Asian Presence at the Hot Docs Film Festival 2019


We take at look at the Asian documentaries that will be present in the 2019 Hot Docs Film Festival which will take place from April 25th – May 5th, in Toronto, Canada.

*Note: We also included co-productions with focus on Asian countries*

Confucian Dream

Confucian Dream by Mijie Li – China, USA | 2019 – 86 min.

Chaoyan, a young wife and mother, discovers the ancient teachings of Confucianism and hopes they will restore balance, respect and morality to her home. She becomes a zealous convert and involves her impressionable four-year-old son in her rigorous routine of chanting daily mantras. Little Chen may not yet understand the recitations’ meanings, but mom is confident she’s planting a seed for the future. Chaoyan’s husband, Mei, finds their study schedule excessive, but tolerates it until she proposes that Chen attend a year-round Confucian school. While Confucianism’s primary purpose is to instil peace and harmony, the opposite occurs between this husband and wife as their beliefs clash and their arguments escalate. A gripping portrait of marital and parental crisis, Confucian Dream demonstrates the devastating effects of misplacing your expectations of a spouse onto a child. Angie Driscoll (Hot Docs Catalogue 2019)

April 27th | Saturday | Scotiabank Theatre 8 | 6:30 pm
April 29th | Monday | TIFF Bell Lightbox 4 | 4:15 pm
May 5th | Sunday | Scotiabank Theatre 13 | 9:00 pm



Garden Zoological

Garden, Zoological by Mincheol Wang – South Korea | 2018 – 98 min.

A small zoo in South Korea provides haunting insight into how animals are losing their innate instincts by having to adapt to artificial habitats. Cinematographer Mincheol Wang (On the Rim of the Sky, 2015) returns to Hot Docs with his directorial debut, a patient and powerful observation of life in captivity. Creatures are confined to cramped enclosures, endure constant human handling and anesthesia, receive inadequate diet and exercise, and submit to force-feedings and assisted reproduction, all in the name of conservation. The zookeepers are committed and caring—but is our human drive to care for cute animals killing them? Is our desire to observe wildness up close leading to its demise? Unable to hunt or roam, the zoo animals suffer from new physical and psychological ailments, degenerative diseases and “zoochosis.” Garden, Zoological provokes soul searching on whether zoos are tools for conservation or incarceration. Angie Driscoll (Hot Docs Catalogue 2019)

April 26th | Friday | TIFF Bell Lightbox 4 | 5:30 pm
April 27th | Saturday | TIFF Bell Lightbox 4 | 1:30 pm
May 5th | Sunday | Scotiabank Theatre 13 | 3:30 pm



Hope Frozen

Hope Frozen by Pailin Wedel – Thailand | 2019 – 75 min.

How far would you go to give a child a second chance at life? In 2015, a Thai Buddhist and PhD in laser science lost his two-year-old daughter, Einz, to cancer. Unable to cope with her death, he and his wife made the difficult and almost unfathomable decision to make Einz the youngest person in the world to be cryopreserved, in hopes she will one day be reborn in a new body. With their daughter’s brain stored inside a cryonic tank in Arizona, the couple now face negative media attention and criticism from religious and spiritual groups, while their 15-year-old whiz-kid son embarks on a mission to revive Einz in the future. Fusing delicate and deeply personal interviews with a fascinating exploration of the new technology that’s attempting to preserve the human mind, Hope Frozenis the unimaginable journey of a grieving family holding out hope for what’s to come. Ravi Srinivasan (Hot Docs Catalogue 2019)

April 27th | Saturday | TIFF Bell Lightbox 2 | 9:00 pm
April 29th | Monday | Scotiabank Theatre 3 | 12:00 pm
May 2nd | Thursday | TIFF Bell Lightbox 1 | 4:15 pm




Kora: A Circle Life by Tenzin Sedon – China, Canada, USA | 2018 – 28 min.

A Tibetan couple in Lhasa clings to their traditional way of life while watching the emergence of an unfamiliar social order through the eyes of their daughter. For her parents, she’s a bridge between the past and present in this reflection on the loneliness of generational gaps. Mariam Zaidi (Hot Docs Catalogue 2019)

May 2nd | Thursday | Scotiabank Theatre 8 | 5:15 pm
May 3rd | Friday | Scotiabank Theatre 3 | 12:30 pm


Life Is a Belief

Life Is a Belief by Han Xiao – China | 2018 – 106 min.

Although their paths may never cross, the lives of two men from Foshan, China, mirror one another in their love of family and their undying hope that life will one day be better. Huang and his girlfriend are expecting their first child. As the due date approaches, they learn their unborn baby has been diagnosed with a congenital heart defect, and Huang’s pleas to marry his girlfriend are stymied by her father’s refusal. Ahet’s beloved nephew is dying from uremia and needs a kidney to survive, but a family feud ensues over who will be the donor. As his nephew’s health worsens and debt collectors begin knocking at the door, Ahet desperately tries to keep his family together. Told with stunning cinematography and an almost fictional feel, this powerful film is a testament to strength of character and resilience of family. Heather Haynes (Hot Docs Catalogue 2019)

April 28th | Sunday | TIFF Bell Lightbox 4 | 3:00 pm
April 30th | Tuesday | Innis Town Hall | 5:30 pm
May 4th | Saturday | Scotiabank Theatre 13 | 3:00 pm



Our Time Machine

Our Time Machine by Yang Sun & S. Lao Chiang – China | 2019 – 80 min.

When influential Chinese artist Maleonn learns his father, famed Peking Opera director Ma Ke, has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, he knows time is short. Their life together and the memories between them will soon be gone. In a last effort to bridge the gap, the two embark upon one of their greatest journeys: they collaborate on a haunting, magical, autobiographical stage performance called Papa’s Time Machine, in which a scientist constructs a time machine so that his father can relive some of their happiest memories. Together, they must confront the challenges of aging and the repercussions of the Cultural Revolution as they race against time to mount the show before Ma Ke’s memories are lost forever. Heather Haynes (Hot Docs Catalogue 2019)

May 1st | Wednesday | TIFF Bell Lightbox 1 | 6:15 pm
May 3rd | Friday | TIFF Bell Lightbox 3 | 4:15 pm
May 5th | Sunday | Scotiabank Theatre 3 | 6:15 pm


The Hidden

The Hidden by Lindsay Branham – USA, India – 2018 – 10 min.

A daring rescue mission plays out in virtual reality as government officials in southern India band together with a human rights group to free a family that has been working in indebted slavery in a rock quarry for over a decade. (Hot Docs Catalogue 2019)

April 26th | Friday | Autodesk Technology Centre | 10:00 am
April 27th | Saturday | Autodesk Technology Centre | 10:00 am
April 28th | Sunday | Autodesk Technology Centre | 10:00 am
April 29th | Monday | Autodesk Technology Centre | 10:00 am



The Wandering Chef

The Wandering Chef by Hye-Ryeong Park – South Korea | 2018 – 90 min.

Jiho Im is a globally celebrated chef, known for travelling from one end of the Korean peninsula to the other, foraging for unique ingredients known for their medicinal properties and preparing delightful meals for unsuspecting locals. He’s an old soul longing for the maternal affection that was taken from him at an early age. On one of Jiho’s journeys, he meets an elder named Soon-Gyu Kim. She offers Jiho a warm soup that conjures up childhood memories of longing for the mother he never knew. In return, he prepares an elaborate meal, thus sowing the seeds of a deeply moving friendship. Wandering Chef is the heartwarming story of how food can bring people together in times of clarity, confusion and loss. Through Chef Jiho Im, we rediscover food as a sacred practice that can generate lifelong memories. Ravi Srinivasan (Hot Docs Catalogue 2019)

May 1st | Wednesday | Hart House Theatre | 6:30 pm
May 2nd | Thursday | Scotiabank Theatre 3 | 3:00 pm
May 3rd | Friday | Isabel Bader Theatre | 9:30 pm


What goes up

What Goes Up // Must Come Down by Kel O’Neill & Eline Jongsma
Taiwan, Canada, USA | 2018 – 10 min.

Tourists flock to Taiwan each Lunar New Year, delighting in the Instagram-worthy spectacle of thousands of paper lanterns lighting up the sky—but it’s the locals that stay for the stark aftermath, when the lanterns touch down to earth. (Hot Docs Catalogue 2019)

April 26th | Friday | Autodesk Technology Centre | 10:00 am
April 27th | Saturday | Autodesk Technology Centre | 10:00 am
April 28th | Sunday | Autodesk Technology Centre | 10:00 am
April 29th | Monday | Autodesk Technology Centre | 10:00 am


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