LGBTQ+ highlights at Hot Docs 2021

North America’s largest documentary festival, Hot Docs, will present its 28th annual edition online at hotdocs.ca from April 29th to May 9th 2021, available for audiences across Canada to stream. With over 200 films from 66 countries in 12 programs, 50 per cent of the directors in the festival lineup are women.

“Documentaries are vitally important to helping us understand the world we live in, and to build bridges of understanding across cultural, social and political divides, particularly at this unprecedented moment in time,” comments Shane Smith, director of programming for Hot Docs. “This year’s Hot Docs program features the best in outspoken, outstanding documentary storytelling, all of which will connect us to each other in ways that inspire, inform and illuminate.”

Ahead of this year’s festival, we take a look at some of the LGBTQ+ highlights.

Acts of Love. Courtesy of Hot Docs.

Acts of Love, world premiere

When his older boyfriend loses interest in him, filmmaker Isidore Bethel relocates to Chicago and uses dating apps to cast new lovers in an amorphous project about attraction, rejection, compatibility and attachment. His mom hates the concept and offers her honest opinions throughout the process. Her amusing role as a sounding board prevents the experiment from becoming an aimless and narcissistic way of dealing with a break-up. Blending pop-up photos, scripted and unscripted scenes, this hybrid picks up on the vulnerability and protections men put up in sexual scenarios, and discovers a meaning of love where investment in a relationship isn’t measured by a partner’s commitment but by your own—to pleasing yourself. Who you love can be determined by who fits you best, whose body is your landscape and how well you travel together. The director searches for love in the other, and with the help of his mother, finds it within himself. (Description by Angie Driscoll, courtesy of Hot Docs).

Available to watch from 29th April 2021 at 10am. Includes Q&A. Tickets on sale now.

Silent Voice. Courtesy of Hot Docs.

Silent Voice, North American premiere

Fleeing anti-gay tyranny in Chechnya, Khavaj (pseudonym), a young mixed martial arts fighter, finds himself adrift in Brussels suffering from trauma-induced, psychogenic mutism. An anonymous director (alias Reka Valerik) captures Khavaj’s first few months in exile as he receives support from a Belgian non-profit organization. Long considered a hostile environment for LGBTQIA+ people, Chechnya has seen an uptick in homophobic violence in recent years, no doubt spurred by the hateful rhetoric from the head of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, and the anti-gay policies and cultural norms common across the Russian republics. Law enforcement and citizen vigilantes alike are known to abduct and terrorize those suspected of being gay. In Khavaj’s case, his own brother is his tormentor and his attempts to build a new life are cinematically posited against the chilling backdrop of his mother’s voicemails from home. (Description by Denae Peters Courtesy of Hot Docs).

Available to watch from 29th April 2021 at 10am. Includes Q&A. Tickets on sale now.

Someone Like Me, world premiere

When Kay, a transgender lawyer, decides to lead a group of 11 LQBTQ+ Vancouverites in their mission to sponsor Drake, a queer refugee from Uganda, they never imagined the affecting journey to come. Through a composed observational lens, the film captures the group’s struggles with interpersonal relationships, while having to simultaneously face the difficult reality of what it means to support a newcomer for the first year of their life in a strange country. Drake, a spirited, fun-loving man, arrives in Vancouver full of hopes and dreams for a career in fashion, but within months the pandemic hits. He struggles to find his footing, and conflicting ideas on how to support him split the group apart. A welcome addition to contemporary debates on the realities of refugee sponsorship, Someone Like Me offers a rare look at the experience through the eyes of the queer community. (Description by Aisha Jamal courtesy of Hot Docs).

Available to watch from 29th April 2021 at 10am. Tickets on sale now.

On Saturday May 8th at 7pm ET there will be a free live Q&A with directors Sean Horlor and Steve J. Adams, and film subjects Drake, Kay, and Emily, presented by the NFB. Click here to register to attend.

Threshold, International premiere

Filming over three years, Brazilian filmmaker Coraci Ruiz follows the gender transition of her teenage son, Noah. As Noah’s transformation and search for identity unfolds before our eyes, Ruiz and her own mother struggle with decisions that are inevitably placed out of their hands. Combining archival home videos and deeply revealing interviews with three generations of family, Threshold is a raw and remarkable window into a family in process. As Noah’s understanding of himself begins to crystallize, Ruiz and her mother reflect on decisions, feelings and desires from their own youths. The memories of breaking old paradigms, facing their fears, and dismantling prejudices are what they have to build a bridge towards acceptance. Nuanced and incredibly generous, Threshold offers a moving and inspiring narrative that delivers a compassionate record of love and understanding for us all. Co-presented with Inside Out LGBT Film Festival. (Description by Ravi Srinivasan courtesy of Hot Docs).

Available to watch from 29th April 2021 at 10am. Includes Q&A. Tickets on sale now.

Lohan and Samar. ZUHURS TÖCHTER / ZUHUR’S DAUGHTERS. © Humboldt/Genske/Corso Film. Courtesy of Hot Docs.

Zuhur’s Daughters, world premiere

Teenaged siblings Lohan and Samar, with their family of 14, have fled the war in Syria and the Islamic State to settle in Germany. While each member of the family struggles to find their place in this new country, Lohan and Samar have found a growing freedom to express themselves as transgender. As they don makeup and style their hair, they emerge into their new world with radiant and soaring sprits—but internally, a larger conflict looms. Over three years, directors Laurentia Genske and Robin Humboldt follow the family, revealing the conflicts Lohan and Samar face between their faith and family and their desires to live freely and authentically. While familial love is at the centre of this family, the parents still feel the mounting pressures of their own religious and cultural beliefs. Caught between the stricter Muslim ideology and the fear they will be judged as bad parents by their watchful neighbours, they run the risk of pushing their daughters away. Co-presented with The 519. (Description by Heather Haynes courtesy of Hot Docs).

Available to watch from 29th April 2021 at 10am. Includes Q&A. Tickets on sale now.

For the full festival lineup and to purchase tickets head to hotdocs.ca.

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