'As outstanding and outspoken as ever:' Hot Docs unveils 25th anniversary lineup

Hot Docs will showcase "formidable filmmakers" — with 50 per cent of the program comprising work by female filmmakers — as the international documentary festival celebrates its 25th anniversary this spring.

Festival runs April 26-May 6 in Toronto

Maya Gallus's The Heat: A Kitchen (R)evolution, a glimpse into the kitchens of the world's top female chefs, will open the 25th annual Hot Docs International Film Festival on April 26, 2018. (Hot Docs)

Hot Docs will showcase "formidable filmmakers" — with 50 per cent of the program comprising work by female filmmakers — as the international documentary festival celebrates its 25th anniversary this spring. 

Organizers unveiled on Tuesday the complete list of films slated for its upcoming edition, which takes place April 26 to May 6 in Toronto.

"Formidable filmmakers, in unrelenting pursuit of the truth, are a hallmark of this year's Hot Docs Festival programming," Shane Smith, the festival's director of programming, said in a statement.

The feature documentary The Blue Wall examines the Chicago police killing of Laquan McDonald, just one story in the American reckoning around race, policing, and justice.
 (Hot Docs)

"It's exciting to see that documentary storytelling is as outstanding and outspoken as ever, a vital cultural force in connecting us to our world and to each other."

The festival will screen 246 films and 16 interdisciplinary projects — spread out across 14 programs — from more than 50 countries worldwide. 

Sniper girls, covering their comrades during the mission to break through the siege of Kobane, are shown in a scene from the documentary Commander Arian - A Story of Women, War and Freedom, which follows a 30-year-old commander leading a female battalion to retake an ISIS-controlled city. (Hot Docs)

One curated series, entitled the Silence Breakers program, specifically spotlights stories of "brave women speaking up and being heard." Featured films include: 

  • Netizens, a profile of women fighting back against online harassment,
  • Afghan Cycles, about barrier-breaking women training for the women's national cycling team in Afghanistan.
  • Yours in Sisterhood, a look at the progress of feminism through a reflection on letters set to Ms. Magazine in the 1970s.

Organizers have expanded the festival's DocX program, which celebrates non-traditional formats. This section will feature virtual reality and interactive experiences, including installations exploring climate change in Greenland, following Indigenous volunteers working to protect the Amazon and a walk through of Jerusalem.

Love, Scott follows the journey of a young gay musician who is attacked and paralyzed from the waist down. (Hot Docs)

The complete lineup can be found on the Hot Docs website.

Special guests set to attend the festival include rapper and activist M.I.A.,Feminist Frequency founder Anita Sarkeesian, and filmmakers Alanis Obomsawin, Morgan Neville, Chris Hegedus and D. A. Pennebaker.

Media critic Anita Sarkeesian, who is the target of a coordinated cyber-mob's ongoing attacks, is featured in the doc Netizens. The Feminist Frequency creator will be a special guest at Hot Docs this spring. (Train of Thought Productions)

Opening night will feature the world premiere of The Heat: A Kitchen (R)evolution, Maya Gallus' peek into the kitchens of the world's top female chefs. 

As part of the 25th anniversary celebrations, organizers will also hold a number of special presentations, including a free, IMAX world premiere screening of the public transit documentary The Trolley at the Ontario Place Cinesphere.

A scene from The Trolley offers a glimpse aboard a double-decker tram in Hong Kong. (Hot Docs)