This year’s Hot Docs Festival, which was scheduled for April 30-May 10 in Toronto, like many other events has been postponed. While the Festival explores the best way to bring its outstanding films to audiences it has revealed its 2020 official selections, including four films in a special Made in Northern Ireland section. The Festival is sharing its selection with the world in order to honour the vision and dedication of the filmmakers.
The four Northern Ireland films selected are Alleycat’s Lost Boys: Belfast’s Missing Children; DoubleBand’s Lost Lives, Erica Starling’s Our Lyra and Fine Point Films’ REFRAMING Andrew Sadek. All four films were made with funding from Northern Ireland Screen.
Lost Boys: Belfast’s Missing Children – In November 1974, as civil unrest took hold in Northern Ireland, two young boys on their way to school disappeared from a busy street in Belfast. They were never seen again. Thomas Spence and John Rodgers were forgotten as quickly as they vanished; a news cycle and police force caught up in a de facto civil war seemingly had no time to investigate missing children. Now, gripped by their disappearance, criminologist and author Robert Giles reopens the files, determined to find answers to a 45-year-old cold case. Shockingly, he discovers that Thomas and John may not have been the only young boys to go missing in Belfast at that time. More cases obscured from public view and police scrutiny come to light, which leads Robert to confront a horrifying hypothesis: Was a child serial killer using the upheaval in Belfast as cover to commit unspeakable crimes?
Lost Lives – “It is like sitting back and watching a nation committing suicide and there is not a thing you can do about it,” says a mother, begging people to lay down their weapons. This major cinematic work is inspired by the 1999 book Lost Lives, written over seven years by five journalists who remained politically neutral and recorded the circumstances of every single death throughout the Northern Irish Troubles. Accompanied by a hypnotic orchestral soundtrack, a backdrop of archival newsreels and cinematically compelling moments, some of Ireland’s most talented actors (including Kenneth Branagh, Brendan Gleeson, Roma Downey, Bríd Brennan and Stephen Rea) read eloquently from passages in the book and pay homage to those who succumbed to the violence. A respectful and powerful film, Lost Lives stands as a cinematic requiem for the over 3,700 lives lost in the Troubles.
Our Lyra –On April 18, 2019, Lyra McKee, a celebrated 29-year-old journalist and LGBTQ advocate, was shot dead in Derry, Northern Ireland. Her shocking murder made global headlines and tributes flooded in. With her tenacious reporting on the consequences of the Troubles, McKee was considered the voice of the ceasefire generation, and her death was to many a sharp puncture in the future of a country trying to move beyond its fractured history. Utilizing previously unseen personal archives, much of them in McKee’s own voice, Our Lyra reflects on her work, life and tragic death and engages with the people and issues she cared about, then and now. Director Alison Millar has crafted a thoughtful, loving film that is both a tribute to a journalist unafraid to speak her truth and an investigation from the frontlines of a country still grappling with how to heal the wounds of the past.
Reframing Andrew Sadek – In a sleepy North Dakota town, where the crime rate is so low people often don’t lock their front doors, 20-year-old college student Andrew Sadek mysteriously disappears in May 2014 and is found dead almost two months later. What Andrew’s friends and family didn’t know was that in the months before his death, he had been coerced into becoming an informant for an aggressive police task force that had been secretly operating for years. As details of Andrew’s double life are revealed, the cover of the shadowy program is blown, laying bare the collusion and abuse of power of local law enforcement at all levels. Following the Sadek family’s fight for the truth about how their son was killed, the film skilfully uncovers the forces at play in his death and reveals why law enforcement secretly waged a war on drugs, on a college campus that didn’t have a drug problem.
Hot Docs remains committed to bringing these outstanding documentary films to audiences and are currently investigating ways that they can do so at a later date. This year’s industry market will be presented online, where top decision makers from around the world will be connected with talented filmmakers. The Doc Shop, a secure viewing room, will be this year’s hub for industry content including the Hot Docs Forum pitches and feedback, professional development sessions and a selection of 2020 Festival films.