Imagine the Iron Sheik, George Takei, Alice Cooper, George Romero and Miss Cleo walk into a movie theater together. OK, it is unlikely that the wrestling legend, “Star Trek” actor and pop culture fave, infamous shock-rocker, “Night of the Living Dead” director, and psychic hotline diva will be at the same place at the same time, but at “Hot Docs,” Toronto’s annual documentary film festival, it could happen – seriously.
All five of those celebs are the subject of documentaries at Hot Docs 2014, which runs from April 24 to May 4. While these are some of the most high-profile creations screening this year – “The Sheik,” “To Be Takei,” “Super Duper Alice Cooper,” “Doc of the Dead” and “Hotline” – there are far weightier topics on screen, as well.
The festival opens with the international premiere of director Brian Knappenberger’s “The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz,” centered on the Internet pioneer who was found dead at 26 from an apparent suicide.
Another international premiere is “Whitey: United States of America v. James J. Bulger,” director Joe Berlinger’s account of “Whitey Bulger,” the Boston mobster-turned-FBI informant who was a mainstay of the FBI Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list until his arrest in 2011.
Screenings will be held throughout downtown Toronto, including Yorkville’s Bloor Hot Docs Cinema, the Royal Ontario Museum and Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) venues like the Scotiabank Theatre Toronto and the TIFF Bell Lightbox.
In fact, you could think of Hot Docs as TIFF’s bookish cousin, and consider a day trip or weekend jaunt. Like September’s annual mega-fest, Hot Docs is wonderfully accessible to the public, and you will undoubtedly encounter documentaries that will never arrive in Buffalo cinemas. You might also share popcorn with the Iron Sheik.
– Christopher Schobert