
Whether it’s climate change, big pharma, injustice, technology, whatever, I love Big Issue films that effectively distill their subject matter through comparatively small and intimate, but personal and powerful, stories. And this documentary about a physician struggling to provide healthcare to an impoverished and underserved community in rural Georgia looks like it’ll deliver exactly that.
Simply put: I feel like this doc about a pair of “hobbyist” Canadian cavers crawling into claustrophobically cramped crevices will not only make me squirm (in a good way) as I watch its subjects squeeze themselves through teeny spaces, but it’ll likely be a compelling companion film to The Deepest Breath.
This is a documentary about senior citizens who participate in competitive synchronized swimming. Need I say more?
Who’s Afraid of Nathan Law?
Way back in 2017, I saw — and enjoyed — director Joe Piscatella’s Joshua: Teenager vs. Superpower, about young Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong. So, it only makes sense that I’d be excited about the next chapter in that story: Piscatella’s follow-up film centers on its titular dissident, who teams up with Wong and Agnes Chow to launch the pro-democracy Umbrella Revolution.
For tickets, passes, info and more, visit the official Hot Docs website!