True stories take over big screens

Hot Docs, the documentary film festival, is filling screens with 171 films from 39 countries over 11 days.

The real-life, real lives festival is celebrating its 16th anniversary and will be taking over screens across Toronto April 30 to May 10, 2009. The selection of films can satisfy any curiosity or bring to the surface a number of world issues in a true-to-life style. And the great filmmakers do this with an air of storytelling that engages audiences and induces post-screening conversations.

Highlights at this year’s festival include:

Act of God, the opening night presentation is a meditation on being struck by lightning;
Action Boys, about Korean stunt man;
Best Worst Movie, a look back at the unexpected cult classic Troll 2;
Black Wave: The Legacy of the Exxon Valdez, an indictment of ExxonMobil’s irresponsibility;
Burma VJ: Reporting from a Closed Country, the story of underground video journalists in Burma;
Carmen Meets Borat, a look at the aftermath created in a Romanian village;
Code of Violence, a look at urban violence;
The Cove, an intervention to the slaughter of dolphins off the coast of Japan;
Graphic Sexual Horror explores the effects of bondage-turned-art;
Invisible City, Oscar-nominated director Hubert Davis follows two Black teen’s in Toronto’s Regent Park;
Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance, a powerful perspective on the 1990 ‘Oka Crisis;’
Orgasm Inc. provides behind-the-scenes access to a drug company’s race to develop the first FDA-approved Viagra for women;
Outrage, a searing indictment of the hypocrisy of closeted politicians who actively campaign against the LGBT community;
Reporter, Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof chronicles the horrific humanitarian atrocities in the Congo;
Strongman, the Slamdance Grand Jury Award Winner – Best Documentary Feature is a real-life version of The Wrestler starring strongman Stanless Steel, who is able to bend a penny with just his fingers;
The Tiger Next Door follows Dennis, a former meth addict, convicted felon, biker, and animal lover who breeds the big cats in his backyard;
Zombie Girl: The Movie, chronicles 12-year-old Emily’s two-year struggle to complete her directorial debut – Pathogen.

This year’s Focus On programme is a tribute Ron Mann. For over 25 years, Mann has been creating award-winning documentary features that focus on alternative and dissident cultures, beginning with a look at the once-controversial free jazz movement of the 1960s in Imagine the Sound (1981). He examined “Dial-A-Poem” poets with Poetry in Motion (1982), the history of comics in Comic Book Confidential (1988), recreational marijuana use in Grass (1999), and most recently the world of fungi with the feature-length documentary Know Your Mushrooms (2008).

Reviews from the festival will be posted throughout so check back regularly.