The Bloor Hot Docs Theatre. Matt Zhang/Flickr

Back to greet you at the finish line of another school year is the Canadian International Documentary Festival — better known as Hot Docs. The festival has been hosted in Toronto annually since 1993. It is the largest North American festival for documentary films, drawing over 200,000 spectators. This year’s festival, running from April 28 to May 8, will showcase 232 documentaries from 51 countries. The films were selected from 2,735 submissions to the festival.

While regular festival tickets cost $17 per film, students with a valid ID can watch all screenings before 5:00 pm for free. The majority of the 13 venues are located in the downtown core, including three U of T locations: Isabel Bader Theatre, Innis Town Hall, and Hart House Theatre.

Documentary subjects range from food, to love and relationships, to issues of immigration, multiculturalism, and refugees. The films — many of which are premiering at Hot Docs — are also grouped under categories such as the ‘Canadian Spectrum,’ the ‘International Spectrum,’ or ‘DocX’, which is an interdisciplinary section of non-traditional documentaries that combine cinema with music, technology, or other live performances.

A good place to start when searching for festival screenings could be the ‘Special Presentations’ and the ‘Highlights’ categories. Widely anticipated films include the playful League of Exotique Dancers, which explores the lives of vintage burlesque dancers; Ants on a Shrimp, a culinary feature of renowned chef René Redzepi; and the “part riveting biopic, part legal thriller,” O.J. Made in America. Many of the documentaries delve into important topics such as gender and sexuality, animal rights, disability, and ecology and the environment. Notable films that might be of interest include Audrie & Daisy, the “heartrending stories” of two victims of a filmed sexual assault; Life, Animated, which portrays how Disney animations helped an autistic boy understand the world around him; and The Age of Consequences, which looks at climate change through a national security lens.

For those who are not typically documentary fans, this festival could be just the thing to change your perspective. With such a wide selection of films available at Hot Docs, every person is sure to find something of interest.

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