Hot Docs! North America’s largest documentary film festival goes online amid Covid-19 crisis
Cinemas remain closed across the world, the Festival de Cannes has been cancelled and the red carpet rolled up, and now North America’s largest documentary film festival is adjusting to the new normal created by the Covid-19 pandemic by taking the entire event online.
The 10-day Hot Docs Festival was originally scheduled to commence on April 30, but the coronavirus crisis brought the curtain down upon staging multiple screenings before live audiences, like those in previous years. “Over a month ago when the Covid-19 pandemic first hit, we took the unprecedented step of postponing the public festival anticipating that we would soon be able to reschedule it,” said Hot Docs’ executive director Brett Hendrie, in a statement issued by the festival.
“But now, given the ongoing uncertainly around when live festivals and other large gatherings may safely be held, we are fortunate to have this option to bring these outstanding films to our audiences,” he added, referring to the streaming of what has been renamed as the Hot Docs Festival Online. Not that it will be missing original content or the premieres that have marked the festival over the years. The festival began on May 28 and will continue through June 6 during which it will feature over 135 official selections including 91 features and mid-length titles.
Documentaries, of course, reflect takes on the current reality of the world but the 2020 version of Hot Docs, will obviously, be unable to feature films about the coronavirus, simply because there aren’t any as yet. However, it does riff upon a number of other topics that are in the news. As racism once again makes headlines, Indian-American director Shalini Kantayya’s ‘Coded Bias’ takes a look at discrimination embedded in advanced facial recognition technology, while ‘Hong Kong Moments’ focuses on the pro-democracy protests there last year just as they recur again.
“Documentaries are vitally important to helping us understand the world we live in, particularly at this challenging moment in time,” said Shane Smith, Hot Docs’ director of programming.
Indian films always have a presence at the festival and figure in its inaugural online avatar, with the highlight being ‘Shut Up Sona’, director by Deepti Gupta, that features singer Sona Mohapatra and her feminism in the context of a patriarchal Bollywood music industry.