HOT DOCS Canadian International Film Festival 2014

North America’s largest documentary film festival is almost here! From April 24th to May 4 Toronto will play host to the 21st edition of this highly acclaimed HOT DOCS Film Festival. This year the selection committee received a whopping 2, 435 film submissions from around the world.

At this year’s festival there will be 197 titles from 43 countries. Here are a few docs that are on our radar…

THE INTERNET’S OWN BOY: THE STORY OF AARON SWARTZ  ~ Directed by Brian Knappenberger. International Premiere. This selection will be the opening night film about the internet’s young visionary. As a teenager, Aaron Swartz took the Internet community by storm with capabilities, intellect and understanding.  He helped found or develop countless household name technologies and companies in the time it takes most people to finish college. He was a pioneer in Internet activism and stood at the forefront of the SOPA and PIPA victories. He looked towards a limitless future but his life took a dramatic turn. In 2011 and 2012, he was indicted and charged with a staggering number of felonies. Facing 35 years of prison, he was found dead at the age of 26 from apparent suicide. This film is an inspiring and moving story of how one of the most promising minds of our time.

THE BEIJING ANTS ~ Directed by Ryuji Otsuka. World Premiere. This  is a cautionary tale about capitalism and customer service in modern China. In 2013, apartments in Beijing reached the equivalent of $10,000 per square metre, far too expensive for a young family who moves to the suburb of Tongzhou.

ART AND CRAFT ~ Directed by Jennifer Grausman, Sam Cullman, Mark Becker (Co-Director) International Premiere. A talented, eccentric forger with a history of deceiving museums  is pitted against an obsessive curator who may have no way of stopping him. This compelling story pains a picture of the craft and ethics of non-original art.

Ai Weiwei: The Fake Case. Photo Courtesy of HotDocsAI WEIWEI: THE FAKE CASE ~ Directed by Andreas Johnsen. North American Premiere. After serving 81 days in solitary confinement, outspoken artist returns to house arrest and a new lawsuit with the government monitoring every move.

LOVE HOTEL ~ Directed by Philip Cox and Hikaru Toda. World Premiere. Rated R. Paid by the hour or the night. Order sexy underwear and other things from vending machines. At the Angelo Love Hotel in Osaka anything goes. What drives 2.8 million Japanese a day to visit “love hotels?”

The SCOTIABANK BIG IDEAS SERIES  features thought-provoking documentaries that encompass issues as eco-activisim, equal rights and marriage equality and the freedom of information in the internet age. Films and special events in this series include…

Mission Blue. Photo courtesy of HotDocs.MISSION BLUE ~ Directed by Robert Nixon, Fisher Stevens. Canadian Premiere.World renowned oceanographer, Dr. Sylvia Earle is celebrated for  her passion to safeguard our largest and most essential ecosystems. Dr. Earle will be present and will follow the screening with a conversation about the film’s subject.

TO BE TAKEI  ~ Directed by Jennifer Kroot, Bill Weber. International Premiere. We take a look at pop culture icon (and yes, Trekkie) George Takei and his fascinating career from on-screen to surprised Internet sensation. It also offers a his personal stories of Japanese-American internment camps that spurred his later battles against homophobia and for equal rights. Takei will be at the screening and will follow up with a discussion.

To Be Takei. Photo courtesy of HotDocs.

IAM BIG BIRD: THE CAROLL SPINNEY STORY ~ Directed by Chad Walker, Dave LaMattina. World Premiere.  This documentary features one of Sesame Street’s most iconic characters, Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch and the incredible archive and story of Caroll Spinney. Join Caroll Spinney after the screening as he discusses more than 40 years of this educational program.

THE CASE AGAINST 8 ~ Directed by Ben Cotner, Ryan White. CanadianPremiere.  Is about the brave couples who took their fight for marriage equality to the US Supreme Court and how their attorneys joined forces to win this historical case. A discussion with the couple will follow the screening.

THE INTERNET’S OWN BOY: THE STORY OF AARON SWARTZ (see above) best-selling author Cory Doctorow, hacker-culture expert Gabriella Coleman and Harvard law professor Lawrence Lessig,  will be in attendance after the screening to speak to the issues of free speech, copyright and ownership in the Internet age.

Hotdocs Film FestivalFor the complete listing of films and for more information visit

The HOT DOCS documentary Box Office, located at 2 Bloor Street West , Cumberland Terrace–Lower Level is open for ticket, package, and pass sales and ticket redemption. Tickets can be purchased in person, online at, or by phone at 416-637-5150. Single tickets to screenings are $14.60 each, and $19.25 each to special events. Late night screenings (after 11 p.m.) are $6.20 each or $12.40 for an All-You-Can-Eat Late-Night Pass (one ticket to each of the nine screenings). A Festival 10-Pack is $125, a Festival 20-Pack is $215, and a Bloor Cinema All Access Pass is $130. Hot Docs offers free same day tickets for all screenings before 5 p.m. to seniors (60+) and students with valid photo I.D. at the venue box offices (subject to availability).


Sonya is the Co-Founder and Managing Editor of She is also a well-established contributing lifestyle writer to other sites and magazines sharing her passion for arts & culture, fashion, beauty, travel and food. Sonya is based in Toronto, Canada. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @theculturepearl

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