Hot Docs is North America's largest documentary festival, conference and market. From April 26 to May 6, Hot Docs' 19th edition will present a selection of 189 documentaries from Canada and around the world to Toronto audiences and international delegates. Hot Docs will also mount a full roster of conference sessions and market events and services for documentary practitioners, including the renowned Hot Docs Forum, May 2 and 3, and The Doc Shop.
MAKING YOUR CHOICES:
As a filmgoer, with all these films, how do you pick what to go and see? The thing with documentaries is that they often aren't accompanied by a lot of press, so you haven't heard of more than a handful of them before the festival starts. My strategy is to browse a few sources:
Browse through all those sources, as well as any blogs you might Google up, but don't marry into any of them. In the spirit of documentary storytelling itself, Hot Docs is a time for exploration.
Thus my philosophy...
Let the universe guide you to a screening that happens to be available when you are. Don't bother reading the blurb or watching a trailer from your smartphone, just turn the corner and walk into the nearest participating venue, take a seat, and allow your mind to open to the skylight of images and stories presented before you. Believe me, some of the most memorable films I've seen at Hot Docs were complete surprises I knew nothing about. Remember: blurbs and trailers often misrepresent or under-sell a film. Trust the programmers. They spent the better part of the year selecting these 189 docs out of thousands of submissions.
Tickets can be obtained by phone at 416-637-5150, or in person at the Hot Docs Box Office at 783 Bathurst St just south of Honest Ed's (Bathurst and Bloor subway station is closest TTC stop.)
Monday to Friday: 11 am - 7 pm
Saturday to Sunday: 11 am - 5 pm
April 26 to May 6: 11 am - 9 pm
Or buy online.
The film is sold out. But ticket and pass holders don't always show up at the screening, so at the last minute, the screening venue will sell off the remaining seats on a first come, first serve basis. You may be lucky and snag a seat. My suggestion, get there MORE than 1 hour before the screening is scheduled to start. Don't set your heart on getting in (though the majority of rushers will get in), so do something fruitful with your time in line - call you mother for instance) and don't expect to sit with your friends. Bring an umbrella and snacks. (Note: rush means something entirely different for pass holders - it's that feeling of ebullition that one gets from breezing past the line to the box office to claim a ticket minutes before the screening begins.)
TIPS TO SAVE $$:
The most frustrating thing about Hot Docs is that you cannot buy tickets online, print them and have them scanned at the venue (I just tweeted that thought to Hot Docs!) You have to pick them up at the box office (and often there is a line-up there) or have it sent to the theatre ($2.00 per order) or mailed to your home ($2.50 per order, though deadline for mailing is April 20). An additional irritant is that you are also charged $1.50/ticket service charge for ordering online. To avoid some of this, you can Remain Open and skip over to the nearest theatre and get a same-day ticket for a random screening and let yourself be surprised (same day tix are sold 1 hr before the first screening of the day at that venue. No tix are sold at the box office for any screening the day of.)
TIPS TO MANAGE YOUR TIME:
Take a day off work - weekday preferred. If there's one film you absolutely need to see, pick its daytime screening and buy a same-day ticket. The best thing about Hot Docs is that the filmmakers are often in attendance at the screenings and often present their films and remain for Q&A's afterwards. So give yourself loads of time. Traveling between the 10 venues spread across the city only to stand in lines (box office, same day tix lines, rush lines etc) are additional reasons to give yourself lots of time.
OUT OF TOWN VISITORS:
A final reiteration: remain open and let the world flood in. Enjoy the journey!