Abigail Disney’s ‘American Dream’ Among Hot Docs’ Special Presentations Lineup

Abigail Disney’s ‘American Dream’ Among Hot Docs’ Special Presentations Lineup

The Canadian Intl. Documentary Festival, better known as Hot Docs, has revealed its first slate of Special Presentation films for this year’s festival, running April 28 to May 8 in Toronto and streaming online.

World premieres include “The Talented Mr. Rosenberg,” a lurid look into the story of infamous Toronto con man Albert Rosenberg, a.k.a. the Yorkville Swindler; “Million Dollar Pigeons,” a charming introduction to the competitive world of pigeon racing; and “The Quiet Epidemic,” an investigation into Lyme disease dating back to 1975 that reveals why ticks, and the diseases they carry, have been allowed to spread globally.

The Special Presentations will also include the international premieres of “Aftershock,” the story of two bereaved Black fathers seeking justice, legislation and medical accountability in an unspoken U.S. crisis: maternal health care; “The American Dream and Other Fairy Tales,” an exploration by Abigail Disney, Walt Disney’s great-niece, of the growing inequalities in America while she advocates for better pay for Disneyland “cast members”; “I Didn’t See You There” — winner of the Directing Award in Sundance’s U.S. Documentary competition — a reflection on how the filmmaker sees himself and his world that was shot from the perspective of his wheelchair; and “A Symphony for a Common Man,” a revisionist look at the 2002 ousting of Brazilian diplomat and head of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, José Bustani, as America marched to war with Iraq.

Making its Canadian Premiere is “Fire of Love,” a 2021 Hot Docs Forum alum project and a Pitch Prize winner, the story of two fearless scientists and lovers’ expedition to the most dangerous volcanoes on Earth. Four young women of color, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the Sunrise Movement’s Varshini Prakash, challenge America’s political leadership in their tireless fight for the Green New Deal in “To the End.”

These films, and many more, will be presented on the big screen at the first in person Hot Docs Festival in over two years. The full selection of films to screen at Hot Docs will be announced on March 30.

The first announced slate of Special Presentations include:

AFTERSHOCK
Dir: Paula Eiselt, Tonya Lewis Lee. Prod: Paula Eiselt, Tonya Lewis Lee. U.S., International Premiere
Two bereaved Black fathers become activists after the deaths of their partners due to preventable childbirth complications, galvanizing others to seek justice, legislation and medical accountability in an unspoken U.S. crisis: maternal health care.

THE AMERICAN DREAM AND OTHER FAIRY TALES
Dir: Abigail E. Disney, Kathleen Hughes. Prod: Aideen Kane, Abigail E. Disney, Kathleen Hughes. U.S. International Premiere
Once “The Happiest Place on Earth,” Disneyland and its low-wage workers have become emblematic of America’s profound inequality crisis. Through her family’s story, filmmaker and activist Abigail Disney explores why the American Dream has worked for the wealthy but not for people born with less.

ANGELS OF SINJAR
Dir: Hanna Polak. Prod: Hanna Polak, Simone Baumann. Poland, Germany. North American Premiere
After surviving an ISIS attack on the Yezidi, a religious and ethnic minority in northern Iraq, Hanifa sets out into one of the most underreported and dangerous places on Earth to find her enslaved sisters and bring them home.

BOYCOTT
Dir: Julia Bacha. Prod: Suhad Babaa, Daniel J. Chalfen. U.S. Canadian Premiere
Boycotts have long been accepted as a means of peaceful protest for activists seeking social change, but now in most U.S. states laws penalize everyday citizens who support such actions against Israel. Follow those following their conscience in this shocking free speech battle.

CALENDAR GIRLS
Dir: Maria Loohufvud. Prod: Maria Loohufvud, Love Martinsen. Sweden. Canadian Premiere
Battling a deeply rooted patriarchal society with unbridled enthusiasm and elaborate routines, a dance troupe of women over 60 give it their all, contributing to their Florida community and bonding in sisterhood while renegotiating their identities in the face of aging and invisibility.

FIRE OF LOVE
Dir: Sara Dosa. Prod: Shane Boris, Ina Fichman, Sara Dosa. U.S. Canadian Premiere
Disenchanted with humanity, two intrepid scientists devote themselves to understanding the mysteries of volcanoes and unexpectedly fall in love. A poetic and playful tale of creation and destruction, the ephemeral and the eternal and the pursuit of the unknown.

A HOUSE MADE OF SPLINTERS
Dir: Simon Lereng Wilmont. Prod: Monica Hellström. Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Ukraine. Canadian Premiere
Near Ukraine’s frontline, social workers at a special shelter offer refuge to abandoned children. With only nine months to reunite families or find foster placements before having to transfer their wards to orphanages, love tests resilience in this gripping award-winner.

I DIDN’T SEE YOU THERE
Dir: Reid Davenport. Prod: Keith Wilson. U.S. International Premiere
When a circus tent goes up outside of his apartment, a disabled filmmaker reflects on the legacy of freak shows. Shot entirely from the perspective of his wheelchair and feet, this Sundance award-winner offers an unflinching commentary on spectacle and (in)visibility.

MILLION DOLLAR PIGEONS
Dir: Gavin Fitzgerald. Prod: Samantha Corr. Ireland. World Premiere
Pigeon masters from across the globe compete in the highest-stakes bird races on the planet. Fame, fortune and livelihoods rest on the wings of these feathered athletes in this hilarious and charming story.

PLEISTOCENE PARK
Dir: Luke Griswold-Tergis. Prod: Jed Riffe, Luke Griswold-Tergis, Maureen Gosling. U.S. North American Premiere
An idiosyncratic Russian geophysicist and his son rush to gather large woolly beasts and transport them to remote Siberia to restore the Ice Age “mammoth steppe” ecosystem and help save the planet from the catastrophic effects of global warming.

THE QUIET EPIDEMIC
Dir: Lindsay Keys, Winslow Crane-Murdoch. Prod: Daria Lombroso, Lindsay Keys, Chris Hegedus. U.S. World Premiere
A diagnosis of Chronic Lyme disease lands patients in the middle of a contentious medical debate and sparks an explosive investigation dating back to 1975 that shockingly reveals why ticks, and the diseases they carry, have been allowed to spread globally.

A SYMPHONY FOR A COMMON MAN
Dir: José Joffily. Prod: Isabel Joffily. Brazil. International Premiere
As head of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, Brazilian diplomat José Bustani became an obstacle in America’s march to war with Iraq. Ousted from his position, he now revisits the chilling events that marked a turning point in global power structures.

THE TALENTED MR. ROSENBERG
Dir: Barry Avrich. Prod: Courtney Shea, Caitlin Cheddie, Mark Selby, Barry Avrich. Canada. World Premiere
A lurid and revelatory look into our oh-so-susceptible selves, “The Talented Mr. Rosenberg” is a fascinating investigation into the unfathomable mind, motive and method of Albert Rosenberg, a.k.a. the Yorkville Swindler, and the people who fell for his cons over and over again.

TIKTOK, BOOM.
Dir: Shalini Kantayya. Prod: Ross Dinerstein, Danni Mynard, Shalini Kantayya. U.S. Canadian Premiere
TikTok took the world by storm during the height of the global lockdowns, but as data and dollars flow back to its founders in China, Western governments, users and TikTok stars are asking how it really works and what free speech means in a hyper-connected world.

TO THE END
Dir: Rachel Lears. Prod: Sabrina Schmidt Gordon, Rachel Lears, Robin Blotnick. U.S. Canadian Premiere
As the clock ticks on the climate crisis, four young women of color (Varshini Prakash, Alexandra Rojas, Rhiana Gunn-Wright and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez) courageously challenge America’s political leadership in their fight for the Green New Deal.

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