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Docs For Schools 2016

D: Lina Plioplyte | USA | 2014 | 72 min
Subjects: English, Fashion Grade 7/8 Languages, Intro AP&S, Media Arts, Visual Arts
A hat-obsessed, bike-riding, part-time vintage store employee who trades shifts for clothing items. A mild-mannered lounge singer with the longest, most carefully groomed eyelashes you’ve ever seen. The advice-spouting owner of the popular boutique Off Broadway. These are the subjects of director Lina Plioplyte’s inspiring documentary Advanced Style. Pulled from the strongest entries on renowned fashion photographer Ari Seth Cohen’s popular blog, Advanced Style tells the fabulous true tales of seven of New York’s most stylish elderly women. Ranging in age from 62 to 95, these women flaunt their eclectic styles and embrace their individuality through their clothes and personal stories. Filled with colourful vitality, each vignette bursts with life, humour and, of course, style. Like the mantra for its characters, Plioplyte’s affirming doc reminds us that age is just a number and beauty is forever.

D: Suzanne Crocker | Canada | 2014 | 87 min
Subjects: English, Family Studies, Geography, Science
“Inside is our storage place, but outside is actually our home,” says eight-year-old Kate, reflecting on her family’s decision to leave the comforts of modern life for the remote Yukon wilderness. In an effort to reconnect with one another and tune out from a technology-laden world, Kate’s mother (and All the Time in the World filmmaker) Suzanne Crocker and her husband left their jobs and set forth with three children, two cats and one dog to spend nine months living in a small cabin with no road access, no electricity or running water and not a single clock. By living their lives dictated by the passing of the seasons, their family comes together to rediscover themselves within the natural world. Set in the breathtaking wildness of Canada’s Yukon Territory and filmed entirely off the grid without an external crew, All the Time in the World crafts an intimate and heartwarming portrait of a family in search of deeper connection.

D: Alethea Arnaquq-Baril | Canada | 2016 | 85 min
Subjects: English, Geography, Grade 7/8 Languages, Law, Native Studies, Politics, Science
Anti-seal hunting campaigns have attracted high profile supporters, and with them, hefty financial contributions. From Pamela Anderson to Paul McCartney, celebrities have voiced their outrage about an issue they seem keenly unqualified to discuss. Meanwhile, seal hunters are unjustly targeted for traditional practices that have supported them for centuries. With a way of life on the cusp of extinction, who’s really at fault? How does a culture that exercises understated anger and finds peaceful ways to resolve conflict compete with animal activist groups that rely on anti-sealing sentiment they aggressively cultivate to underwrite their other causes? Alethea Arnaquq-Baril uses her filmmaking skills to organize and embolden a new tech-savvy generation of Inuit to stand up for their rights. Establishing #sealfie on Instagram and skillfully employing social media, they lobby legislators and expose misinformation while staying true to their values in their fight for survival. Alexander Rogalski, Hot Docs

D: Jon Shenk, Bonni Cohen | USA | 2016 | 95 min
Subjects: English, Equity, Diversity & Social Justice, Grade 7/8 Languages, Family Studies, Gender Studies, Health, Intro AP&S, Law, Media Arts, Media Studies
For teenagers living in a digital world, assault and bullying exist in a constant 24-hour loop. Audrie and Daisy, two high school girls living in separate towns in America, were sexually assaulted by boys they knew and considered friends. Their assaults were documented and shared, and the girls faced public shaming in the aftermath, leading to devastating emotional costs. But the stories of these two girls go well beyond their particular incidents—theirs is the chilling reality of a modern age that cycles traumas from basement parties to Facebook posts. There’s also incredible power in the stories of Audrie and Daisy, a power to speak publicly against such abuses and social trends. By giving voice to these girls and all those who’ve shared similar pains and consequences, a community of support and understanding is built. They are the voices that deserve to be heard the most. Gabor Pertic, Hot Docs

D: Madeleine Grant | Canada | 2014 | 91 min
Subjects: English, Equity, Diversity & Social Justice, Gender Studies, Intro AP&S, Media Arts, World History, World Religions
The students of Shanti Bhavan residential school in Bangalore, India, imagine a future that defies their “untouchable” caste. Ostracized and oppressed by virtue of birth alone, the young men and women of Shanti Bhavan’s Grade 12 class intend to break a cycle entrenched for generations by becoming the first Dalit students in India’s history to undertake the national Indian School Certificate exams. After 13 years of preparation, the students nervously focus on exam day. As pressure mounts, confidence wavers. Inflation has made it difficult to attract good teachers and questions arise as to whether or not the class is ready for the exam challenge. Some students crack under the weight of parental expectations, while others fear bad luck will forever seal their fate. With their futures hanging in the balance, the students look to one another for support in this powerful testimonial from those who refuse to be silenced.

D: Lou Pepe, Keith Fulton | USA | 2016 | 101 min
Subjects: Challenge & Change, Civics, English, Equity, Diversity & Social Justice, Geography, Family Studies, Intro AP&S
In a remote desert community, Black Rock Continuation High School offers an oasis for at-risk students confronting challenges well beyond their years. Facing addiction, abuse and early parenthood, these young people stand at a crossroads: complete their high school educations or risk falling into a cycle of poverty. Every day the indefatigable principal, Vonda Viland, acts as a one-woman support system, offering wake-up calls, transportation to school and personal counselling to scores of students who would otherwise go neglected. We follow several students who are poised for success but who teeter on the edge of dropping out and surrendering to external pressures. Despite overwhelming odds, Black Rock offers the tools they need to push through. A skillful work of slice-of-life filmmaking, both gripping and emotionally raw, this Sundance Award winner presents urgent issues with singular insight and sensitivity. Eli Horwatt, Hot Docs

D: Dana Flor, Toby Oppenheimer | USA | 2016 | 91 min
Subjects: American History, English, Equity, Diversity & Social Justice, Family Studies, Fashion, Gender Studies, World Cultures, World Issues
In a city with one of the highest reported rates of anti-gay hate crimes in America, a group of bullied ninth graders have finally had enough. They form a gang called The Check It and soon attract 200 members. But building a feared reputation comes with consequences. This tight-knit family, born of necessity, can’t protect its members from poverty, and many turn to stealing and sex work for survival on the streets of Washington, D.C., picking up lengthy rap sheets along the way. When four key members are offered a way out of violence, they set their eyes on something that unifies them: fashion. Avoiding sensationalism at every turn, this gritty and moving account of standing your ground is sure to be talked about and not to be missed. Eli Horwatt, Hot Docs

D: Damien Gillis, Fiona Rayher | Canada | 2015 | 78 min
Subjects: Civics, English, Geography, Grade 7/8 Languages, Law, Native Studies, Politics Science
“Deep down we’re all fractured,” an oil and gas representative tells young Aboriginal leader and lawyer Caleb Behn. Behn knows that feeling all too well, as he struggles with the role he’ll play in protecting his territory in northern British Columbia, currently under siege from some of the world’s largest natural gas operations. The troubling reality is that the same industry threatening traditional practices and livelihoods is also responsible for giving his parents jobs that provided him with his lifestyle and education. Whether hunting beaver, throwing hatchets or studying legal briefs, the burden of leadership is visible in Behn, as he knows others are looking to him for a better future. Following him from the pristine North to downtown Vancouver and a fracked territory in New Zealand, Fractured Land provides optimism and empowerment toward issues that can seem dire and insurmountable.

D: Charles Wilkinson | Canada | 2015 | 74 min
Subjects: Art, English, Geography, Grade 7/8 Languages, Politics, Native Studies, Science
At a stunning low altitude, aerial cinematography sweeps over the Haida Gwaii, a breathtakingly beautiful archipelago off the British Columbia Northwest Coast. It takes us into the geographic heart of the Haida Gwaiian people, who thrived for more than 10,000 years until they were decimated through disease, rampant commercial logging and industrial over-fishing since contact. Today, the Haida Nation is recovering, exerting their sovereignty and winning battles against unsustainable logging and fishing. Award-winning director Charles Wilkinson (Oil Sands Karaoke, Peace Out) turns his camera on the unique community uniting to protect land and sea for the next generation. Haida hereditary Chief Allan Wilson, renowned activist Guujaaw and non-indigenous eco-activist Severn Cullis-Suzuki work alongside scientists, organic farmers, artists and quirky islanders to create a synergy of sustainable development. But Haida Gwaii sits squarely in the path of the proposed Tar Sands seaway to Asia. The desperate fight to protect land and sea may be just beginning.

D: Neal Broffman | USA | 2014 | 75 min
Subjects: Communications Technology, English, Equity, Diversity & Social Justice, Family Studies, Health, Intro AP&S, Law, Philosophy
While struggling with severe depression, Brown University student Sunil Tripathi one day vanishes from his apartment. With only a few clues and some surveillance video of him walking off into the cold Rhode Island night, Tripathi’s family goes on a desperate search to find him. Using all the sources they can, they launch a nationwide internet and social media campaign to disseminate their story and his picture as widely as possible. But when someone comments that he looks like one of the Boston Marathon bombers, a wildfire is ignited and Tripathi is suddenly labeled a terrorist and bomber. The family soon discovers that compassionate support has been overshadowed by the ruthlessness of media and its power to destroy innocent lives with its insatiable hunger for breaking news.

D: Steve James | USA | 1994 | 176 min
Subjects: Communications Technology, English, Family Studies, Geography, Grade 7/8 Languages, Intro AP&S, Physical Education
“A film like Hoop Dreams is what the movies are for. It takes us, shakes us and makes us think in new ways about the world around us. It gives us the impression of having touched life itself.” — Roger Ebert

Originally intended as a PBS short about two kids from Chicago’s projects, Hoop Dreams became a six-year observation on race, poverty, class and the American Dream. When it failed to garner an Academy Award nomination in the documentary feature category, public outcry led to an overhaul of how films are nominated. More than two decades after its 1994 release, the film’s issues and themes are still incredibly relevant and the characters no less compelling. The stories of Arthur Agee and William Gates sadly reflect a reality many youth face today, where opportunity is obstructed and the hopes of many are a burden on a few. Alexander Rogalski, Hot Docs

D: Daniel Cross | Canada | 2016 | 106 min
Subjects: Art, English, Equity, Diversity & Social Justice, Family Studies, History, Intro AP&S, Media Arts, Media Studies, Music, World Cultures
“Sometime we had it hard and sometime we had it good. All the good days weren’t nothing but bad days. All the bad days weren’t nothing but good days. But I’m still here plucking.”

As the camera glides over bayous, the reflective words of Leo Bud Welch take us deep into Mississippi, to the home of the blues and its living legends. One of those legends is Jimmy “Duck” Holmes, who has been running the Blue Front Cafe for 43 years. The walls of his institutional juke joint are plastered with posters featuring the people and shows that have immeasurably influenced music and popular culture worldwide. Bobby Rush, Barbara Lynn, Lazy Lester and their friends guide this musical travelogue from front porches to church halls, sharing stories and sliding their strings to create one of the most authentic moving tributes to the last of the original blues devils. Alexander Rogalski, Hot Docs

D: Pieter-Jan De Pue | Belgium, Ireland, Netherlands, Germany | 2015 | 87 min
Subjects: Equity, Diversity & Social Justice, Geography, Intro A&PS, Law, Philosophy, World Cultures, World History, World Issues, World Religions
Winner of the Sundance Special Jury Award for Best Cinematography, this captivating study of the next Afghan generation shocks and awes. Shooting over seven years, debut filmmaker Pieter-Jan De Pue artfully combines a child’s fantasy of the future with arresting documentary of the actual hardscrabble country that remains after decades of conflict. While a young voice narrates his impossible dream of riches and marriage, glorious 16mm footage captures his fellow gang members as they roam the valleys searching for undetonated explosives to sell or trade with other children. Some mine lapis lazuli by hand, others steal opium from passing caravans, and this informal mercenary system of lost boys controls the territory in ways the U.S. military could only admire. As the young hoodlums cheer the news of American troops withdrawing, their future—and the nation’s—is achingly uncertain. This lyrical portrait of an embattled land celebrates a primary Afghan strength: resilience. Myrocia Watamaniuk, Hot Docs

D: Shelley Saywell | Canada | 2015 | 86 min
Subjects: Art, Economics, English, Equity, Diversity & Social Justice, Grade 7/8 Languages, Health, Family Studies, Intro AP&S, Politics
Their songs are melodies for the masses, filling subway platforms and street corners, yet the singers remain unknown. Some are homeless, others “home free.” Their personal histories vary as much as their voices, but their music unifies their point of view from the margins of society. Inspired by depression-era recordings of early American folk songs, filmmaker Shelley Saywell and singer and activist Lorraine Segato of The Parachute Club set out to document a new catalogue of songs and stories from five of Toronto’s modern troubadours. Their lyrics are honest, heartfelt and passionate, but their freedom to perform is threatened by the city’s bureaucratic busker system. Shining a light on the struggles they face—be it in shelters, with social programs, with their addictions and abuse—a soundtrack evolves from the island ferry docks and freeway underpasses, rooming houses and rooftops, showing us that music is the common language in this empowering celebration of survival.

D: Anat Goren | Israel | 2015 | 65 min
Subjects: Canadian Studies, English, Equity, Diversity & Social Justice, Family Studies, Grade 7/8 Languages, Intro AP&S, Law, Philosophy, Politics, World Issues
Twelve-year-old Mussa doesn’t speak, and no one knows why. Refugees from Darfur, he and his parents have been living in Tel Aviv’s worst neighborhood for six years. In a strange stroke of policy, however, he is bussed to an elite private school every day. Leaving behind addicts and prostitutes each morning, he silently navigates an upscale world, befriending privileged kids with gestures, reading and writing in Hebrew, and making a considerable bond with a fellow refugee teacher. Trying to fit in, he wordlessly endures classmates who parrot their parents’ harsh views of immigrants and bravely witnesses fellow students be randomly deported. Little solace is found at home as his largely absent parents work all hours, leaving him even more alone with his voiceless thoughts. When a series of unexpected crises hit, Mussa’s precarious place between two disparate worlds is heartbreakingly revealed in this moving look at the human cost of immigration policy.

D: Rama Rau | Canada | 2015 | 47 min
Subjects: English, Equity, Diversity & Social Justice, Family Studies, Grade 7/8 Languages, Intro AP&S, Law, Media Studies, Physical Education
When Rehtaeh Parsons was 15 years old, she went to a party that would define her remaining teenage years. She was sexually attacked and had no memory of it, until photographic evidence spread through social media. The resulting humiliation and bullying the Nova Scotia teen received led to her tragic suicide less than two years later. News of her death reverberated worldwide, a stunning demonstration of the power of images and social networks to amplify the extent of rape culture and effects of depression. Now, her parents and those who knew her reassemble the pieces of Parsons’s life in their courageous quest to make accountable the systems that failed to protect her. With the support of Anonymous, an online campaign and public pressure, they forced the Nova Scotian government and RCMP to address the case and bring the perpetrators to justice. Parsons’s story epitomizes the immense capacity of new tools in these nascent years of social networking.

D: Mark A. Levinson | USA | 2013 | 99 min
Subjects: English, Science
In September 2008, physicists all around the world nervously awaited the start of an unprecedented experiment that could potentially explain the origin of all matter. Buried in a 17-mile tunnel beneath the countryside of Switzerland and France, the Large Hadron Collider was designed to smash trillions of protons together to re-create conditions that existed just moments after the Big Bang. Particle Fever tells the story of six of the brilliant scientists searching for ultimate “truth”—from the exuberance of the initial start-up of the experiment, through the trauma of a catastrophic accident nine days later, to the dramatic announcement on July 4, 2012 of the discovery of the elusive Higgs boson—the so-called “God Particle.”

D: Rokhsareh Ghaem Maghami | Iran, Germany, Switzerland | 2015 | 90 min
Subjects: Art, English, Family Studies, Geography, Grade 7/8 Languages, Intro AP&S, Law, Media Arts, Media Studies, Music, World History
Eighteen-year-old Sonita is an Afghan refugee in Iran, a passionate music lover in a culture where women are forbidden to sing. When she attempts to launch a career as a rapper, her conservative family intervenes. Desperate for money and shocked by her musical aspirations, they summon her back to Afghanistan to be sold into an arranged marriage. Creative ambition must overcome oppressive tradition in this powerful and inspirational film, the winner of an Audience Award at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival. When director Rokhsareh Ghaem Maghami takes Sonita on a suspenseful cross-border journey in pursuit of a U.S. scholarship, this charismatic young woman must learn to defy her family’s expectations and channel her frustrations into rousing song. Sonita is one of the year’s most uplifting films, a soaring portrait of an extraordinary young woman discovering the power of her voice. Will Di Novi, Hot Docs

D: Adam Weber, Jimmy Goldblum | USA | 2014 | 85 min
Subjects: Canadian Studies, English, Equity, Diversity & Social Justice, Geography, Intro AP&S, Media Arts, Visual Arts, Grade 7/8 Languages
Described as India’s “tinsel slum,” the Kathputli artist colony in New Delhi is home to over 1,500 families of puppeteers, acrobats, painters and magicians. That’s all about to change. When the government sells the land to private developers, traditional life is set to be razed for the city’s first skyscraper. Where outsiders see the slum’s rancid water and shacks, debut filmmakers Adam Weber and Jimmy Goldblum find stunning colours in death-defying performances. Whether bathed in sunlight or exploding against night skies, magnificent fire-eaters, sleight of hand magicians and glorious puppets radiate beauty in crisp, brilliant detail. But will the artists’ resolve to preserve their culture overcome the push for progress? As in-fighting breaks out among colony leaders, spilling out into confrontations with developers and government, the clock ticks onwards to the bulldozing date. Gorgeous and inspiring, Tomorrow We Disappear is a splendid tribute to fading artistry and the tenacity of tradition.

D: Jesse Roesler | USA | 2012 | 90 min
Subjects: Civics, English, Geography, Law, Philosophy, Politics
We Are Legion: The Story of the Hactivists is a guide into the world of Anonymous, the “hacktivist” collective with no defined leadership or structure that’s responsible for numerous acts of a new internet-based civil disobedience. Through interviews with current members and those awaiting trial, as well as with other major online figures, writers and academics, we gain an understanding of motives and what it means to be involved with a group redefining online activism. We hear from a group that began as a forum to share jokes, learning about the development of their ideology and their ability to mobilize thousands worldwide. A history of the internet’s evolution, the film traces the birth of a powerful democratic activism that’s making corporations and governments very nervous.

D: Beth Murphy | USA | 2016 | 89 min
Subjects: English, Equity, Diversity & Social Justice, Family Studies, Grade 7/8 Languages, Gender Studies, Intro AP&S, Law, World Cultures, World History, World Issues
In a remote village in Afghanistan is an all-female school, founded and led by spirited humanitarian Razia Jan. In a nation where education for young women is difficult to access and the dropout numbers are high, Jan puts literacy at the forefront, encouraging the girls in their pursuit of knowledge, independence and understanding. Her initiatives are progressive, and her young students embrace the opportunities to learn about their history in hopes of building a better future for themselves and their country. In the midst of many complications, from the influences of the Taliban to international government forces, Jan’s school for young female students offers optimism for future generations. Filmmaker Beth Murphy takes her cameras inside the school walls and beyond, giving unfiltered insights to an evolving educational process that affects not only the girls, but the village as a whole. Gabor Pertic, Hot Docs

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