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First Look: Special Presentations Program

We’ve announced 31 films in our Special Presentations program, showcasing high-profile premieres, award winners, and works by masters or featuring star subjects.

Full film lineup announced March 19.

Starting Tuesday, March 19, Festival ticket package holders (including Doc Soup Subscribers) and Hot Docs Members can access tickets.

On Tuesday, March 26 at 11:00 a.m., Festival tickets will be available to the public.

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ADVOCATE
D: Rachel Leah Jones, Philippe Bellaiche | P: Joëlle Bertossa, Paul Cadieux | Canada, Israel, Switzerland, Germany, Netherlands, Denmark, Finland | 2019 | 105 min | Canadian Premiere
As one of the few Israeli human-rights lawyers willing to defend Palestinians, Lea Tsemel has been defying hostility and vitriol from the public and press for nearly 50 years to fight for clients in a stacked system.

ALWAYS IN SEASON
D: Jacqueline Olive | P: Jacqueline Olive, Jessica Devaney | USA | 2019 | 88 min | International Premiere
The unresolved case of a Black teen found hanging from a swing set in North Carolina in 2014 is the lens through which this searing doc examines the lingering trauma of more than a century of lynching and continued racial violence.

AMERICAN FACTORY
D: Steven Bognar, Julia Reichert | P: Steven Bognar, Julia Reichert, Jeff Reichert, Julie Parker Benello | USA | 2019 | 115 min | International Premiere
When an abandoned General Motors factory in Ohio is reopened by a Chinese billionaire, the local blue-collar employees clash with modern Chinese innovations in this Sundance award-winner co-directed by this year’s Outstanding Achievement Award recipient Julia Reichert.

ASK DR. RUTH
D: Ryan White | P: Rafael Marmor, Ryan White, Jessica Hargrave, Christopher Leggett | USA | 2019 | 100 min | International Premiere
Do we have anything left to learn from 90-year-old sex therapist Dr. Ruth? In this revealing look at a true trailblazer, she revisits the painful memories of her early life in Germany and the playful milestones of her career as America’s most candid sex ed teacher.

ASSHOLES: A THEORY
D: John Walker | P: Ann Bernier, Annette Clarke, John Walker | Canada | 2019 | 81 min | North American Premiere
Inspired by the New York Times bestselling book, this lively philosophical investigation into the rise of asshole behaviour across the world asks: What does it mean to be an asshole and, more importantly, how do we stop their proliferation?

BUDDY
D: Heddy Honigmann | P: John Appel | Netherlands | 2018 | 86 min | Canadian Premiere
Master documentarian Heddy Honigmann turns her eye for authenticity and genuine interview to the complex relationships between service dogs and their owners. Witness canine humanity and life-altering trust at work in this observational marvel.

COLD CASE HAMMARSKJÖLD
D: Mads Brügger | P: Arno Becker, Andreas Rocksén, Bjarte Mørner Tveit | Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Belgium | 2019 | 127 min | Canadian Premiere
Was it accident or assassination when a UN Secretary General’s plane crashed en route to peace talks for the Congo Crisis? In this probe into the 1961 tragedy, sinister new evidence draws the director into a discovery more horrific than he imagined.

THE CORPORATE COUP D’ETAT
D: Fred Peabody | P: Peter Raymont | Canada | 2018 | 90 min | Canadian Premiere
Piercing insights from journalist Chris Hedges and philosopher John Ralston Saul dissect America at a troubling crossroads, exposing Trump’s MAGA doctrine as a symptom of a broken democracy where power now lies with corporations, not citizens.

THE EDGE OF DEMOCRACY
D: Petra Costa | P: Joanna Natasegara | Brazil | 2019 | 112 min | Canadian Premiere
Featuring unprecedented access to former Brazilian presidents Dilma Rousseff and Lula da Silva, the personal and political brilliantly combine in this unflinching exploration of one of the most dramatic and polarizing periods in Brazilian history.

FRAMING JOHN DELOREAN
D: Don Argott, Sheena M. Joyce | P: Tamir Ardon, Nick Spicer, Don Argott, Sheena M. Joyce | USA | 2019 | 109 min | International Premiere
Car design guru, genius entrepreneur or brilliant criminal—who was the real John DeLorean? Narrative recreations starring Alec Baldwin punctuate revealing interviews with the enigmatic automaker’s inner circle to elegantly parse the man from the scandalous myth.

GAZA
D: Garry Keane, Andrew McConnell | P: Paul Cadieux, Brendan J. Byrne | Canada | 2018 | 90 min | Canadian Premiere
Fully blockaded and home to almost two million people, the Gaza Strip is portrayed in the news as the world’s largest open-air prison—but this rare immersion into everyday Palestinian life reveals the pressures of occupation and the humanity straining to flourish.

GORDON LIGHTFOOT: IF YOU COULD READ MY MIND
D: Joan Tosoni, Martha Kehoe | P: Joan Tosoni, Martha Kehoe | Canada | 2018 | 90 min | World Premiere
From a rural Ontario childhood to Greenwich Village of the ’60s, stadium tours of the ’70s and beyond, vivid archival footage helps chart the career of the legendary songwriter as he reveals the inspiration behind his lyrics and longevity.

HUMAN NATURE
D: Adam Bolt | P: Sarah Goodwin, Meredith Desalazar, Elliot Kirschner | USA | 2019 | 107 min | Canadian Premiere
In a brave new world in which science fiction collides with fact and DNA sequences can be edited with ease, this provocative examination forces us to reconsider what it means to be human.

I LOVE YOU, NOW DIE: THE COMMONWEALTH VS. MICHELLE CARTER
D: Erin Lee Carr | P: Andrew Rossi | USA | 2019 | 140 min | International Premiere
This two-part HBO docu-series dives past the headlines and into the ethical morass of the case of Michelle Carter, who faces the prospect of jail time after coercing her boyfriend into suicide via text, blowing open troubling questions of how we communicate in the digital age.

KILLING PATIENT ZERO
D: Laurie Lynd | P: Corey Russell | Canada | 2019 | 100 min | World Premiere
Skilfully revealing the homophobia behind the headlines, this doc traces the devastating impact of the 1980s AIDS epidemic and clears the name of the Québécois flight attendant who was infamously known as “patient zero.”

KNOCK DOWN THE HOUSE
D: Rachel Lears | P: Rachel Lears, Robin Blotnick, Sarah Olson | USA | 2019 | 85 min | International Premiere
This rollercoaster ride follows four progressive women—including Bronx bartender Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez—behind the scenes and in the streets as they grind through long-shot grassroots campaigns for Congress during the 2018 US midterms.

MILES DAVIS: BIRTH OF THE COOL
D: Stanley Nelson | P: Nicole London, Stanley Nelson | USA, UK | 2019 | 113 min | International Premiere
Never-before-seen footage and studio session outtakes reconstruct the rich inner life of one of the most influential jazz musicians of all time, along with new interviews from the artists he inspired, including Quincy Jones and Carlos Santana.

MYSTIFY: MICHAEL HUTCHENCE
D: Richard Lowenstein | P: Maya Gnyp, John Battsek, Sue Murray, Mark Fennessy, Richard Lowenstein, Lynn-Maree Milburn, Andrew de Groot | Australia | 2019 | 104 min | Canadian Premiere
The enigmatic frontman of wildly popular Australian rock band INXS, who died tragically in 1997, is remembered by the women in his life, including revealing interviews with famous girlfriends Kylie Minogue and Helena Christensen.

N. SCOTT MOMADAY: WORDS FROM A BEAR
D: Jeffrey Palmer | P: Jeffrey Palmer, Youngsun Palmer | USA | 2018 | 85 mins | International Premiere
The life and career of Pulitzer Prize–winning Kiowa author N. Scott Momaday, one of Native America’s most celebrated literary figures, is explored in this spiritual journey through the expansive landscapes of the West and New Mexico.

NOTHING FANCY: DIANA KENNEDY
D: Elizabeth Carroll | P: Elizabeth Carroll, Dan Braun, Gina Abatemarco | USA | 2019 | 82 min | International Premiere
Dubbed “the Mick Jagger of Mexican cooking,” a 96-year-old firebrand chef who’s spent her career celebrating the country’s regional cuisines rushes to solidify her hard-earned legacy in the face of her own mortality.

ONE CHILD NATION
D: Nanfu Wang, Jialing Zhang | P: Nanfu Wang, Jialing Zhang, Julie Goldman, Christoph Jörg, Christopher Clements, Carolyn Hepburn | USA | 2019 | 89 min | Canadian Premiere
Through vérité footage and raw interviews, this fearless, Sundance Award–winning exposé unmasks the wrenching costs to millions of families of China’s infamous 1979 “one-child policy,” introduced to curb population growth and boost sweeping economic development.

OUR GODFATHER
D: Mark Franchetti, Andrew Meier | P: Mark Franchetti, Andrew Meier | UK, Russia | 2018 | 93 min | World Premiere
The family of a high-ranking Sicilian mob boss comes out of 30 years of hiding to tell the gripping tale of how he helped convict over 400 Mafiosi—and became the most hunted witness in US criminal history.

PICTURE CHARACTER
D: Ian Cheney, Martha Shane | P: Jennifer Lee, Ian Cheney, Martha Shane | USA | 2019 | 84 min | International Premiere
Explore the evolution of emojis, the colourful and creative pictorial language that surged from a simple set of icons to a swiftly evolving linguistic phenomenon that is reshaping how we communicate with one another.

PUSH
D: Fredrik Gertten | P: Margarete Jangård | Sweden | 2019 | 92 min | North American Premiere
As skyrocketing housing prices and stagnant incomes squeeze families out of cities worldwide, a newly appointed UN specialist from Ottawa travels from Toronto to Barcelona to London and beyond, fighting to have affordable housing recognized as a human right.

QUIET STORM: THE RON ARTEST STORY
D: Johnny Sweet | P: Colleen Dominguez, Omar Michaud, Johnny Sweet | USA | 2019 | 116 min | International Premiere
Following an infamous on-court brawl, Ron Artest became the most maligned athlete in sports. This distinctly American biography follows him from his childhood in Queens to his turbulent NBA years to his reinvention as inspiring mental health advocate Metta World Peace.

THE REST
D: Ai Weiwei | P: Ai Weiwei | Germany | 2018 | 78 min | North American Premiere
From Chinese artist and political activist Ai Weiwei comes a powerful work that follows the daily lives of refugees in Europe as they hang in limbo between a disintegrating humanitarian aid system and intensifying nationalism.

STIEG LARSSON: THE MAN WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE
D: Henrik Georgsson | P: Mattias Nohrborg, Fredrik Heinig | Sweden | 2018 | 99 min | Canadian Premiere
This compelling look at the Swedish journalist, whose The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series shot to wild posthumous fame, delves into his lesser-known but more significant contribution: fearlessly researching and exposing Neo-Nazism in his own country and beyond.

TOXIC BEAUTY
D: Phyllis Ellis | P: Peter Raymont, Barri Cohen | Canada | 2019 | 90 min | World Premiere
Cancer, diabetes, developmental delays and more—the cosmetics industry’s ugly secrets are exposed through exclusive interviews with scientists, whistleblowers and consumer survivors who raise pressing questions about risks, regulations and the true cost of beauty.

THE TRIAL OF RATKO MLADIC
D: Henry Singer, Rob Miller | P: Henry Singer, Rob Miller, Ida Bruusgaard | UK, Norway | 2018 | 100 min | Canadian Premiere
Accused of horrific war crimes, the “Butcher of Bosnia” finally faces a verdict in the biggest trial since Nuremberg. Embedded with both the prosecution and defense, this courtroom thriller reveals the troublingly nuanced Serbian–Bosnian conflict that still rages on.

WILLIE
D: Laurence Mathieu-Leger | P: Laurence Mathieu-Leger, Bryant McBride | USA, Canada | 2018 | 89 min | World Premiere
In the midst of the American civil rights movement, Willie O’Ree became the first Black player to skate in the NHL. An inspiration to many, the remarkable story of this recent Hall of Fame inductee’s courage and resilience transcends the sport.

XY CHELSEA
D: Tim Travers Hawkins | P: Julia Nottingham, Thomas Benski, Lucas Ochoa, Isabel Davis | UK | 2019 | 91 min | Canadian Premiere
After her 35-year prison sentence is commuted by President Obama, former military intelligence analyst and whistleblower Chelsea Manning prepares to leave a military prison and transition to her new life as a free woman.

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