The 29th annual Hot Docs Canadian Intl. Documentary Festival will open with Jennifer Baichwal’s “Into the Weeds,” about a former groundskeeper who battles an agrochemical corporation after his cancer diagnosis, it was announced this morning at a media conference in Toronto unveiling the full slate.

The acclaimed Toronto filmmaker is best known for her trio of visually arresting collaborations with Canadian photographer Edward Burtynsky exploring impact of humans on the planet, such as “Manufactured Landscapes.” She is the first director in Hot Docs history to have a second film open the festival, and among the 49% of female directors in its 2022 official selection.

“Into the Weeds” is one of 63 titles receiving their world premieres at Hot Docs, which returns to live screenings for the first time since 2019, presenting 226 films from 63 countries across 15 programs. Hot Docs runs April 28 to May 8.

“We are elated to be able to bring these outstanding, outspoken stories to Toronto cinemas, and online across Canada,” said Hot Docs’ director of programming Shane Smith. “This year’s program speaks directly to many of today’s most urgent issues and will leave audiences energized, inspired and, in some cases, outraged.”

This year’s competitive International Spectrum program is a hotbed, with world premieres including Chan Tze Woon’s “Blue Island,” a doc-drama hybrid about contemporary Hong Kong’s history of protest; Bogna Kowalczyk’s “Boylesque,” about an openly gay 82-year-old Polish man living loudly in his homophobic country; Karl Malakynas’ “Delikado,” about three environmental crusaders’ battle to save an island paradise in the Philippines; “The Killing of a Journalist,” about the corrupt investigation into the murder of a Slovakian journalist; “Petites (Little Girls),” which revisits the infamous Dutroux Affairs; and Reed Harkness’ “Sam Now,” about a son’s 20-year search for the mother who abandoned him.

Hot Docs adds two world premiering titles to its Special Presentations slate, which was announced last week. Gavin Fitzgerald’s “Million Dollar Pigeons” looks at the fanciers and feathers in the lucrative world of international pigeon racing, while Barry Avrich’s “The Talented Mr. Rosenberg” profiles Toronto’s notorious Yorkville Swindler.

“Zero Position,” filmed in Eastern Ukraine prior to the current invasion, is among several films receiving their world premieres in World Showcase. Other titles include “Shooting War” (conflict photojournalism), “Mom” (a mother-son healing process), “And Still I Sing” (female singers competing in “Afghan Star”), “African Moot” (the annual African Human Rights Moot Court Competition), and “Queer My Friends” (Korean filmmaker documents her best friend’s coming of age as a gay man).

Notable Canadian Spectrum world premieres include “Don’t Come Searching” (a Jamaican migrant worker returning home from Canada with big news), “Okay!” (musicians on autism spectrum prepare for their first show), “Bernie Langille Wants to Know What Happened to Bernie Langille” (a man investigates his grandfather’s unresolved death), “Freedom From Everything” (AIDS and the coronavirus), “Scrap” (the spaces of discarded machinery), and “Shelter” (a filmmaker’s exploration of home).

Films in Hidden Histories, a new themed strand, shed light on buried stories. The program will screen the world premiere of “Unloved: Huronia’s Forgotten Children,” examining the culture of abuse inside Ontario’s oldest government-run home for disabled children.

The Changing Face of Europe returns with a slate of films exploring the scope of transition in the region, with world premiering titles including: “Atomic Hope – Inside the Pro-Nuclear Movement,” an investigation into the capabilities of nuclear energy to tackle climate crisis; and “Band,” looking at an all-female art rock band dealing with motherhood.

“How Saba Kept Singing,” in which a 94-year-old man tells his family how he survived Auschwitz, has its world premiere in the Artscapes strand, along with: “Beautiful Scars,” a portrait of Canadian singer-songwriter Tom Wilson as he confronts deep family secrets; “For Real,” the creative regeneration of French-Cameroonian rapper Ichonl; and “The Artist’s Daughter, Oil on Canvas,” in which a woman attempts to understand her distant father, an esteemed painter, through his work.

Nightvision’s edgy slate includes the world premiere of “F**ck It Up!,” which follows punk band Towers of London’s energetic ruination of their multi-million-dollar record deal.

Women’s voices are amplified in the Persister program, which presents the world premiere of Phyllis Ellis’ latest, “Category: Woman,” about the policing of women’s bodies in sports, as well as “Deconstructing Karen” (white women dine and discuss racism), “Ernesto, Gracias” (a pregnant filmmaker, her autistic brother, and her single mother face economic and medical challenges in Costa Rica), “Hunting in Packs” (three female politicians fight the establishment), and “Silent Beauty” (a filmmaker confronting her grandfather’s acts of sexual violence).

The artistry and impact of Chile’s documentary film industry is showcased in this year’s Made In program, while films experimenting with documentary form and ideas are showcased in Markers.

Long-form episodic series bowing in Deep Dive include: “In the Eye of the Storm: The Political Odyssey of Yanis Varoufakis,” a six-parter about controversial Greek politician Yanis Varoufakis; “The Unsolved Murder of Beverly Lynn Smith,” a docuseries following a controversial sting operation, and “We’re All Gonna Die (Even Jay Baruchel),” a series about the end of the world hosted by Canadian actor Jay Baruchel.

The 2022 Focus On program celebrates the work of Canadian filmmaker Raymonde Provencher, while Indian documentarian Anand Patwardhan is honored in the Outstanding Achievement Award Retrospective program.

Notable films from Telefilm Canada’s recent digitization project Canadian Cinema — Reignited are feature in this year’s Redux program, including works by renowned filmmaking duo Janis Cole and Holly Dale and by Inuk director Zacharias Kunuk.

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