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Our Ten Most Anticipated Hot Docs Films

Hot Docs starts this Friday. It’s one of my favourite festivals – so much so that I’ve already posted a handful of reviews and I’ve got a few more in the works. This is what I’m most looking forward to this year – provided I can get tickets.

Pom Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold

Morgan Spurlock (Supersize Me) is back with a documentary financed entirely by product placement, marketing, and advertising. Branding in film is long overdue as a documentary subject, and Morgan Spurlock is sure to inject some humour into the mix.

Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey

Elmo – the furry red monster from Sesame Street – is played by a man named Kevin Clash, who’s proven to be a funny and interesting guy in past media appearances. This film picked up a special jury prize at Sundance – a pretty good indication of quality.

Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop

I’ll admit that I’m just looking forward to this because I think that Conan is hilarious, but I do wonder what he got up to in between TV shows, and this documentary is promising an answer.

The Hollywood Complex

This is the kind of unlikely film that makes Hot Docs pretty cool – every year, aspiring child actors numbering in the thousands audition in Hollywood, and many stay (with their families) at the Oakwood apartment complex.

Magic Trip

As a fan of Tom Wolfe’s The Electric Kool-Aide Acid Test, I’ve always thought that Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters are overdue for a modern documentary.

The Pirate Tapes

Somali-Canadian university student Mohamed Ashareh infiltrated a Somali pirate cell with video camera, shot the footage for this documentary, and nearly died in the process. HBO has picked up this film to be aired in the USA in July, but I’m happy to have it now.

Hot Coffee

No doubt you’ve heard of the woman who sued McDonald’s after being burned by their hot coffee – for many, it’s the poster child of “frivolous lawsuits”. However, this documentary tells the other side of the story (as recently did): one of corporate propaganda and a media campaign designed to tarnish one citizen’s legal complaint.

Koran by Heart

American kids have spelling bees, but in Egypt (and across the Islamic world) children complete in Koran-reciting competitions. I’m intrigued (and perhaps jealous of their mental prowess).


Knuckle is a journey into the world of the Travellers (think Brad Pitt in Snatch), and has apparently inspired a future HBO series. Come for the cultural exploration, stay for the bare-knuckle boxing.

The Redemption of General Butt Naked

As seen on the Vice Guide to Travel, General Butt Naked was a warlord during the Liberian Civil War infamous for human sacrifice and fighting naked. These days, he’s an evangelical preacher struggling to come to terms with his crimes.

That said, Hot Docs has scores of offerings over eleven days, and chances are that there will be more than a few hidden gems in their line-up. If you’ve got a spare couple of hours, jump in a rush line and catch a film. See you at the festival!

– Dave Robson

(Correction: An earlier copy of this article incorrectly referred to Mohamed Ashareh as a journalist; he is a university student. Additionally, based on this Toronto Star article, I referred to a falling out between Mr. Ashareh and the other filmmakers involved in The Pirate Tapes. This information is dated; everything between the other filmmakers and Mr. Ashareh has been resolved and he will be at the screening. I regret these errors.)

Hot Docs runs April 28 – May 8th.

Visit the official website for the festival.