Toronto dominates as Hot Docs 2007 warms up

Hot Docs, North America's largest documentary film festival, kicks off tomorrow night with the gala premiere of the space race doc In the Shadow of the Moon at the Isabel Bader theatre. It's not unusual for Hot Docs to feature a splashy, internationally-marketable entry (meaning: in English and appealing to Americans) for its inaugural film. What's at least noteworthy this year, however, is the number of specifically Toronto-centric docs hitting screens over the ten-day life of the festival.

Let's All Hate Toronto is already getting terrific buzz and coverage, thanks in part to its trailer and a premise that couldn't be easier to relate, and relate to. Torontonians are, of course, twitterpated with anticipation about finding out why the rest of the country hates us so much, and as for the rest of the country... well, they're just yearning to hate us more!

OK, maybe not so much. It's nice to see that LAHT has been met with humour and good spirits in the ever-present rivalry between Canada's major cities. The film takes a cross-country look at other cities' [ahem] inferiority complex towards our home town. It's one of those docs that could very easily be terrible, but if done right also has a strong chance of being the audience fave of the fest.

Let's All Hate Toronto screens on Friday night at 6:30 at the Bloor, and again next Saturday (the 28th).

Toronto takes the stage again in City Idol, which takes a look at the eponymous project from last November where regular people were put through their American Idol-esque paces in a mock race to come up with the best wannabe politician. It's an exercise in grassroots politics and what might have been.

City Idol screens next Thursday and Saturday at the Royal.

Last Call at the Gladstone Hotel looks at the revivification of the Toronto arts hotspot, from its purchase in 2000 (and subsequent surprise discovery of a culture of employees and guests still inhabiting the hotel) through the next five years. The synopsis on the Hot Docs site reads like three seasons of reality TV twists and turns (boiler explodes! Chambermaid with heart of gold! City inspectors!), and the doc is sure to be fascinating for anyone who - like me - has been amazed by the urban recovery that the Gladstone and the Drake have represented in the past half-decade.

Last Call at the Gladstone Hotel screens on Sunday and the following Saturday at the Bloor.

In addition to the impromptu spotlight on Toronto, Hot Docs is also running the de rigueur Canadian Spectrum program, which highlights twenty films from our home and native land. Dark One (presented in conjunction with the Images Festival) is a bizarre and psychedelic look at the mind of a drug-addicted poet. Girl Inside (co-presented by Inside Out) follows a pre-op transsexual's relationship with her cantankerous grandmother. Finally, To Costco and Ikea Without a Car, a short film premiering alongside Gladstone, promises to be a hilarious look at just how freaking difficult it can be to shop in our Big Box culture when you're without wheels.

blogTO will be bringing you day by day coverage of Hot Docs as it unfolds, so stay tuned for reviews and more picks.

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