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Five piping-hot docs to catch at Hot Docs 2014

Ooooh my. It's George Takei! (Image: Hot Docs)

Ooooh my. It’s George Takei! (Image: Hot Docs)

Hot Docs, Toronto’s hottest, doc-iest film festival, is upon us. Starting Thursday, the 2014 edition of the annual fest will begin unspooling an expansive slate of non-fiction films on all kinds of subjects. It’s like school, except less educational. And you have to pay for it.

If you’re totally baffled by the offerings, here are a few buzz-y picks that may be worth your time. For screening times and more information, click the titles. Or check out the full festival schedule here.

1. To Be Takei (Jennifer Kroot and Bill Weber, USA, Special Presentations)

To generations of Trekkies and Trekkers (which is like a Trekkie, except in denial about how geeky and annoying they are), George Takei is best known as Sulu, helmsman of the USS Enterprise in the original Star Trek TV series and first run of six films. But, thanks to the advent of social media, Takei has enjoyed a second career as a meme-generator and viral brand, with a Facebook page boasting nearly 7 million fans. Maybe To Be Takei will unearth Takei’s secret underground content mill, where dozens of communications graduates relentlessly crank out memes daily. Or maybe it will be a fond portrait of an aging actor whose gay-rights activism makes him more than just a kitschy sci-fi footnote. You never know.

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Hot Docs 2014 will feature Aaron Swartz, Big Bird and George Takei

Hot Docs announced its full 2014 festival lineup this morning, and the news is good—at least, for people who love giant muppets and tragic internet figures.

The opening-night premiere of this year’s edition of the annual documentary-film festival will deal with the latter. The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz is about the 26-year-old computer programmer and online activist, who became well known after his suicide in early 2013. Swartz’s supporters have made the case that he was literally hounded to death by federal prosecutors intent on convicting him of illegally mass-downloading academic journal articles. Viewers can expect the documentary to engage with that theory sympathetically.

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The Weekender: Soupstock, Cat Power and six other events on our to-do list

The Normal Heart returns to Buddies in Bad Times this week (Image: John Karastamatis)

1. SOUPSTOCK
In the wake of last year’s wildly successful Foodstock, over 200 chefs from across Canada—among them, Susur Lee, Anthony Walsh, J.P. Challet and Jamie Kennedy, Aaron Joseph Bear Robe and just about every other famous Toronto chef you’ve ever heard of—are gathering, spoon held high, at Woodbine Park to protest the Melancthon Mega-Quarry. The event is BYOBAS (bring your own bowl and spoon) and will take place rain or shine, so come prepared—though a poncho might be a good idea anyway if you’re prone to spills. All funds go to the Canadian Chefs’ Congress and the David Suzuki Foundation. October 21. $10 for 3 servings. Woodbine Park, Lake Shore Blvd. E. and Coxwell Ave., soupstock.ca

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TIFF 2012 Film Schedule: Wednesday, September 12

TIFF 2012 Film Schedule: Wednesday, September 12

Great Expectations, 11:00 a.m. at Visa Screening Room (Elgin Theatre) (128 minutes)

Disconnect, 12:00 p.m. at Ryerson Theatre (112 minutes)

Blondie, 12:00 p.m. at The Bloor Hot Docs Cinema (88 minutes)

Fill The Void, 12:00 p.m. at TIFF Bell Lightbox 2 (90 minutes)

Clandestine Childhood, 12:30 p.m. at TIFF Bell Lightbox 3 (110 minutes)

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TIFF 2012 Film Schedule: Thursday, September 13

TIFF 2012 Film Schedule: Thursday, September 13

As If We Were Catching a Cobra, 9:30 a.m. at Jackman Hall (Art Gallery of Ontario) (120 minutes)

Hannah Arendt, 11:00 a.m. at Visa Screening Room (Elgin Theare) (113 minutes)

Sightseers, 12:00 p.m. at Ryerson Theatre (89 minutes)

Love, Marilyn, 12:00 p.m. at The Bloor Hot Docs Cinema (105 minutes)

Shepard and Dark, 12:00 p.m. at TIFF Bell Lightbox 2 (92 minutes)

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TIFF 2012 Film Schedule: Friday, September 14

TIFF 2012 Film Schedule: Friday, September 14

Night Across The Street, 9:00 a.m. at TIFF Bell Lightbox 1 (110 minutes)

In the Fog, 9:15 a.m. at TIFF Bell Lightbox 2 (128 minutes)

Fly With The Crane, 9:15 a.m. at Scotiabank 11 (99 minutes)

Short Cuts Canada: Programme #6, 9:30 a.m. at TIFF Bell Lightbox 3 ()

Passion, 9:30 a.m. at Scotiabank 3 (98 minutes)

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TIFF 2012 Film Schedule: Saturday, September 15

TIFF 2012 Film Schedule: Saturday, September 15

Venus and Serena, 9:00 a.m. at The Bloor Hot Docs Cinema (100 minutes)

Laurence Anyways, 9:00 a.m. at Visa Screening Room (Elgin Theatre) (161 minutes)

Miss Lovely, 9:00 a.m. at TIFF Bell Lightbox 4 (115 minutes)

Three Kids preceded by Peripeteia, 9:00 a.m. at Cineplex Yonge and Dundas 2 (98 minutes)

Born to Hate…Destined to Love, 9:00 a.m. at Scotiabank 4 (132 minutes)

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TIFF 2012 Film Schedule: Sunday, September 16

TIFF 2012 Film Schedule: Sunday, September 16

Love, Marilyn, 9 a.m. at The Bloor Hot Docs Cinema (105 minutes)

Amour, 9 a.m. at TIFF Bell Lightbox 2 (127 minutes)

Zabana!, 9 a.m. at Cineplex Yonge and Dundas 2 (107 minutes)

Road North, 9 a.m. at Cineplex Yonge and Dundas 10 (110 minutes)

It Was the Son , 9 a.m. at Cineplex Yonge and Dundas 6 (90 minutes)

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The Pick: The Mechanical Bride, a new documentary about sex dolls (and the men who love them)

(Warning: the trailer contains mildly NSFW images of sex dolls without clothing and, at times, heads)

Last week, we recommended an opera in which a man falls in love with an automaton. This week, we’ve got the real thing. The Mechanical Bride, showing this Sunday at Hot Docs, delves deep into the bizarre world of sex dolls, fembots and the men who love them. The film is packed with grotesque imagery—Realdolls being groped at a sex show, disassembled body parts in a workshop—but it’s also surprisingly nuanced, venturing deep into the ethics and science of the subculture.

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See the new Bloor Hot Docs Cinema marquee go up

(Image: Daniel Neuhaus)

The revamped Bloor Cinema, now the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema, opened for regular programming back on March 16, but was without a proper marquee until yesterday. Our intrepid photo editor stopped by to capture the sign going up.

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The Weekender: Itzhak Perlman, the Indie Wedding Show and six other items on our to-do list

The Weekender: FAT, Prisoner of Tehran and the Red Hot Chili Peppers

1. RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS
L.A. rockers Anthony, Flea, Chad and Josh (who replaced original guitarist John Frusciante in 2009, when he amicably split with the guys in favour of a solo career) are in town supporting their latest album, 2011’s I’m With You. Many songs in their 30-year career have been hits, garnering six Grammy wins and 60 million albums sold—though “Under the Bridge” is probably one of the better ones. April 27 and 28. $55–$75. Air Canada Centre, 40 Bay St., 1-855-985-5000, ticketmaster.ca.

2. ARTS AND FASHION WEEK
Arts and Fashion Week, Toronto Fashion Week’s edgier, alternative cousin, is a four-day extravaganza of photography exhibits, live music, installations and many trips down the 100-foot runway. Now in its seventh year, events are boundary-pushing and plentiful—The Dressing Room Project features installations and video projections from 12 artists, and is always a hit among attendees. To April 28. Day pass $35, weekly pass $75. 213 Sterling Road, fashionarttoronto.ca.

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Hot Docs acquires Bloor Cinema, hopes to open this fall

Soon, Bloor Cinema will change (ever so slightly) (Image: Laura Antonik)

Which Toronto film festival is the proud owner of a brand new exhibition space? No, it’s not that ubiquitous TIFF and their new Bell Lightbox tower, it’s Hot Docs, which just acquired the lease of Bloor Cinema in the Annex. The space, currently undergoing renovation to update the space’s technical equipment and incorporate aesthetic changes, is set to open in the fall under administration by Hot Docs. The Docs crew will manage programming year-round at the independent theatre, showing mainly (stay with us on this one) documentaries and hosting other festivals and programming of interest to cinephiles (so, very similar to the way Bloor Cinema used to be run, except with more documentaries). Sure, this building probably won’t have a fancy restaurant on the main floor, or a Fellini exhibit gracing its premises any time soon, but we’ll be just as happy with a screening of Inside Job followed by a late-night dinner at Guu Sakabar.

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Luminato adds Ron Sexsmith tribute to this year’s music-heavy lineup

Once more with feeling: the iconic moperocker Ron Sexsmith (Image: Masao Nakagami)

This year is shaping up to be a big one for Toronto singer-songwriter Ron Sexsmith: he’s released a new album, Long Player Late Bloomer, and has embarked upon a relentless tour schedule that included a stop in Toronto at Lee’s Palace back on April 21. He’s also the subject of a film playing at Hot Docs this year, Love Shines, which documents the recording of Sexsmith’s latest album alongside Canadian producer Bob Rock. Now, Luminato is getting in on the fun, with this year’s edition of the Canadian Songbook series on at Massey Hall June 15.

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Today in Toronto: The Telephone/A Hand of Bridge, Hot Docs, Paul Taylor and more

The Telephone/A Hand of Bridge These are two of the shortest operas you’ll ever hear—Samuel Barber’s A Hand of Bridge lasts about 10 minutes, and Gian Carlo Menotti’s The Telephone not much more than half an hour. Find out more »

Hot Docs North America’s largest documentary fest digs into the past for Ripping Reality: The B-Sides, a showcase of under-appreciated flicks from the past decade, while Made in Italy focuses on that country’s output. Find out more »

Paul Taylor At 80 years old, Paul Taylor may no longer deserve the “naughty boy” sobriquet given to him by Martha Graham, but he remains one of the pillars of modern American dance. Find out more »

Tiger Princess Dance Projects’ Mixed Repertoire The founder of Tiger Princess Dance Projects, Yvonne Ng, specializes in setting herself awkward challenges that she then elegantly overcomes. Find out more »

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The Weekender: Drake Spring Market, Hot Docs and six other events on our to-do list

Saint Hollywood by Uta Bekaia, Kate and Will and Buca chef Rob Gentile

1. DRAKE SPRING MARKET (FREE!)
By some miracle, this Saturday’s forecast promises a one-day respite from the non-stop April showers we’ve been seeing. Which means we won’t need to don our winter jacket at The Drake’s spring market this weekend. The one-day-only market, right at the corner of Queen and Beaconsfield, offers up jewellery, cards and artwork by local artisans, as well as amazing discounts on The Drake General Store’s cute and quirky merchandise. April 30. Queen St. W. and Beaconsfield Ave., 416-531-5042, thedrakehotel.ca/market.

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