Hot Docs Film Festival will stream over 200 documentaries from 66 countries

At the inquest into the deaths of the seven First Nations students who died while going to high school in Thunder Bay, educator Norma Kejick, left, was present every day. Here, Norma is pictured with Rhoda King at the memorial of Reggie Bushie, 15, one of the students who never made it home in the film Spirit to Soar.
(Wendell Collier/Spirit to Soar)

One of my favourite film festivals in Toronto is the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Film Festival.

I was first introduced to the festival in the early 2000’s as a high school student who had an interest in current events, international news, social issues and unique storytelling. I was able to see documentaries that hasn’t been released yet for free as this was the time the festival started expanding their education and accessibility mandate to offer students a chance to view documentaries for free.

Last year, Hot Docs was one of the victims of the pandemic having to delay its April launch by another month and moving the event online. They also released some of the films via their partnership with CBC Gem to ensure that film lovers were able to see new documentaries.

Photo still of Ann Shin’s new documentary “A.rtificial I.mmortality” where Bruce Duncan packs up Bina48 in her suitcase.
Photo Credit: Stephen Chung

This year is no different. The annual festival will move virtually again for the second year in a row and promises to be as relevant and as exciting as ever, announcing its 2021 lineup of more than 200 documentary films (features and shorts) from 66 different countries.

Two of the films that are on my must-watch list are from two Canadian female directors.

First, Ann Shin debuts her new documentary called A.rtificial I.mmortality about developments in artificial intelligence and biotech to extend human consciousness beyond death. A free Q&A will be streamed after the screening on April 29 at 7:30 p.m.

Another is from Toronto Star journalist Tanya Talaga and Michelle Derosier, who both directed Spirit to Soar about the inquest into the deaths of seven First Nations high school students, who died while going to high school in Thunder Bay. The documentary was inspired by Talaga’s award-winning book called Seven Fallen Feathers about systemic racism in education and the failure of the justice system.

Poplar Hill First Nation student Reggie Bushie was in Grade 9 when he disappeared in Thunder Bay in fall, 2007. The fifteen-year-old student went to Dennis Franklin Cromarty High School. His body was found in the McIntyre River on Nov. 1, 2007. (Wendell Collier/Spirit to Soar)

Hot Docs runs from April 29 to May 9 online. For more information on tickets and screening times, please visit hotdocs.ca.

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