hot docs 2015

The top 20 films to see at Hot Docs 2015

The 2015 Hot Docs festival is the place to be if you're a fan of great documentary films. From April 23 to May 3, Hot Docs will showcase over 200 documentaries from around the world. The films range from must-see classics to experimental projects using new media tools.

Here are my top picks of what to see at Hot Docs 2015.


It's me Hilary: The Man who Drew Eloise
Ever wonder about Lena Dubham's tattoo of Eloise? Illustrator Hilary Knight is the artist who brought this character with messy hair and a pink bow to life. In this film, premiering internationally at Hot Docs, director Matt Wolk, uses the friendship between Dunham and Knight as a window into the illustrator's life and art.

In 1982 three 11-year-old boys saw Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark and decided that they were going to create a shot-for-shot remake of the film. After seven years, they finished all but one scene - now 25 years later a jaw-dropping twist of fate reunites them for a final take.

Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck
In this first fully authorized portrait of music legend Kurt Cobain, director Brett Morgen, uses never-before-seen home movies, concert footage, notebook excerpts, animation and interviews to chronicle the life, career and psychological struggles of this reluctant icon.


Live from New York!
After 40 years on television it's hard to imagine that Lorne Michael had no idea his sketch comedy experiment would become America's most popular comedy show. In this doc, director Bao Nguyen, talks to SLN alumni like Chevy Chase and Amy Poehler to reflect on how this show broke so many of comedy's ground rules.

Monty Python: The Meaning of Live
Directors Roger Graef and James Rogan take you backstage with the Python troupe as they prepare for their first live performance in 35 years. This Canadian Premiere will be a treat for fans who crave never-before-seen-footage, candid backstage interviews, and new musical numbers from the British comedy giants who changed what funny means.


Deep Web
Deep web is the dark shadowy corner of the internet inhabited by those who refuse to play by the rules. From the cypherpunks in the 90s who started a movement for internet protection and freedom to 3D printable hand guns, to the recent court case of the alleged founder of the online market Silk Road, Alex Winter's doc looks at the places on the internet hidden in your average Google search.

Rolling Papers
We have restaurant reviews and wine reviews but what to do when your city's main draw is its marijuana business? Director Mitch Dickman's film looks at how the Denver Post hired the world's first weed editor to compile reviews from 'high' mommy bloggers and grass-preneurs on Denver's new canni-business.

Frame by Frame
In some places journalism is dangerous business. Mo Scarpelli and Alexandria Bombach's film tells the story of four Afghan photojournalists who risk their lives to build a free national press. The film, premiering internationally in Toronto, documents what it means for these journalists to tell their country's stories after years of war and oppression under a Taliban regime that banned all photography.

Attacking the Devil: Harold Evans and the Last Nazi War Crime
Sir Harold Evans, long-time editor of the Sunday Times, was a man determined to use the power of journalism to change the world. The film looks at many of Evan's investigations to hold truth to power, featuring interviews with those still grappling with these issues in modern journalism like politician and activist Ralph Nader and Nick Davies, who broke the recent phone hacking scandal.


How to Change the World
In the early 1970s Vancouver was a hotbed of activism with a huge population of tree huggers, draft dodgers, shit disturbing unionists, and radical students. This is the setting that inspired a group of young Canadians to come together to create Greenpeace and the face of environmental activism. Jerry Rthwell's film tells the story of these friends using never before seen footage of the early days of Greenpeace.

Lowdown Tracks
You've seen them on street corners and subway platforms, the often-unknown musicians that lay the soundtrack to our city. In this film Toronto filmmaker Shelley Saywell and The Parachute Club's Lorraine Segato look at five transient musicians who busk for change. This is a story about survival and the connections that art creates.

The Amina Profile
Sophia Deraspe's The Amina Profile explores how lesbian eroticism, the Arab Spring and a suspicious abduction, turn an online love affair between a Montreal woman and the writer of the blog A Gay Girl in Damascus, into an international mystery.


The Nightmare
Director Rodney Ascher;s has created a real-life documentary horror film that asks viewers to drift off into the phenomenon of sleep paralysis. The condition, which inspired A Nightmare on Elm Street, leaves dreamers feeling awake while seemingly paralyzed. This is a scary one, so be warned.

The Visit
What happens if intelligent alien life lands on earth? Well, the United Nation's Office for Outer Space Affairs has a team ready to deal with the situation. This documentary shows a rare simulation of their response scenario to the arrival of extraterrestrial life on earth.


The Wolfpack
Crystal Moselle's acclaimed documentary is about six inseparable brothers isolated from the world in their family's Lower East Side Manhattan apartment. Locked in by their father for years, the brothers are homeschooled and only have movies to feed their imaginations.

Warriors from the North
This film that seems to jump out of today's headlines, is the story of a father desperately trying to make contact with his son who has joined al-Shabaab, an extremist Islamic terrorist group in Somalia. Nasib Farah's and Soren Steen Jespersen's film offers chilling insight into what fuels the trend of Western Muslim youth joining radical groups abroad.

Mom and Me
This is a very personal story about the director, Lena Macdonald's complicated relationship with her mom who is homeless, an addict, and prostitute on the streets of Toronto. The film is ultimately about hope and the power of family.


Highrise: Universe Within, Live
This one-night-only participatory live performance is the final chapter of the acclaimed Highrise digital documentary project. Katerina Cizek takes audiences on a journey from Brooklyn to Mumbai to Guangzhou by painting portraits of highrise residents and their digital lives. Mixing live and recorded images, documentaries and music, this performance is navigated by a live host in conversation with the audience.

DocX Virtual Reality Showcase
This is the best place to see films that telegraph the future of documentaries. Take a voyage through the Northwest Passage in Thomas Wallner's The Polar Sea 360; or behind the scenes with Montreal singer Patrick Watson as he works on his music at home in his studio loft in Strangers with Patrick Watson.

What films are you hoping to catch at Hot Docs this year. Share your picks in the comments below.

Follow Sima Sahar Zerehi on Twitter @SimaSaharZerehi

Still from How to Change the World

Latest Videos

Latest Videos

Join the conversation Load comments

Latest in Film

Here's what's filming in and around Toronto this winter

New animated Netflix series is packed with scenes of Toronto

That time when Mr. Bean came to the Eaton Centre in Toronto

Someone documented many of the movie scenes you had no idea were shot in Toronto

Canadians can no longer share their Disney+ passwords

Even TV shoots are struggling with Toronto's never-ending construction

Entertainment Tonight Canada announces its end due to challenging ad environment

The best movies at TIFF 2023