Hot Docs 20th Anniversary Timeline
As a part of Hot Docs 20th anniversary celebration, we’ve created a timeline highlighting some important milestones, including the introduction of new programs, visits from special guests, and award-winning films premiered at the Festival.
- Hot Docs is founded by Documentary Organization of Canada (formerly the Canadian Independent Film Caucus) as an event for Canadian documentary filmmakers to gather and share their work. Filmmaker Paul Jay is the founding chair of the Festival’s board of directors and Debbie Nightingale is the Festival’s producer.
- The first ever Hot Docs is presented February 24 to 27.
- An industry event for documentary filmmakers, Hot Docs screens 21 films from over 140 submissions, including the opening night film André Mathieu, Musicien (D: Jean-Claude Labrecque) and Aileen Wuornos: The Selling of a Serial Killer (D: Nick Broomfield).
- Hot Docs presents its first industry conference, consisting of four workshops over two days, and its first awards presentation, called the National Documentary Film Awards, hosted by radio personality Bob Robertson (Double Exposure).
- Hot Docs presents 29 films from February 16 to 19, including opening night film L’Affaire Norman William (D: Jacques Godbout) and Hoop Dreams (D: Steve James).
- Musical comedy act Bowser and Blue host the awards presentation, and juries in Vancouver, Edmonton, Montreal, Toronto and Halifax decide on films in competition.
- Audio recordings of professional development sessions are made available on site to attendees.
- Hot Docs becomes a separately incorporated organization with a mission to showcase and support the work of Canadian and international documentary filmmakers, and to promote excellence in documentary production.
- Hot Doc screens 52 films from March 21 to 24, and introduces an international program that features films from Germany, France and the UK.
- Hot Docs introduces its Industry Centre and increases services to include a co-production registry, a videotape library and an appointment desk.
- Joanne Smale is elected co-chair of the board of directors.
- Comedian John Rogers hosts the Hot Docs Awards Presentation.
- Hot Docs presents 97 films from March 19 to 23, including: Chronicle of a Genocide Foretold (D: Danièle Lacourse and Yvan Patry, winner of the Best Feature Doc Award; and Project Grizzly (D: Peter Lynch).
- Hot Docs launches its first website, which features a comprehensive film list and schedule, daily festival news and highlights, and the industry feature Dispatches from the Edge: Nick Brinkman on Documentary Film Project Development and Production.
- Ric Bienstock is elected co-chair of the board of directors.
- Comedian Elvira Kurt hosts the Hot Docs Awards Presentation.
- Chris McDonald is appointed executive director of Hot Docs and is the organization’s first full-time employee.
- Hot Docs presents 69 films from March 18 to 22, including the opening night film Wild Man Blues (D: Barbara Kopple), and a Spotlight on Arte program that showcases the Franco-German arts and culture broadcaster.
- Anne Pick and Louise Lore are elected co-chairs of the board of directors.
- Hot Docs introduces the Lifetime Achievement Award (now known as the Outstanding Achievement Award), and selects Canadian documentary legend Allan King as its first recipient.
Hot Docs moves to spring, relocates to bars, cafes and cinemas in Toronto’s Little Italy neighbourhood, and opens its screenings to public audiences for the first time. From May 5 to 9, 69 films are screened to an audience of 7000.
The Lifetime Achievement Award is presented to Albert and David Maysles, and a retrospective of their work is screened.
Hot Docs introduces its Spotlight program and features films from France in its inaugural year.
- Hot Docs presents 84 films from May 1 to 7, including opening night film Home Game (D: Pepe Danquart), and Long Night’s Journey Into Day (D: Frances Reid, Deborah Hoffman), which is later nominated for an Academy Award.
- Audience numbers more than double to 16,700.
- The Lifetime Achievement Award is presented to D.A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus and a retrospective of their work is screened.
- Hot Docs launches the Toronto Documentary Forum (TDF), now known as the Hot Docs Forum (HDF), a high-profile pitch forum to stimulate international co-production financing for documentary projects. Pitched in Forum’s inaugural year, the Canadian film The Corporation (D: Jennifer Abbot, Mark Achbar; Co-Producer: Cari Green) would later win the Best Documentary Genie in 2005.
- Hot Docs continues it Spotlight program with a showcase of Australian documentaries.
- Hot Docs leads a delegation of 12 Canadian producers to the Australian International Documentary Conference.
- Hot Docs presents 70 films from April 30 to May 6, including: the Canadian premiere of opening night film Startup.com (D: Chris Hegedus, Jehane Noujaim); and LaLee’s Kin: The Legacy of Cotton (D: Deborah Dickson, Susan Frömke, Albert Maysles), which is later nominated for an Academy Award.
- Hot Docs expands its industry conference, introducing such market initiatives as The Doc Shop and its Rendezvous one-on-one meeting service, and such professional development opportunities as Master Class programs with Albert Maysles, and DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus, and Kickstart panels for emerging and mid-career filmmakers.
- The Festival offers a Spotlight on the Nordic Region and introduces the Audience Award, which is presented to Southern Comfort (D: Kate Davis) based on audience votes.
- Audience numbers for the Festival hit 20,000.
- The ‘godfather of Canadian film’ Don Haig is honoured with the Lifetime Achievement Award.
- Danish director Lars von Trier’s project The Five Obstructions is pitched at the second annual Toronto Documentary Forum.
- Hot Docs introduces Doc Soup, its popular monthly screening series, and launches the inaugural season with Keep the River on Your Right (D: David Shapiro, Laurie Gwen Shapiro).
- Hot Docs leads a delegation of 15 Canadian producers to the Nordisk Panorama and Forum in Bergen, Norway.
- Hot Docs expands to 10 days, April 26 to May 5, and adds venues in Toronto’s Bloor Annex neighbourhood. The Festival presents 98 films from 26 countries, including: the Canadian premiere of opening night film Blue Vinyl (D: Judith Helfand, Daniel B. Gold); Audience Award-winner The Last Just Man (D: Steven Silver); and the Canadian premiere of Daughter from Danang (D: Gail Dolgin, Vicente Franco), which is later nominated for an Academy Award.
- Director Frederick Wiseman receives the Lifetime Achievement Award and Retrospective. The Festival also presents a Spotlight on Germany and introduces RealKids, Real Teens, a youth-oriented program, and Focus On, a showcase for a mid-career Canadian filmmaker, which celebrates Zacharias Kunuk in its inaugural year.
- Hot Docs introduces advance online ticketing for the Festival, including single ticket sales, and audience numbers climb to 25,000.
- Hot Docs’ industry conference introduces Cyberdocs, an interactive media exhibition and discussion.
- God Grew Tired Of Us: The Story of the Lost Boys of Sudan (D: Christopher Dillon Quinn and Tom Walker) pitched at the 2002 Toronto Documentary Forum, would later win multiple awards at the Sundance Film Festival.
- Hot Docs presents 122 films from 32 countries from April 25 to May 4, including the Canadian premiere of opening night film My Flesh and Blood (D: Jonathan Karsh), and Audience Award-winning War Babies (D: Raymonde Provencher).
- Popular free daytime screenings for seniors and students are introduced and audience numbers swell to 32,000.
- The Outstanding Achievement Award and Retrospective (formerly Lifetime Achievement Award) is presented to Nick Broomfield, and the second Focus On program showcases the work of Shelley Saywell.
- Hot Docs presents a Spotlight on the U.K. and introduces the Made in… program, which features Taiwan in its inaugural year. A record number of countries are represented in the festival, including first-time appearances for films from Bangladesh, Uruguay, Taiwan, Portugal, Cambodia and the Republic of Georgia.
- Hot Docs leads a delegation of 14 Canadian producers to the Sheffield International Documentary Festival in the UK.
- Michael McMahon is elected co-chair of the board of directors.
- Hot Docs presents 106 films from 24 countries from April 23 to May 2, including: the world premiere of opening night film and former TDF project The Ritchie Boys (D: Christian Bauer); Audience Award-winner Death in Gaza (D: James Miller, Misha Manson-Smith); the Canadian premiere of Metallica: Some Kind of Monster (D: Joe Berlinger, Bruce Sinofsky); and the Canadian premiere of Super Size Me (D: Morgan Spurlock), which is later nominated for an Academy Award.
- The Rogers Industry Centre moves to its current location on the University of Toronto campus, and the Festival’s village shifts to the Bloor Annex and Yorkville neighbourhoods.
- Audience numbers climb to 37,000.
- The Outstanding Achievement Award and Retrospective honours Canadian journalist and filmmaker Michael Maclear. Hot Docs also presents Focus On Nettie Wild, Made in South Africa and Spotlight on The Netherlands.
- Hot Docs leads a delegation of eight Canadian producers to International Documentary Festival Amsterdam (IDFA).
- Hot Docs partners with the World Congress of Science Producers (now the World Congress of Science and Factual Producers), a member-run conference for science, history and other factual producers and broadcasters, to produce their annual event
- Hot Docs presents 100 films from 24 countries from April 22 to May 1, including the international premiere of opening night film Murderball (D: Henry Alex Rubin, Dana Adam Shapiro) and the world premiere of Audience Award-winner Street Fight (D: Marshall Curry), both later nominated for an Academy Award.
- Hot Docs rebrands itself, introducing its current voice-bubble logo and “Outspoken. Outstanding.” tagline.
- Audience numbers rise to 41,000.
- Errol Morris is honoured with the Outstanding Achievement Award and Retrospective, and participates in a sold-out on-stage interview. Hot Docs also presents Focus On Larry Weinstein and Spotlight on Israel.
- Animated Israeli documentary Waltz with Bashir (D: Ari Folman) pitches at the Toronto Documentary Forum, where it secures financing. It later premieres at the Toronto International Film Festival, receives an Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Film, and wins a Golden Globe Award.
- Hot Docs’ industry conference hosts the Doc Policy Summit, a joint initiative with the NFB, Telefilm and Canadian Television Fund with a goal to create a harmonized approach in support of Canadian documentary filmmaking.
- Norm Bolen is elected co-chair of the board of directors.
- Hot Docs presents 99 films from 24 countries from April 28 to May 7, including: the North American premiere of opening night film The Railroad All Stars (D: Chema Rodriguez); the Canadian Spectrum opening night film Mozartballs (D: Larry Weinstein); the international premiere of Audience Award-winner Lion in the House (D: Steven Bognar, Julia Reichert); and the Canadian premiere of Iraq in Fragments (D: James Longley), which is later nominated for an Academy Award.
- Audience numbers leap to 51,500.
- Werner Herzog is honoured with the Outstanding Achievement Award and Retrospective, and participates in a sold-out on-stage interview. Hot Docs also presents Focus On Serge Giguère, Spotlight on France and Made in Japan.
- The Festival becomes the ongoing host of the Don Haig Award, a $15,000 cash prize awarded to an emerging Canadian filmmaker. In its first year at Hot Docs it is presented to Montreal’s Guylaine Dionne, and a Special Jury Prize is presented to Winnipeg’s Sean Garrity.
- Canadian documentary Up the Yangtze (D: Yung Chang) is pitched at the Toronto Documentary Forum, and later goes on to win the Genie Award for Best Documentary and becomes one of the highest grossing documentary box office releases for 2008.
- Hot Docs’ industry conference introduces Doc U and Doc Lab, professional development programs for early and mid-career filmmakers. The Quebecor Documentary Fellowship Bursary is also introduced, which supports attendance by emerging filmmakers from diverse communities.
- The Doc Shop, the Festival’s popular vidéothèque market, goes digital, offering accredited buyers and programmers instant access to over 1500 docs for sale. The service later goes online, providing buyers from around the world year-round access to titles.
- Hot Docs introduces Docs For Schools, a new education program that offers students access to free screenings of festival films both in the theatre and in their schools. Over 7000 Toronto students participate in the first year.
- Hot Docs leads a delegation of Canadian producers to GZ DOC in Guangzhou, China.
- Hot Docs presents 131 films from 30 countries from April 19 to 29, including: the Canadian premiere of the opening night film In the Shadow of the Moon (D: David Sington); the international premiere of Helvetica (D: Gary Hustwit); and the international premiere of Audience Award-winner War/Dance (D: Sean Fine, Andrea Nix Fine), which is later nominated for an Academy Award.
- Audience numbers climb to 68,000.
- Dutch filmmaker Heddy Honigmann receives the Outstanding Achievement Award and Retrospective. The Festival also presents Focus On Kevin McMahon, Made in Brazil and Spotlight on Central and Eastern Europe.
- Hubert Davis receives the Don Haig Award, and the memorial Lindalee Tracey Award is introduced at Hot Docs and given to Trevor Anderson.
- Hot Docs introduces the Doc Mogul Award, recognizing an individual who has made an essential contribution to the creative vitality of the documentary industry, both in his or her home country and abroad. The inaugural recipient is Canadian broadcast executive Rudy Buttignol of Knowledge Network.
- Hot Docs launches International Co-Production Day and hosts delegations from Italy, Germany and Brazil. Industry delegates number close to 2000.
- Participation in Docs for Schools climbs to over 17,000 students, and Doc It!, a new youth initiative that showcases the work of teenaged filmmakers, is introduced.
- Hot Doc leads a delegation of 15 Canadian producers to DOK Leipzig in Germany.
- Hot Docs screens 170 films from 36 countries from April 17 to 27, including the opening night film Anvil! Story of Anvil (D: Sacha Gervasi); the international premiere of Audience Award-winner Taking Root: The Vision of Wangari Maathai (D: Lisa Merton, Alan Dater); the Canadian premiere of Betrayal (D: Ellen Kuras, Thavisouk Phrasavath), which is later nominated for an Academy Award; and the Canadian premiere of Man on Wire (D: James Marsh), which later wins an Academy Award.
- Richard Leacock receives the Outstanding Achievement Award and Retrospective. Hot Docs also presents Focus On Jennifer Baichwal, Spotlight on Iran and Made in Mexico.
- Notable guests at the Festival include Isabella Rossellini (co-director of Green Porno), and film subjects Canadian heavy metal icons Anvil, and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Dr. James Orbinski.
- Hot Docs offers 250 screenings, an increase of 25%, and attracts audiences of 85,000.
- The BBC’s Nick Fraser is named Doc Mogul. Yung Chang receives the Don Haig Award and Tracey Elizabeth Lazebnik is honoured with the Lindalee Tracey Award.
- Hot Docs introduces the Canwest-Hot Docs Documentary Funds (now known as the Shaw Media-Hot Docs Documentary Funds), a seven-year $4-million fund offering completion grants and no-interest development loans to Canadian documentary filmmakers. In its first year, the Funds disbursed $594,000 to 21 projects, including: Act of God (D: Jennifer Baichwal, opening night selection Hot Docs 2009), Last Train Home (D: Lixin Fan, Genie Award winner), Waterlife (D: Kevin McMahon, Canadian Feature Special Jury Prize, Hot Docs 2009), The Stories We Tell (D: Sarah Polley, official selection TIFF 2012) and Life with Murder (D: John Kastner, Hot Docs 2010 official selection).
- Doc Soup Toronto reaches a milestone with close to 1000 subscribers. Doc Soup series are launched in Vancouver and Calgary.
- Hot Docs screens 171 films from 39 countries from April 30 to May 10, including: the world premiere of Act of God (D: Jennifer Baichwal); the international premiere of Audience Award winner The Cove (D: Louie Psihoyos), which later won an Academy Award; the Canadian premiere of Burma VJ – Reporting from a Closed Country (Anders Høgsbro Østergaard) and the international premiere of Which Way Home (D: Rebecca Cammisa), both of which were later nominated for an Academy Award; and the world premieres of Inside Hana’s Suitcase (D: Larry Weinstein), A Hard Name (D: Alan Zweig), and the Canadian premiere Prom Night in Mississippi (D: Paul Saltzman), all of which were later nominated for a Genie Award.
- Native Canadian filmmaker Alanis Obomsawin receives the Outstanding Achievement Award and Retrospective. Hot Docs also presents Focus On Ron Mann, Made in South Korea, and a special Spotlight on the NFB at 70.
- Audience numbers explode to 122,000.
- HBO’s Sheila Nevins is honoured with the Doc Mogul Award. The Don Haig Award is presented to Brett Gaylor and the Lindalee Tracey Award is shared by Laura Bari and Will Inrig.
- Docs for Schools expands across Ontario, providing free documentary screenings to 50,000 students from 257 schools. Hot Docs also expands its educational programming by presenting World Press Photo 09 in the Allen Lambert Galleria at Brookfield Place, welcoming thousands of public and student visitors.
- The Guantanamo Trap (D: Thomas Selim Wallner) is pitched at the Toronto Documentary Forum, and later ties for the Special Jury Prize – Canadian Feature at Hot Docs 2011 and is nominated for a Genie Award.
- The Canwest-Hot Docs Funds (now known as the Shaw Media-Hot Docs Documentary Funds) award $534,000 in completion grants and no-interest development loans to 22 Canadian documentary projects.
- Robin Mirsky is elected co-chair of the board of directors.
- Hot Docs partners with Canadian distributor KinoSmith to introduce the Hot Docs Collection, an ongoing series of DVD releases featuring Hot Docs festival films and other documentary titles.
- Doc Soup launches in Edmonton.
- Film submissions for the Festival hit a record high of 2088. Hot Docs presents 166 films from 41 countries from April 29 to May 9, including: the Canadian premieres of opening night films Babies (D: Thomas Balmès) and Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage (D: Sam Dunn, Scot McFadyen); the international premiere of Audience Award-winner Thunder Soul (D: Mark Landsman); the international premiere of Gasland (D: Josh Fox) and the Canadian premiere of Waste Land (D: Lucy Walker), both of which are later nominated for an Academy Award; the world premieres of In the Name of the Family (D: Shelley Saywell) and Leave Them Laughing (D: John Zaritsky), and the Toronto premieres of Ladies in Blue (D: Claude Demers) and La Belle Visite (D: Jean-François Caissy), which are all later nominated for a Genie Award.
- Special guests include Canadian rock legends Rush, and actor and director Adrian Grenier (Teenage Paparazzo).
- Audience numbers climb to 136,000.
- British filmmaker Kim Longinotto receives the Outstanding Achievement Award and Retrospective. Hot Docs also presents Focus On Tahani Rached and Made in South America, and introduces Rooftop Docs outdoor screenings.
- Films Transit International’s Jan Rofekamp is named Doc Mogul. The Don Haig Award is won by filmmaking team Philip Lyall and Nimisha Mukerji, and the Lindalee Tracey Award is given to Ayanie Mohamed.
- Hot Docs launches the Doc Library, a free online archive of over 100 Canadian documentaries, educational resources for high school students and knowledge capture video from industry panels and events.
- The newly renamed Shaw Media-Hot Docs Documentary Funds awards $454,000 in completion grants and no-interest loans to 20 Canadian documentary projects, including: At Night, They Dance (D: Isabelle Lavigne, Stéphane Thibault), winner of Hot Docs 2011 Special Jury Prize - Canadian Feature; Beauty Day (D: Jay Cheel) Hot Docs 2011 official selection; and Family Portrait in Black and White (D: Julia Ivanova), winner of Best Canadian Feature at Hot Docs 2011.
- Hot Docs presents 199 films from 43 countries from April 28 to May 8, including: the Canadian premiere of opening night film POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold (D: Morgan Spurlock); the world premiere of Audience Award-winner Somewhere Between (D: Linda Goldstein Knowlton); and the international premiere of Hell and Back Again (D: Danfung Dennis) and the Canadian premiere of If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front (D: Marshall Curry, Sam Cullman), both of which are later nominated for Academy Awards.
- At Night, They Dance (D: Isabelle Lavigne, Stéphane Thibault), Weibo’s War (D: David York), Beauty Day (D: Jay Cheel), Family Portrait in Black and White (D: Julia Ivanova), and The Guantanamo Trap (D: Thomas Selim Wallner) all screen at the Festival and are all later nominated for the Best Documentary Genie Award, with At Night, They Dance winning. Four of the films received support from the Shaw Media-Hot Docs Funds and/or the Hot Docs Forum. The short doc 75 Watts (D: John Cullen), receives its world premiere at the Festival and later wins a Genie Award.
- The Festival welcomes filmmaker Morgan Spurlock, Ron Sexsmith, puppeteer Kevin Clash and Elmo.
- Hot Docs offers 360 screenings, an increase of 27%, and audience numbers reach a new milestone at 150,000.
- Canadian filmmaker Terence Macartney-Filgate receives the Outstanding Achievement Award and Retrospective. Hot Docs also presents Focus On Alan Zweig and Made in Italy.
- IDFA’s Aly Derks is honoured as the Doc Mogul. Rama Rau wins the Don Haig Award, and the Lindalee Tracey Award goes to Alexandre Hamel.
- The Hot Docs-Blue Ice Group Documentary Fund, a five-year $1-million production fund to support African filmmakers, is announced at the newly renamed Hot Docs Forum.
- Hot Docs announces a partnership with Blue Ice Group to operate and program the new acquired Bloor Cinema, a historic century-old movie house in Toronto’s Annex neighbourhood. Closed for renovations, the cinema is slated to reopen as a home for documentary film in winter 2012.
- Doc Soup launches in Winnipeg as a Best of Hot Docs weekend.
- The Shaw Media-Hot Docs Documentary Funds awards $440,000 in completion grants and no-interest loans to 22 Canadian documentary projects, including The World Before Her (D: Nisha Pahuja), which later wins awards at Tribeca and Hot Docs.
- Hot Docs presents 189 films from a record 51 countries from April 26 - May 6, including the Canadian premiere of opening night film Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry (D: Alison Klayman), and the Canadian premiere of Audience Award-winner Chasing Ice (D: Jeff Orlowski).
- Canadian filmmaker Michel Brault is honoured with the Outstanding Achievement Award and Retrospective. Hot Docs also presents Focus On John Kastner and Made in Southeastern Europe.
- Audience numbers hit 165,000.
- The Festival welcomes pop idol Rick Springfield, actor and director Adrien Grenier, and director Jennifer Lynch.
- Participant Media’s Diane Weyermann is named Doc Mogul. The Don Haig Award goes to Mia Donovan and the Lindalee Tracey Award is given to Jasmine Oore.
- Docs For Schools hits a new record with 73,000 students across Ontario participating.
- Hot Docs introduces Doc Ignite, a crowd-funding service for Canadian documentary projects. Doc Ignite’s first campaign, How to Build a Time Machine (D: Jay Cheel), exceeds its $25,000 target.
- In partnership with Cineplex Entertainment, Hot Docs presents Hot Docs Live!, a simulcast of two screenings and filmmaker Q&As during the Festival to 37 cinemas across the country. The Toronto premiere of Indie Game: The Movie (D: James Swirsky, Lisanne Pajot) and the Canadian premiere of China Heavyweight (D: Yung Chang) are selected for the program.
- In March, Hot Docs and Blue Ice Group open the newly rechristened Bloor Hot Docs Cinema after a multi-million dollar revitalization that includes a new canopy and marquee, a renovated lobby and public facilities, new seating, and state of the art digital sound and projection equipment. After a week of open house and special event screenings, the cinema opens on Friday, March 16, with Hot Docs hit Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey (D: Constance Marks).
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