Powerful, life-changing stories are at the heart of this year’s lineup of National Film Board of Canada (NFB) films at the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival, with four world premieres of feature documentaries in the festival’s Canadian Spectrum program, as well as a wealth of retrospective screenings of classic NFB works.
Attiya Khan makes her directorial debut alongside co-director Lawrence Jackman with A Better Man (Intervention Productions/NFB), premiering April 30 at 6:30 p.m. at the Isabel Bader Theatre. Twenty-two years ago, 18-year-old Attiya feared for her life―fleeing her ex-boyfriend Steve, who’d been abusing her on a daily basis. Now, all these years later, Attiya wanted to know how he remembers their relationship and whether he’s willing to take responsibility for his actions. Their emotionally raw first meeting, filmed by Attiya with Steve’s consent, is the starting point for a fresh and nuanced look at how healing can happen when men take responsibility for their abuse. A Better Man is produced by Christine Kleckner for Intervention Productions and Justine Pimlott for the NFB’s Ontario Studio, based in Toronto. The executive producers for Intervention Productions are Sarah Polley, Kathy Avrich-Johnson and Janice Dawe. The NFB executive producer for A Better Man is Anita Lee. Jane Jankovic is the executive producer for TVO.
Premiering April 30 at 9:30 p.m. at TIFF Bell Lightbox 2, writer/director Marie Clements’ The Road Forward is an electrifying musical documentary that connects a pivotal moment in Canada’s civil rights history—the beginnings of Indian Nationalism in the 1930s—with First Nations activism today. Interviews and musical sequences describe how a tiny movement, the Native Brotherhood and Sisterhood, grew to become a successful voice for change across the country, as this feature documentary seamlessly links past and present through superb story-songs, blues, rock and traditional beats. The Road Forward is produced and executive produced by Shirley Vercruysse for the NFB’s BC & Yukon Studio in Vancouver.
Premiering May 1 at 6:30 p.m. at the Isabel Bader Theatre, Charles Officer’s Unarmed Verses presents a thoughtful and vivid portrait of a community facing imposed relocation, taking a look at marginalized Toronto Community Housing residents in the city’s north-east end. At the centre of the story is a remarkably astute and luminous 12-year-old black girl, whose poignant observations about life, the soul, and the power of art give voice to those rarely heard in society. Unarmed Verses is produced by Lea Marin and executive produced by Anita Lee for the NFB’s Ontario Studio.
Directed by Tasha Hubbard and written by Tasha Hubbard and Betty Ann Adam, Birth of a Family premieres May 2 at 9:00 p.m. at Scotiabank Theatre 3. The film follows three sisters and a brother, adopted as infants into separate families across North America, as they meet together for the first time. Separated as part of Canada’s infamous Sixties Scoop, in which 20,000 Indigenous children were removed from their families and placed into foster care or adopted into white homes, the four are now all in middle age, with no shared memories. Together, they piece together their history, deepen their connections and take the first steps in building their family. Birth of a Family is produced by Bonnie Thompson and executive produced by David Christensen for the NFB’s North West Studio in Edmonton.
Complete screening schedule of world-premiere films
A Better Man
April 30 6:30 p.m. Isabel Bader Theatre
May 1 1:15 p.m. Isabel Bader Theatre
May 6 4:00 p.m. Scotiabank Theatre, Cinema 3
The Road Forward
April 30 9:30 p.m. TIFF Bell Lightbox 2
May 1 12:45 p.m. Scotiabank Theatre, Cinema 3
May 6 8:45 p.m. Scotiabank Theatre, Cinema 7
May 1 6:30 p.m. Isabel Bader Theatre
May 2 3:00 p.m. Scotiabank Theatre, Cinema 4
May 5 10:00 a.m. Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema (Docs for Schools screening)
May 6 3:15 p.m. TIFF Bell Lightbox 1
Birth of a Family
May 2 9:00 p.m. Scotiabank Theatre, Cinema 3
May 3 3:00 p.m. Scotiabank Theatre, Cinema 4
May 6 6:00 p.m. Innis Town Hall