Donna Summer, Michael J. Fox, Stephen Curry Among Subjects of Special Presentation Movies at Hot Docs

Hot Docs, North America’s largest documentary festival, has revealed the first slate of films to screen as part of its Special Presentations program at the 30th edition of the festival, running April 27 to May 7 in Toronto.

The Special Presentations program, which features high-profile subjects, award-winning films and filmmakers, and original perspectives on current events and pressing issues, will screen in cinemas across downtown Toronto during the festival.

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“Igor Levit – No Fear” is an up-close portrait of the young piano sensation
“Igor Levit – No Fear” is an up-close portrait of the young piano sensation

The program covers an extensive array of subjects, from a behind-the-runway look at racial diversity in the fashion industry to a harrowing documentation of the recruitment of child soldiers in Uganda. International premieres include “Black Barbie: A Documentary,” a deep dive into the true story of Black Barbie, from her origins to her contemporary presence; “Food and Country,” New York Times’ food critic Ruth Reichl’s uncovering of our broken food system, and the innovators risking everything to transform it; “Stephen Curry: Underrated,” the story of one of the greatest NBA players working today; and “Periodical,” an eye-opening documentary examining the politics, science, and mystery of the menstrual cycle.

Special Presentations will also include the North American premieres of “Blix Not Bombs,” an insightful look into the career and politics of Swedish diplomat Hans Blix, a former weapons inspector for the United Nations; “Igor Levit – No Fear,” an up-close portrait of the young piano sensation Igor Levit as he searches for his identity as an artist; “Praying for Armageddon,” a potent exploration of the movement of American Christian fundamentalists fighting for the end of the world; and “Theatre of Violence,” the story of the first former Ugandan child soldier to face trial in The Hague.

“Periodical” examines the politics, science, and mystery of the menstrual cycle
“Periodical” examines the politics, science, and mystery of the menstrual cycle

Making its Canadian Premiere is “The Deepest Breath,” an ocean epic following two divers as they chase their dreams through the depth of the sea; “Innocence,” a reflection on violence highlighting the Israeli Defence Forces’ mandatory service; “Invisible Beauty,” pioneering Black model Bethann Hardison’s exploration of racial diversity in the fashion world; “Love to Love You,” Donna Summer, a celebration of the life and career of the disco diva; and “Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie,” the journey of the Canadian icon’s rise to fame alongside his private journey following his diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease.

The full selection of films to screen at Hot Docs will be announced on March 28.

The first announced slate of Special Presentations includes:

D: Lagueria Davis, P: Aaliyah Williams, Lagueria Davis, U.S., 2023, 100 min, International Premiere
We all know the Malibu blonde with a big head and bigger fan following, but do you know her Black counterpart? Discover the true story of Black Barbie from her origins to her contemporary presence in Mattel’s metaverse of dolls.

D: Greta Stocklassa, P: Radovan Síbrt, Alžbeta Karásková, Erik Winker, Mario Adamson, Czech Republic, Germany, Sweden, 2023, 85 min, North American Premiere
What the hell is happening in the world? A millennial filmmaker looks to UN diplomat Hans Blix, who led the investigation into weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, for answers. Can diplomacy still play a role in averting catastrophe?

D: Laura McGann, P: John Battsek, Sarah Thomson, Jamie D’Alton, Anne McLoughlin, Robert Ford, U.K., Ireland, 2022, 109 min, Canadian Premiere
Champion free-diver Alessia and safety diver Stephen seemed destined for one another above and below the water. Experience the astonishing risks they take as Stephen helps Alessia chase her dream of a new world record in this thrilling ocean epic.

D: Laura Gabbert, P: Laura Gabbert, Ruth Reichl, Paula P. Manzanedo, Caroline Libresco, U.S., 2023, 99 min, International Premiere
Concerned about the survival of small farmers, ranchers and chefs hobbled by America’s policy of producing cheap food, Ruth Reichl, trailblazing chef, food writer and editor reaches across political and social divides to uncover a broken food system and innovators risking everything to transform it.

D: Regina Schilling, P: Thomas Kufus, Germany, 2022, 118 min, North American Premiere
The sold-out world tour of classical piano sensation Igor Levit was an intended focus of this up-close portrait, but when COVID hits, a career-defining crisis takes center stage. Witness a true virtuoso transform musical performance with or without an audience.

D: Guy Davidi, P: Sigrid Dyekjær, Hilla Medalia, Margreth Jonasdottir, Kaarle Aho, Denmark, Israel, Finland, Iceland, 2022, 100 min, Canadian Premiere
Mandatory service in the Israeli Defense Forces makes citizens confront the prospect of violence and the inevitable choice to accept, reject or rationalize it. Diaries and videos of both eager and reluctant recruits question whether innocence and militarization can co-exist.

“Invisible Beauty” is pioneering Black model Bethann Hardison’s exploration of racial diversity in the fashion world
“Invisible Beauty” is pioneering Black model Bethann Hardison’s exploration of racial diversity in the fashion world

D: Bethann Hardison, Frédéric Tcheng, P: Lisa Cortés, Paul Dallas, U.S., 2023, 115 min, Canadian Premiere
Pioneering Black model Bethann Hardison turns the camera on herself as she takes us behind the runway and into her life as agent, activist, and, most importantly, a mentor in the fight for racial diversity.

D: Roger Ross Williams, Brooklyn Sudano, P: Julie Goldman, Christopher Clements, Carolyn Hepburn, Roger Ross Williams, David Blackman, J. Daniel Torres, U.S., 2023, 107 min, Canadian Premiere
Featuring a trove of exclusive, previously unseen footage, the life and times of the one and only Donna Summer are richly detailed in this vibrant exploration of the singer whose iconic voice changed music forever.

D: Lina Lyte Plioplyte, P: Pegah Farahmand, U.S., 2022, 95 min, International Premiere
Enough with “being on the rag” and ditch “Aunt Flo,” it’s time to start treating menstruation with some respect. Activists, doctors and celebrities deconstruct sexist junk science and share the truth: your period is an asset and not “the curse.”

D: Tonje Hessen Schei, Michael Rowley, P: Torstein Parelius, Ingrid G. Aune Falch, Christian Aune Falch, Norway, 2022, 96 min, North American Premiere
By infiltrating the machinery of U.S. politics, powerful American Evangelicals push to realize the biblical prophecy of Armageddon and manifest the Apocalypse, exercising influence that not only threatens American democracy but also foreign policy in the Middle East.

D: Peter Nicks, P: Peter Nicks, Ryan Coogler, Erick Peyton, Sean Havey, Ben Cotner, Marissa Torres Ericson, U.S., 2023, 110 min, International Premiere
The life of one of the greatest NBA players playing today is explored with unprecedented access, from his humble beginnings to his now historic record-breaking career.

D: Davis Guggenheim, P: Davis Guggenheim, Annetta Marion, Jonathan King, Will Cohen, U.S., 2022, 95 min, Canadian Premiere
With trademark wit, honesty and insight, Canadian icon Michael J. Fox recounts his improbable rise to the heights of Hollywood stardom alongside his private journey following his diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease at 29.

D: Lukasz Konopa, Emil Langballe, P: Helle Faber, Heidi Kim Andersen, Denmark, 2023, 106 min, North American Premiere
As the first former child soldier–a forced recruit into Uganda’s Lord’s Resistance Army–faces trial in The Hague, his lawyer prepares a compelling defense that questions the international justice system, culpability and how communities recover from trauma.

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