Toronto’s Hot Docs, North America’s largest documentary festival, has added 12 films to its Special Presentations program. The first tranche of titles was announced March 14. The festival runs April 27 to May 7.
World premieres include Canadian journalist Michelle Shephard’s “The Man Who Stole Einstein’s Brain,” the uncovering of the story behind the pathologist who stole the genius’ brain in 1955; “The Rise of Wagner,” a chilling exposé on the collusion between Wagner Group mercenaries and the Kremlin, which has resulted in secret killings and countless human rights violations; “We Are Guardians,” the story of the Indigenous guardians of the Brazilian Amazon, struggling to protect their territories from the ravages of extractive industries, deforestation, corrupt politicians and profit hungry global corporations; “Who’s Afraid of Nathan Law?,” a chronicle of dissident Hong Kong politician and activist Nathan Law’s fight for democracy; and director Barry Avrich’s “Without Precedent: The Supreme Life of Rosalie Abella,” a portrait of Canada’s first Jewish Supreme Court judge, a passionate advocate for the disabled community and visible minorities.
Director Nicole Newnham tells the inside story of American-born German sex educator and feminist Shere Hite, whose 1976 bestselling book “The Hite Report” revealed the private experiences of thousands of anonymous women, in “The Disappearance of Shere Hite,” a festival international premiere.
“Total Trust,” making its North American premiere, reveals China’s creation of a digitally controlled state using Big Data, biometrics and voice recognition technology to track its citizens, while considering the transformation of social behaviors under an all-seeing eye, and how people are fighting against its abuse.
Making their Canadian premieres are: “El Equipo,” a harrowing 40-year journey through the work of a resilient team of forensic scientists as they uncover and identify the victims of authoritarian regimes across Latin America and the world; “Is There Anybody Out There?,” a filmmaker’s search for others with the same rare disability as her, never having seen anyone with a body like hers before; “It’s Only Life After All,” a poignant look at the folk-rock duo Indigo Girls, offering a timely look into the obstacles, activism and life lessons of two queer friends who never expected to make it big; “Joan Baez I Am Noise,” a searingly honest look at the musician on and off the stage—from lifelong emotional struggles to her civil rights work with MLK and a heartbreaking romance with Bob Dylan; and “Time Bomb Y2K,” a revisionist look at the rising hysteria ignited by the discovery of a computer flaw that could have ignited the largest technological disaster in human history as the new millennium approached.
The full selection of films to screen at Hot Docs will be announced on March 28.
Hot Docs Special Presentations include:
THE DISAPPEARANCE OF SHERE HITE
D: Nicole Newnham, P: Nicole Newnham, Molly O’Brien, R.J. Cutler, Elise Pearlstein, Kimberley Ferdinando, Trevor Smith, U.S., 2023, 118 min, International Premiere
Shere Hite’s 1976 bestseller, “The Hite Report,” liberated the female orgasm by revealing the private experiences of thousands of anonymous women. While her findings rocked the patriarchy, they also ignited an unforgiving backlash that led to her erasure from history.
D: Bernardo Ruiz, P: Bernardo Ruiz, Gabriela Alcalde, Fabian Caballero, U.S., 2023, 80 min, Canadian Premiere
Follow an epic and harrowing 40-year journey through the work of a resilient team of forensic scientists led by Dr. Clyde Snow as they uncover and identify the victims of authoritarian regimes across Latin America and the world.
IS THERE ANYBODY OUT THERE?
D: Ella Glendining, P: Janine Marmot, U.K., 2023, 87 min, Canadian Premiere
While navigating daily discrimination, a filmmaker who loves her unusual body searches the world for another person like her, as she explores what it takes to love oneself fiercely despite the pervasiveness of ableism.
IT’S ONLY LIFE AFTER ALL
D: Alexandria Bombach, P: Kathlyn Horan, Jessica Devaney, Anya Rous, Alexandria Bombach, U.S., 2023, 123 min, Canadian Premiere
In this poignant reflection from Amy Ray and Emily Saliers, the folk-rock duo Indigo Girls offer a timely look into the obstacles, activism and life lessons of two queer friends who never expected to make it big.
JOAN BAEZ I AM A NOISE
D: Karen O’Connor, Miri Navasky, Maeve O’Boyle, P: Miri Navasky, Karen O’Connor, U.S., 2023, 113 min, Canadian Premiere
In this searingly honest and intimate look at a living legend, Joan Baez brings us into her world both on and off the stage—from lifelong emotional struggles to her civil rights work with MLK and a heartbreaking romance with Bob Dylan.
THE MAN WHO STOLE EINSTEIN’S BRAIN
D: Michelle Shephard, P: Bryn Hughes, Canada, 2022, 78 min, World Premiere
On April 18, 1955, the pathologist performing the autopsy on Albert Einstein covertly steals the genius’s brain, hoping to uncover the secret of brilliance. His good intentions and scientific ambitions collide with harsh realities as his world crumbles.
THE RISE OF WAGNER
D: Benoît Bringer, P: Laurent Richard, France, 2022, 104 min, World Premiere
Wagner Group mercenaries contracted to fight Russia’s proxy wars have never been prosecuted for suspected human rights violations—until now. In this chilling expose, journalists crack open secret killings and Kremlin collusion that have kept the business of dirty wars above the law.
TIME BOMB Y2K
D: Marley McDonald, Brian Becker, P: Brian Becker, U.S., 2023, 80 min, Canadian Premiere
As the year 2000 approaches, the tech industry discovers a computer flaw that could ignite the largest technological disaster in human history. Crafted entirely through archival footage, examine the rising hysteria and concerning fragility of the technological world we have created.
D: Jialing Zhang, P: Knut Jäger, Jialing Zhang, Germany, Netherlands, China, 2023, 97 min, North American Premiere
China is creating a comprehensive, digitally controlled state using Big Data, biometrics and voice recognition technology to track its citizens. “Total Trust” explores the transformation of social behaviors under an all-seeing eye and how people are fighting against its abuse.
WE ARE GUARDIANS
D: Edivan Guajajara, Chelsea Greene, Rob Grobman, P: Maura Anderson, Zak Kilberg, Fisher Stevens, Chelsea Greene, Brazil, U.S., 2023, 85 min, World Premiere
In this expansive character-driven exposé, Indigenous guardians of the Amazon rainforest in Brazil fight to protect their territories from the ravages of extractive industries, confronting deforestation by illegal loggers, corrupt politicians and profit hungry global corporations.
WHO’S AFRAID OF NATHAN LAW?
D: Joe Piscatella, P: Matthew Torne, Mark Rinehart, Joe Piscatella, U.S., Hong Kong, U.K., 2023, 90 min, World Premiere
Revolutionary at 21. Lawmaker at 23. Most Wanted at 26. With intimate access to the leaders of Hong Kong’s Umbrella Revolution, “Who is Afraid of Nathan Law?” chronicles one of the world’s most famous dissidents in his fight for democracy against a superpower.
WITHOUT PRECEDENT: THE SUPREME LIFE OF ROSALIE ABELLA
D: Barry Avrich, P: Mark Selby, Barry Avrich, Rosemary Sadlier, Jonas Prince, Canada, 2023, 84 min, World Premiere
Canada’s first Jewish Supreme Court judge reflects on a career that made her a human rights hero. As a passionate advocate for the disabled community and visible minorities, she commands respect across the political spectrum.