Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival

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Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival
HOTDOCS color.png
Location Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Founded 1993 by the Documentary Organization of Canada
Language English

The Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival is North America's largest documentary film festival, conference and market, held annually in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.[1] The 2017 edition of the festival took place April 27 to May 7, and had a record attendance of approximately 215,000 people.[2]


Hot Docs was launched in 1993 at the initiative of Wyndham Wise, then executive director of the Canadian Independent Film Caucus, by a team led by Debbie Nightingale. Although not directly related to its precursor, the Grierson Seminar, Hot Docs filled the void it left. During the earlier years, Hot Docs served as a promotional vehicle for Caucus filmmakers; however in 1996, Hot Docs became a separately incorporated organization with a mandate to showcase and support the work of Canadian and international documentary filmmakers and to promote excellence in documentary production. In 1998, Chris McDonald, formerly of the Canadian Film Centre, was hired as its first full-time employee and the festival was put on a more professional footing. The founding chair of Hot Docs was filmmaker Paul Jay.

In collaboration with the Canadian Film Institute, Hot Docs also programs a touring Hot Docs Showcase festival, which presents a smaller selection of films from that year's Hot Docs in other Canadian cities which do not have their own documentary film festivals.


Each year, the festival screens over 200 documentaries from countries around the world. In addition to the Canadian and international competitive programs, each festival includes themed programs along with Outstanding Achievement Award, Focus On and Redux retrospective programs. The 25th anniversary festival will take place April 26 to May 6, 2018.

Audience Award[edit]

Each year, the festival presents an Audience Award, determined by audience ballot during the festival. Past winners include The Backward Class (2014),[3] Unbranded (2015),[4] Angry Inuk (2016),[5] and Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World (2017).

Industry Conference & Market[edit]

During each festival, Hot Docs hosts a industry conference featuring sessions and workshops, along with market events like the Hot Docs Forum, Deal Maker and Distribution Rendezvous where filmmakers can connect with more than 2,000 delegates, including commissioning editors, programmers, filmmakers, buyers and distributors from all over the world.

Hot Docs Forum[edit]

Established in 2000 as the Toronto Documentary Forum, the Hot Docs Forum has established itself as North America's essential international documentary market event. Taking place over two days, this dynamic pitch event sees pre-selected international projects present to a round-table of leading international commissioning editors, film fund representatives, financiers, programming executives and delegates.

Pitch prizes are also awarded during the Forum, including the Corus-Hot Docs Forum pitch prize, awarding a $10,000 cash prize to be used by the winning team for the production and completion budget for their project; the Cuban Hat Award, providing “real cash, no strings attached” money raised during the Hot Docs Forum; and first look Pitch Prizes as part of a curated access program for philanthropic supporters of and investors in documentary film.

Notable Hot Docs Forum participants include Lars von Trier's The Five Obstructions, Ari Folman's Golden Globe-winning Waltz with Bashir, Cari Green and Mark Achbar's The Corporation, David France's How to Survive a Plague, Frederick Wiseman's In Jackson Heights and Sean Fine and Andrea Nix's Academy Award-winning Inocente.

Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema[edit]

Hot Docs owns and operates Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema, a century old theatre located in Toronto's The Annex.[6]

In 2011, the cinema was purchased by Toronto-based Blue Ice Group, a film financing and production company, and its partner, Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival. After renovations, the cinema reopened in March 2012 under the management of Hot Docs as the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema, becoming a year-round home for first-run Canadian and international documentaries, as well as special documentary presentations and showcases, including the popular Doc Soup screening series.

In June 2016, a generous gift from the Rogers Family enabled Hot Docs to purchase the cinema from the Blue Ice Group.[7]

Production Funds[edit]

Hot Docs currently administers three production funds: the Hot Docs Ted Rogers Fund provides financial support to Canadian filmmakers; the Hot Docs-Blue Ice Group Documentary Fund provides financial support to documentary filmmakers based Africa; and the CrossCurrents Doc Fund aims to foster storytelling from historically underrepresented or marginalized communities. Hot Docs also administered the Corus-Hot Docs Funds (formerly Shaw Media-Hot Docs Funds).

CrossCurrents Doc Fund[edit]

The CrossCurrents Doc Fund is an international documentary production fund that fosters storytelling from within communities whose perspectives have been historically underrepresented or marginalized. In particular, it focuses on emerging filmmakers who have a connection to or shared experience with their subject, as well as sharing stories with audiences within and outside the featured community.

Initiated by the R&M Lang Foundation in 2013, the Fund promotes inclusion in the documentary space celebrating all doc forms and the diverse perspectives of storytellers. The short/interactive stream awards one $10,000 CAD grant and Hot Docs fellowship to participate in the Emerging Filmmakers Lab at Hot Docs.

In 2016, the Panicaro Foundation introduced the theatrical stream for feature doc projects granting up to $30,000 CAD, and Hot Docs fellowships, to one or more projects each year.

Hot Docs-Blue Ice Group Documentary Fund[edit]

Established in 2011, the Hot Docs-Blue Ice Group Documentary Fund helps enable more African documentary filmmakers to tell stories and contribute to a new generation of the African documentary community. In 2016, the Fund was renewed with an additional $1.25 million CAD, bringing the total investment to $2.35 million.

The Fund provides development grants of up to 10,000 CAD and production grants of up to $40,000 CAD to four to 10 projects annually. Each year, up to five funded projects are also invited to participate in a year-long mentorship program, along with private filmmaker labs at Hot Docs and the Durban FimMart/Durban International Film Festival.

Hot Docs Ted Rogers Fund[edit]

In June 2016, Hot Docs and the Rogers Foundation founded the $1-million Hot Docs Ted Rogers Fund to support Canadian documentary filmmakers. Over 10 years, production grants will be distributed to Canadian documentary filmmakers. Up to $20,000 is granted to three or four projects each year.

Corus-Hot Docs Funds[edit]

Established in 2008, the $4-million Corus-Hot Docs Funds provided production grants and no-interest development loans to projects at critical stages. After successfully distributing its allocated funding over eight years to 147 documentaries, the Corus-Hot Docs Funds closed in 2016.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Etan Vlessing (2011-06-20). "Hot Docs' Top Programmer Sean Farnel Steps Down". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2011-08-25. 
  2. ^ Peter Howell (2017-05-08). "Rumble takes two top prizes at Hot Docs 2017 film festival". Toronto Star. Retrieved 2017-05-10. 
  3. ^ "Canada’s The Backward Class is Hot Docs audience favourite".| Toronto Star, 2014-05-05
  4. ^ Linda Barnard (2015-05-04). "U.S. documentary Unbranded wins audience award at Hot Docs". Toronto Star. Retrieved 2015-05-23. 
  5. ^ Manori Ravindran (2016-05-09). "Hot Docs 2016 Angry Inuk wins audience award". Realscreen. Retrieved 2017-01-09. 
  6. ^ Thompson, Anne (2017-05-09). "How Hot Docs, North America's Smartest Festival, Could Anoint an Oscar Winner". IndieWire. Retrieved 2017-05-10. 
  7. ^ "Hot Docs Receives $5-Million Gift From Rogers Foundation". Hot Docs. Retrieved June 23, 2016. 

External links[edit]