The Hot Docs festival will open with the film Into the Weeds by Jennifer Baichwal


A new documentary from Toronto-based director Jennifer Baichwal will open the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival.

Organizers say the non-fiction slate will launch with In the weeds, about a former gardener who took over an agrochemical multinational after his terminal cancer diagnosis. This is the second time Baichwal has opened the festival, after 2009 act of god.

This year’s series includes 226 films from 63 countries in 15 programs with themes ranging from social justice to personal identity.

After the pandemic moved the past two editions online, a hybrid festival is set to bring back in-person screenings, talks and networking events from April 28 to May 8 in Toronto.

Audiences across Canada will be able to watch streaming titles on the Hot Docs at Home online platform.

Genetic engineering and the history of gender identity are among the provocative topics being honored at this year’s Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival. A scene is shown from Framing Agnes by Toronto director Chase Joynt, which features a cast of transgender artists piecing together and bringing to life untold stories from the archives of a 1950s gender clinic. (Ava Benjamin Shorr/Handout/The Canadian Press)

Programming director Shane Smith touts programming that will “leave audiences energized, inspired and, in some cases, outraged.”

“It’s been nearly three years since we’ve hosted a live festival, and we’re thrilled to be able to bring these exceptional and candid stories to cinemas in Toronto and online across Canada,” Smith said Wednesday in a statement.

Other Hot Docs titles include Navalny by Toronto filmmaker Daniel Roher. It will be part of the Big Ideas series, where Dasha Navalny, daughter of imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, is expected to discuss the film.

Others bound for the conversation series are members of comedy troupe The Kids In The Hall, to discuss a previously announced film from director Reg Harkema, and American activist and filmmaker Abigail Disney and director Kathleen Hughes from the previously announced film. The American Dream and Other Fairy Tales.

A retrospective program will pay tribute to Indian documentary filmmaker Anand Patwardhan and his films, including those from 1994 Father, son and holy war and 2018 Raison.