Toronto’s Hot Docs International Documentary Festival slate this year includes films from Cuba, Argentina, Mexico, Colombia and Brazil. The lineup features 230 films from 58 countries.
In the World Showcase is Mark Grieco’s USA/Colombia coproduction A River Below which captures the Amazon in all its complexity as it examines the actions of environmental activists using the media in an age where truth is a relative term. The film will receive its international premiere.
The battle against drug crime in Mexico has claimed the lives of an estimated 100,000 people in the past five years. Everardo González’s haunting documentary, Devil’s Freedom, which premiered earlier this year at Berlinale, looks into the real-life stories behind the statistics and headlines. Devil’s Freedom will also screen in the World Showcase.
Three Latin American films are featured in the Artscapes section. USA/Cuba production Give Me Future by Austin Peters follows popular music trio Major Lazer as they become one of the first major American acts to play in the communist state. Unsure how their descent on Havana would be received and hoping to reach a few tens of thousands, the epic concert unexpectedly drew in close to half a million fans. Capturing exhilarating performance footage and authentic stories highlighting the country’s cultural growth and desire for inclusion in the global community, director Austin Peters conjures a transcendent, rhythm-laced depiction of the powerful catalysts driving a country on the brink of change.
In Jonny Robson and Gates Bradley’s White Walls Say Nothing we meet the artists leading the way in a new and colorful revolution, capturing the story of Argentina and envisioning a brighter future by igniting public space. The Argentine-American coproduction will be receiving its world premiere.
If you’re not familiar with the music of Chavela Vargas, you should be. This legendary, majestic chanteuse revolutionized music in Mexico and challenged the stereotypical macho and hetero cultural norms of the times. With her masculine dress, raspy voice and cigar-smoking, gun-toting persona, Vargas was an unabashedly out lesbian singing music traditionally reserved for men. Whether with mariachi accompaniment or a simple solo guitar, she hypnotized audiences. But her fierce and haunting voice went silent after a long struggle with alcoholism. Vargas re-emerged as one of Mexico’s greatest musical treasures, a muse to international audiences, artists and directors such as Pedro Almodóvar. Chavela by Catherine Gund and Daresha Kyi beautifully captures Chavela’s fearless life, powerful music and passionate love affairs, including her romance with the equally magnificent Frida Kahlo.
In Singular Sensation(s), with her directorial debut, Leandra Leal turns her camera on the famed Brazilian cabaret troupe Divinas Divas, which ran for several years in the Rival theatre run by her grandfather in her doc The Divine Divas.
In Pau Ortiz's Spanish-Mexican coproduction, The Other Side of the Wall, when their mother is sentenced to 10 years in a Mexican prison on questionable charges, teenaged Rocío and Ale are left with no choice but to play the role of both mother and father to their two younger siblings. Fearing she may get herself into trouble, Ale clamps down and tensions between them escalate. As apprehensions about the future intensify, Ale must make the difficult decision between keeping the family together in Mexico or breaking them apart to cross the US border for work. Heather Haynes
In Democrazy, from Brazil and Canada, is the world premiere of State of Exception by Jason O’Hara. As Rio de Janeiro took to the world stage with preparations for the 2014 FIFA World Cup and 2016 Summer Olympics, a community of self-described “urban Indians” organized to fight back against their forced evictions, joining forces with other marginalized groups.
Foreign directors will tackle Latin American topics in Viktor Jakovleski’s Brimstone & Glory, Shiners by Stacey Tenenbaum, and Elián by Tim Golden and Ross McDonnell, also screening in the Festival.
Hot Docs takes place April 27 - May 7 in Toronto, Canada.