Hot Docs, North America’s Largest Documentary Festival, Unveils 19 Forum Projects

Hot Docs, North America’s largest documentary festival, has unveiled the projects it has selected for the 24th edition of the Hot Docs Forum, the financing event aimed at securing co-productions and funds for feature length documentaries.

The Forum returns in-person to Toronto’s Hart House on May 2 and 3 as part of festival, which runs April 27 to May 7. Nineteen projects representing 16 countries and featuring 23 filmmakers, 12 of whom are women and 11 of whom are black, indigenous and people of color, will pitch to international decision makers and members of the documentary community. An additional Wild Card pitch will be selected live at the Forum.

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At The Forum projects are pitched live for co-production financing to a roundtable of leading commissioning editors, film fund representatives, financiers, programming executives and angel investors. Selected projects will also participate in Hot Docs Deal Maker, a curated one-on-one pitch meeting program, which includes an additional 35. The full list of Hot Docs Deal Maker projects will be announced on March 29.

“It is at the Hot Docs Forum where films launch into the marketplace and later propel into our audiences’ sphere. The 2023 Forum selections are outstanding expressions of filmmaking in its many forms and from so many dynamic voices,” Elizabeth Radshaw, Hot Docs Industry programs director, said.

“In 2022, the Hot Docs Forum participants pitched to 70 plus key commissioning editors and funders and over CAD50,000 in cash prizes were awarded,” added Dorota Lech, Industry programmer and Forum producer. “Back from three online editions, we are preparing to welcome back our international community to the 24th Hot Docs Forum. This year’s slate is a dynamic combination of bold and heartfelt.”

Two cash prizes will be awarded to top Forum pitch teams: the First Look prize, financed by members of Hot Docs First Look, a curated access program for philanthropic supporters of and investors in documentary film; and the CMF-Hot Docs Forum Canadian Pitch Prize, presented in partnership with the Canada Media Fund, a CAD10,000 cash prize awarded to the best Canadian pitch and intended to go toward the production and completion of the winning project.

At the Forum, participating teams will take up to seven minutes to pitch their doc project to some of the world’s leading commissioning editors, investors and industry experts. Following the pitch, each team receives eight minutes of live feedback and, in some cases, on-the-spot financial commitments.

Participating decision makers confirmed to date include A24, Al Jazeera Documentary Channel, Al Jazeera English, Amazon Studios, ABC News Studios, ARTE G.E.I.E., BBC, BBC Arabic, BBC Arts, Bilibili, Catapult Film Fund, CBC – Documentary, CBC Radio-Canada, Chicken & Egg Pictures, Concordia, CNEX, Field of Vision, HBO Europe, Hulu, International Documentary Association, Impact Partners, Independent Television Service, Indigenous Screen Office, Knowledge Network, Lyfta, National Geographic, Netflix, NHK Enterprises, Nia Tero, Paramount, Participant Media, PBS – ITVS, RTS – Radio Télévision Suisse, POV, Sandbox Films, Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program, TG4, The DeNovo Initiative, The Redford Center, The Whickers, TVO, Vice Studios, WGBH, yesDBS, ZDF/ARTE, SBS – Australia, and SVT – Arts.

The following projects will be presented at the 2023 Hot Docs Forum:

Production Companies: Jo Image Productions (Jordan), YN Films Inc. (Canada)
Director: Mahmoud Massad
Producers: Munire Armstrong, Su Baloglu

When a hidden lens through an old cinema ticket office becomes a confessional.

Production Company: Vida Vida Productions, LLC (U.S.)
Director: Ilse Fernandez
Producers: Ilse Fernandez, Michele Farinola

Through intimate access, Exodus Stories follows the high-stakes journeys of three Central American immigrants who join the migrant caravans fleeing violence and hoping to find refuge in the U.S. at a time when asylum is under siege. Capturing their resilience every step of the way, they prove the American Dream is a beacon for those living in a nightmare.

Production Company: Making Waves Films LLC (U.S.)
Director: Kimberlee Bassford
Producers: Kimberlee Bassford, Marilyn McFadyen, Vilsoni Hereniko, Leanne K. Ferrer, Cheryl Hirasa, Linda Goldstein Knowlton

After a painful experience pushes her into self-exile, acclaimed Samoan writer Sia Figiel untangles her complicated past, revealing a hidden past of sexual abuse and initiating a journey toward healing.

Production Companies: Les Films Cosmos Inc. (Canada), Hutong Production (France), MoonMan (Ukraine)
Director: Oksana Karpovych
Producers: Giacomo Nudi, Rocío Barba Fuentes, Pauline Tran Van Lieu, Lucie Rego, Darya Bassel

A journey through Ukraine that reveals the banality of evil behind the Russian invasion.

Production Company: Capital K Pictures LLC (U.S.)
Director: Sofian Khan
Producer: Faisal Azam

Filmmaker Sofian Khan recounts his friendship and seven-year marriage to Quratulain Ali Khan—known to the world as “Annie”—a brilliant Pakistani journalist who tragically took her life in 2018, leaving behind a captivating body of work and many unanswered questions.

Production Companies: Anima Films Ltd. (U.K.), Thulsa Doom Limited (U.K.), Levon Gharibian (U.K.), Film.Gl (Greenland)
Directors: Johnny Langenheim, Sebastian Feehan
Producers: Andrea Land, Paninnguaq Heilmann, Cyrus Mirzashafa, Levon Gharibian, Hector N. Helsing, James Reed

Haunted by his best friend’s death and his own violent past, Nuka Aqissiaq travels across Greenland giving counsel to the desperate as an epidemic of suicide ravages this Inuit nation.

Production Company: Marriage Cops LLC (U.S.)
Directors: Cheryl Hess, Shashwati Talukdar
Producer: Diana Chiawen Lee

In a small city in northern India, unhappy couples seek relationship advice in the most unlikely of places—the local police station.

Production Companies: Bindubot Communication (India), Touch Narrative (India), Marx Film OÜ (Estonia), Les Steppes Productions SARL (France), JW Documentaries Oy (Finland), VFS Films (Latvia)
Director: Bipuljit Basu
Producers: Nilotpal Majumdar, Max Tuula, Maria Gavrilova, Louis Beaudemont, Nicolaï Iarochenko, John Webster, Uldis Cekulis, Sanaket Mandal

The dream of telling their own stories brings sex workers and their children together to form a tiny self-taught film unit in a Kolkata brothel. The amateur but resilient film crew eventually scales the battle up through their films to make the brothel a better place to live.

Production Company: Venom Limited (Ireland)
Director: Gar O’Rourke
Producers: Samantha Corr, Andrew Freedman, Ken Wardrop

Despite a war raging close-by, mud treatments, lasers, and electro-shock therapies continue at the Ukrainian Kuyalnik Sanatorium, where a small group searches for love, healing and happiness.

Production Company: GreenGround Productions Inc. (Canada)
Director: Julien Elie
Producers: Andreas Mendritzki, Aonan Yang, Julien Elie

Where the Rio Grande meets the sea, the rockets of SpaceX prepare to launch; astronomers come to gaze skyward, philosophers come to gaze inwards, hawkers come to make a buck and environmentalists come to survey the damage. Welcome to Boca Chica, USA.

Production Companies: Younger Daughter Films (Canada), Parkside Films (U.S.), Fit Via Vi Films (U.S.)
Director: Charlie Tyrell
Producers: Julie Baldassi, Mona Panchal, Shannon Riggs, Clay Tweel, Bill Way, Elliott Whitton

The objects we treasure hold magical meaning for us. But can we really save the past?

Production Companies: CAUCASO Società Cooperativa (Italy), LES ALCHIMISTES SAS (France)
Director: Enrico Masi
Producers: Stefano Migliore, Loïs Rocque

A group of colossal magnets are traveling on a cargo ship through the Mediterranean Sea, and in parallel, a family lives voluntarily without electricity in the Western Alps. Beyond the mountains, in the South of France, an experiment is ongoing at ITER (International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor), an advanced lab aimed at bringing the sun to earth. The film is a psychogeographic detour into the core of the political ecology debate.

Production Companies: Medalia Productions Ltd. (Israel), Intuitive Pictures Inc. (Canada)
Director: Hilla Medalia
Producer: Ina Fichman

Binary Option trading promised quick money and easy profits but ultimately led thousands to lose their life savings. This film follows a precedent-setting legal case of an international scam gone awry, and the investigators and informants that would ultimately topple this house of cards.

Production Company: Compy Films Inc. (Canada)
Director: Kenya-Jade Pinto
Producers: Shasha Nakhai, Kenya-Jade Pinto, Jennifer Baichwal, Rich Williamson

Your future is being written in the sand.

Production Companies: One Story Up LLC (USA), We Are Not the Machine Ltd (Kenya)
Directors: Pete Murimi, Daphne Matziaraki
Producers: Toni Kamau, Maya Craig, Roger Ross Williams, Geoff Martz

Climate change and unresolved historical injustices raise the stakes in a generations-old conflict between indigenous pastoralists and white landowners in a wildlife conservation haven.

Production Companies: In Proportion LLC (U.S.), LITTLE BY LITTLE FILMS Limited (UK), In Proportion LLC (U.S.), Multitude Films (U.S.)
Director: Julie Wyman
Producers: Jess Devaney, Jonna McKone, Lindsey Dryden

A new drug promises to make Little People taller, threatening the community it claims to serve. Meanwhile, director Julie Wyman confronts her own dwarfism diagnosis. As Little People grapple with the choice to give up difference, the film poses an urgent question: can we see and be seen differently?

Production Companies: Old Chilly Pictures, LLC (U.S.)
Director: Emelie Mahdavian
Producers: John D. Sutter, Emelie Mahdavian

How do you watch the climate crisis unfold without losing hope? Untitled Thwaites Film tells the story of a female-led science team’s visit to an Antarctic ice shelf that holds back several feet of sea level rise. They will be the last seven humans to set foot on this crumbling ice.

Production Company: Ayvision Ltd (Iran)
Director: Mohammad Tabarsa
Producers: Mahnaz Tafaghi, Mohammad Tabarsa

The announcement of the first ever music competition on Iranian television sparks an inner fire for Hanif in a forbidden atmosphere.

Production Companies: NoCut Film Collective (India), CinemaPaar Productions (India)
Directors: Deeksha Ketkar, Nachiket Guttikar
Producers: Arya Rothe, Isabella Rinaldi, Cristina Hanes, Nachiket Guttikar, Deeksha Ketkar

An intimate portrait of a politician from a deceptively quiet Indian village, who must choose between his career ambitions and his family’s demands, after his teenage son takes a radical step behind his back.

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