Events, Reviews

10 Must-See Documentaries from the Hot Docs Film Festival


Every year, the Hot Docs International Film Festival in Toronto hosts some of the world’s greatest documentaries, many of which go on to gain major acclaim and awards. This makes the festival a prime location for discovering the projects that documentary lovers and film buffs will want to keep an eye out for once they get wider distribution. Here are ten documentaries from the festival you’ll want to catch later this year.

The Apology

During World War II, the Japanese army forced over 200,000 Asian women into sexual slavery. The Apology looks at the lives of three survivors — now in their 80s and 90s — who share their painful experiences and demonstrate immense courage in their ongoing fight to get Japan to acknowledge and apologize for the atrocity.

Release date: TBD

Audrie and Daisy

Audrie and Daisy studies issues of bullying, harassment, and sexual assault through the tragic stories of two teenage girls whose abuse at the hands of classmates was publicly shared online with their entire school. It’s a haunting look at a growing modern problem, the innocent who are affected, the guilty who often aren’t, and the urgent need for social change.

Release date: TBD

De Palma

Movie buffs will want to rush to see this documentary, in which director Brian De Palma (Blow Out, Scarface, The Untouchables, Mission: Impossible) takes the audience on a journey through his (often unappreciated) filmography. Along the way, he shares juicy gossip, fascinating making-of anecdotes, and keen directorial wisdom that any filmmaker (or fan) will eat up.

Release date: June 10 (limited release)

Life, Animated

Directed by Academy Award winner Roger Ross Williams, Life, Animated is a poignant look at the power of art through Owen, an autistic young man who, as a child, learned to understand the world via animated Disney movies. Now, as he’s about to embark on his own for the first time, he has to learn to understand the world all over again.

Release date: July (final date TBD)

O.J. Simpson: Made in America

The latest entry in ESPN’s acclaimed 30 for 30 series, director Ezra Edelman’s seven-hour documentary (to be aired over five episodes) has been garnering tremendous praise not just for its unprecedented look at O.J. Simpson’s life and murder trial, but also how it ambitiously weaves it through a broader look at America’s history with race.

Release date: Premieres June 11 on ABC

Southwest of Salem: The Story of the San Antonio Four

What some are calling the next Making a Murderer or Paradise Lost, this doc studies the case of four Latina lesbians who were accused of practicing a Satanic ritual and sexually abusing two children. They went to prison, but the women have always maintained their innocence, and Southwest of Salem looks at how the legal system — with its prejudices and inefficiencies — failed the San Antonio Four.

Next screening: Portland Queer Documentary Film Festival on May 22

Strike a Pose

Twenty five years ago, Madonna worked with a group of back-up dancers who gained fame in their own right as they struck poses throughout her “Blond Ambition” tour and were featured in the documentary Truth or Dare. In Strike a Pose, they take center stage as the filmmakers catch up with the dancers to look at how they adjusted to fame, how they’ve fared since, and what memories (and secrets) stand out from their time with the star.

Next screening: Provincetown International Film Festival on June 19


Every now and then, we get a movie (think: Dear Zachary, The Impostor) where the less you know about it, the better. Tickled is one of those movies. Just know this: the project began when director David Farrier came across an online video promoting “competitive endurance tickling,” and decided to investigate further. The rest, you’ll just have to see for yourself.
Tickled Poster
Release date: June 17

Tony Robbins: I Am Not Your Guru

Ever wondered what a seminar with motivational speaker Tony Robbins would be like, but don’t want to pay the $5,000 to find out? Now, you can find out, with this behind-the-scenes and full-access look at his famous six-day “Date with Destiny” seminar that sheds light on an experience many of us don’t get the chance to see. What’s more, you can decide: is a he a self-help charlatan or a genuine life changer?
Tony Robbins
Release date: July 15 on Netflix


Who doesn’t remember Anthony Weiner, the congressman who resigned due to scandal? This Sundance Grand Jury Prize-winning film documents Weiner’s attempt to redeem himself with a campaign for Mayor of New York — until another scandal threatens his dreams of a second chance. Directors Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg were there to capture it all in a captivating doc that’s not just a humorous inside look at political scandal, but also a nuanced study of a man (and his ego) who is, to many, a punchline.

Release date: May 20

Which of these films are you most excited for? What other documentaries are you looking forward to in 2016? Tell us in the comments!