We asked six Hot Docs filmmakers: Why do documentaries matter?

With the Hot Docs festival in full swing, CBC Arts brought together an eclectic mix of Canada's filmmaking community for a roundtable discussion on documentaries.

Directors at Toronto doc festival sat down with CBC Arts to discuss their work

Artists Talk: Hot Docs Roundtable

7 years ago
Duration 6:42
Documentary filmmakers Tiffany Hsiung, Darby Wheeler, Matt Johnson, Nettie WIld, Rama Rau and Chase Joynt sit down with CBC Arts host Peter Knegt to discuss why their work matters.

Hot Docs — the largest documentary film festival in North America — wraps up in Toronto this weekend, and CBC Arts took the opportunity to bring together an eclectic mix of Canada's filmmaking community for the first edition of our Artists Talk roundtable.

Tiffany Hsiung (The Apology), Darby Wheeler (Hip-Hop Evolution), Matt Johnson (Operation Avalanche), Nettie Wild (Koneline: Our Land Beautiful), Rama Rau (League of Exotique Dancers) and Chase Joynt (Between You and Me) each came to Hot Docs — and our roundtable — with varying degrees of experience and very different, though equally fascinating projects. 

Joynt's Between You and Me follows a young woman preparing for a visit with her father, a former pastor serving a 29-year sentence in a California prison for 20 counts of child sexual abuse. It's Joynt's fourth short film, though he is the only filmmaker on the panel who has yet to make a feature length documentary. (That'll surely change soon.)

First-time feature filmmaker Hsiung's The Apology depicts three so-called "comfort women," the term used to describe the more than 200,000 women and girls across Asia who were forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II. The film follows them as they forcefully fight the Japanese government for recognition of what happened to them.

The Apology (NFB)

Another freshman filmmaker, Wheeler's Hip-Hop Evolution follows Canadian rapper (and CBC Radio host) Shad as he heads to Harlem and the Bronx to help trace the evolution of hip hop from an underground culture to a global phenomenon via some of its originators and stars, including Kool Herc, Grandmaster Flash and Afrika Bambaataa. 

Operation Avalanche stands out thanks to the fact that it's not technically a documentary. Director Johnson (who has one previous film to his credit) infiltrated NASA, saying he and his team were shooting a documentary about the Apollo program in the 1960s. The footage they shot as a result was mixed with archival materials to create a mockumentary that audiences have been raving about since it debuted at Sundance earlier this year.

Rau returns to Hot Docs a year after her No Place To Hide: The Rehtaeh Parsons Story won much acclaim. League of Exotique Dancers, which opened this year's the festival, offers a dazzling cast of characters in vintage burlesque dancers reminiscing on their outrageous lives as they prepare for a rare performance for the "Legends of Burlesque Hall of Fame" weekend.

Finally, award-winning veteran Wild comes to the table with Koneline: Our Land Beautiful. Shot in eye-popping Cinemascope, the film is a stunning cinematic poem to the Tahltan First Nations people, who have lived for thousands of years in remote northwestern British Columbia.

Watch all six of them discuss their projects with CBC Arts producer and host Peter Knegt in the above video, and look for their films at festivals and in theaters as they make their way across the country.