HotDocs17 includes ‘Ramen Heads’ in Made in Japan series

We love the film festivals that happen in our city and Hot Docs is one that inspires many conversations…and often heated discussions amongst my friends. But that’s what documentaries are for, they are open our minds, stir our emotions, and fuel our souls. There are 230 films to take in from 58 countries to take in at this year’s Hot Docs Film Festival and it’s North America’s largest of it’s kind. We’ve started taking note of many that we want to see and you may want to start rolling on your list!

Hot Docs Film Festival (April 27 to May 7, 2017) will host screenings and events at various locations in the city. Box office is now open. Visit for full listing of films, events, and ticket information.

This year Hot Docs from around the world will also include a MADE IN JAPAN  series with a focus on filmmakers from this country…

RAMEN HEADS: Directed by Koki Shigeno. (Japan) World Premiere. Japan’s reigning king of ramen takes us into his kitchen, where recipes, trade secrets and flavour philosophies are shared. A mouthwatering record of the famous dish—a perfect combination of broth and noodles—and its master chefs and legions of devoted fans.

ABOUT MY LIBERTY: Directed by Takashi Nishihara. (Japan) International Premiere. A group of millennial students plan protests unlike any Japan has ever seen—loud, well-marketed and fun—against President Abe’s plan to pass a security bill that will change the constitution’s commitment to peace and pacifism.

RAISE YOUR ARMS AND TWIST, DOCUMENTARY OF NMB48: Directed by Atsushi Funabashi. (Japan). Toronto Premiere. Osaka’s supergroup NMB48 and its revolving lineup of singing and dancing dervishes offers a backstage pass to Japan’s pop idol craze in this fascinating immersion into pecking order, competition, individuality and empowerment through adulation—all set to a dance beat.

Raise Your Arms and Twist, Documentary of NMB48

A ROOM OF HER OWN: REI NAITO AND LIGHT: Directed by Yuko Nakamura. (Japan) Canadian Premiere. A Japanese artist shrouded in mystery is revealed in creative ways without ever appearing on camera. A cast of women share stories of fear and fragility that reflect the work, capturing the invisible-made-visible essence of her sculptures and installations.


RYUICHI HIROKAWA: HUMAN BATTLEFIELD: Directed by Saburo Hasegawa. (Japan). North American Premiere. A newly retired photojournalist disregards doctor’s orders and decides to revisit the sites and stories that defined his career and character. From Palestine to Chernobyl to Fukushima, his past reveals a full-circle journey.

UKIYO-E HEROES: Directed by Toru Tokikawa. (USA/Japan) World Premiere. Despite being a generation apart, a Canadian craftsman and an American illustrator work together to reinvigorate the ancient art of Japanese woodblock prints by combining traditional craft with pop cultural references from Super Mario to Pokémon.

In addition, here are more Hot Docs films we are taking a closer look at…

JOSHUA: TEENAGER VS. SUPERPOWER: Directed by Joe Piscatella. (USA/Hong Kong) Canadian Premiere. When he was just 18, Time magazine named Joshua Wong “the face of protest” after he formed the student organization Scholarism in protest of the Chinese national education plan, a plan that violated the “one country, two systems” promises made when Hong Kong was handed over to China in 1997. Joe Piscatella’s gripping and lively David and Goliath tale was a hit at Sundance—and for good reason. Piscatella captures civil disobedience in its truest form. What started out as a group of peaceful high school students skipping school turned into a coalition with Occupy Central. *This film is also part of the Scotiabank Big Ideas series at Hot Docs.

Joshua: Teenager vs. Superpower

WEAVING: Directed by Yang Wang. (China) World Premiere. When two elderly Chinese couples are forced to relocate, negotiations around compensation, inheritance and the future reveal the dysfunctional dynamics with their adult children, and expose troubling sibling rivalry, greed, sexism and neglect.

THE SILENT TEACHER: Directed by Maso Chen. (Taiwan). International Premiere. Defying Taiwanese customs, Mr. Lin donates his deceased wife’s body for medical research. As he and his family make their emotional goodbyes, the uneasy medical students prepare to accept the gift as their silent teacher.

WHO IS ARTHUR CHU? Directed by Yu Gu and Scott Drucker. (USA/Canada). Canadian Premiere. This 11-time winner hacked Jeopardy! and won big, becoming one of the show’s most controversial contestants. Now, he’s using his newfound celebrity to battle dark forces on the Internet as a blogger and cultural pundit.

I AM ANOTHER YOU: Directed by Nanfu Wang (USA). International Premiere. When a Chinese filmmaker is inspired to film the exotic Floridian landscape, her filmmaking intentions take a radical shift when she meets a young charismatic drifter whose pursuit of freedom unveils a complicated past he is trying to escape.

BECOMING WHO I WAS: Directed by Chang-Yong Moon and Jin Jeon. (South Korea) North American Premiere. An impoverished young boy discovers he’s the reincarnation of an esteemed, high-ranking Tibetan monk. Displaced from his past self’s monastery and denied the privilege of that position, he struggles with his identity amid growing doubts.


IN TIME TO COME: Directed by Tan Pin Pin. (Singapore) North American Premiere. Smart camera angles and sly transitions transform what should be frenetic city scenes into serene tableaus. Oddities of daily life—like empty malls or pin-drop quiet schoolchildren—are artfully assembled into a timeless time capsule by Singapore’s preeminent documentarian.

CAMBODIAN SPRING: Directed by Chris Kelly. (UK). World Premiere. A chaotic and violent wave of change is shaping modern-day Cambodia, where citizens have become land-rights activists. An alarming portrait of corruption and its insidious effects on trust and truth, from individuals to institutions.


THE DEPARTURE: Directed by Lana Wilson (USA). International Premiere. A Japanese punk rocker assumes a new role as a Buddhist priest, helping suicidal people find hope in the depths of their despair. But his wholehearted dedication to their suffering starts to erode his own well-being.

LIVING THE GAME: Directed by Takao Gotsu (Japan) International Premiere. he skillful Japanese gamers who play Street Fighter on the world stage match their technical precision against flashier, more memorable players in a game of large audiences and larger prize money. In this bigger-is-better world, can exacting compete with exciting?

DISH: WOMEN, WAITRESSING & THE ART OF SERVICE: Directed by Maya Gallus (Canada). From Toronto’s diners to Montreal’s “sexy restos,” Paris’s haute eateries to Tokyo’s fantasy “maid cafés,” waitresses around the world dish the dirt on gender, power and the art of service.


A FRIENDSHIP IN TOW/TOE: Directed by Atsushi Kuwayama (Portugal/Hungary/Belgium/Japan). World Premiere. (Short). One night in Lisbon, a Japanese man helps an elderly Portuguese woman on crutches ascend a massive set of stairs. Without fully understanding each other, they share stories and sarcasm that reveal their personalities and vulnerabilities in the span of just five flights.

SIT: Directed by Yoko Okumura (USA) Canadian Premiere. (Short). Dad is a Buddhist monk who sits in mindful meditation every day, while mom sews to access her zazen. They’ve raised their children without any expectations. But are the kids alright? Filmmaker-daughter Yoko Okumura documents the effects of Zen Buddhism on her brother’s maturation and motivation as he shifts from a life of lazy video gaming to gaining the courage to follow his own path.

STILL TOMORROW: Directed by Jian Fan. (China). Canadian Premiere. A rural Chinese woman with cerebral palsy becomes an overnight phenomenon when her poem goes viral. Sudden fame and fortune affords her a long-desired opportunity: freedom from her 20-year marriage.

SUNDAY BEAUTY QUEEN: Directed by Baby Ruth Villarama. (Hong Kong/Philippines/Japan) Canadian Premiere. Toiling for a pittance in the shadows of Hong Kong’s glittering façade, colourful and confident Filipina workers use their only day off to reclaim their dignity, exercising grace and beauty in a pageant unlike any other.

TIGER SPIRIT: Directed by Min Sook Lee. (Canada) Go beyond the usual narrative about contemporary Korea—with its communist North and capitalist South—to examine the consequences of war and closed borders, and to challenge conventions about who can cover politically unstable regions.*Part of the Redux Series.

TOKYO IDOLS: Directed by Kyoto Miyaki (UK/Canada). Toronto Premiere. Young Japanese girls dream of becoming “idols” as members of all-girl bands or as young screen starlets. An aspiring pop singer and her fans expose this cultural phenomenon that’s driven by an obsession with female sexuality.

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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