Celebrating its 20th year, the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Film Festival is generating quite the buzz. With a seismic list of over 200 films to be screened, the festival will feature 44 world premieres and 24 Canadian-made films (22 of them premieres). Taking place from April 25th to May 5th, Hot Docs will host a bevvy of beautiful, captivating and provocative films.

As a special thank you for the devotion and support of Hot Docs fans over the past 20 years, Hot Docs will be hosting Docs at Dusk — a free outdoor screening of Brothers Hypnotic on May 2nd in Burnwash Quad next to Victoria Campus at the University of Toronto. Hot Docs Managing Director Brett Hendrie describes Brothers Hypnotic as, “A bombastic and soulful portrait of the incredible brothers and musicians who form up Chicago’s renowned Hypnotic Brass Ensemble.”

For a full list of features, show times and participating venues, visit the Hot Docs website. But for your convenience and curiosity’s sake, have a gander at our 10 picks of the 2013 Hot Docs season, in no particular order…

The Manor (Director: Shawney Cohen) – Canada

In the opening night feature of this year’s Hot Docs Festival, first time filmmaker and strip club manager paints an intimate family portrait based on his life growing up around a strip club. Centered on his parents’ relationship, the film depicts how their decision to purchase a strip club over 30 years ago dramatically influences how Shawney and his siblings were, and still continue to be, viewed by their closest friends, relatives and acquaintances.

NCR: Not Criminally Responsible (Director: John Castner) – Canada

Emmy Award winner John Castner explores the eerie world that encompasses individuals with mental illness who commit horrid acts of violence. His attempt to dig deeper into the minds of so-called madmen brings him to ask the difficult questions of why they’ve done it, how can they be helped, and what happens to them after the fact.

The Defector: Escape from North Korea (Director: Ann Shin) – Canada

A bold and brave journey for both Ann and her subjects, she follows a group of North Korean defectors with hidden cameras after they’ve fled the tyrannical nation into China. Along with the help of a human smuggler named Dragon, they cross through several different countries as they try to remain elusive in their escape.

The Great North Korean Picture Show (Directors: James Leong, Lynn Lee) –  Singapore
For the first time ever, foreign cameras are allowed to capture the goings-on at the only film school in the world’s most secretive state. Attempting to unearth some of the ambiguity behind what is art, what is passion and what is propaganda, it’s a glimpse into the ideology of the nation that’s never been seen before.

Fight Like Soldiers Die Like Children (Director: Patrick Reed) – Canada

Follow famed Canadian humanitarian and film producer Lieutenant-General Roméo Dallaire as he travels back to Central Africa to investigate the use of child soldiers. Intense, graphic novel-style animation is interspersed throughout the film to help tell the story of a former child soldier he interviews.

Tales from the Organ Trade (Director: Ric Esther Bienstock) – Canada

Investigating multiple angles of the black market trade in human body parts, David Cronenberg narrates this shocking examination of a deadly, disease ridden and dystopian underground industry.

Let the Fire Burn (Director: Jason Osder) – USA
MOVE was a radical black liberation group established in Philadelphia between 1972 and 1985. Told through archival material and interviews with the only two surviving members, Jason constructs the history of the crude conflict that erupted between MOVE and the Philadelphia police in 1985, when police dropped explosives onto the communal row houses occupied by the group.

After Tiller (Director: Martha Shane, Lana Wilson) – USA

The story of the only four remaining US doctors who still perform late-term abortions – despite death threats and fear for the safety of their families – doctors Warren Hern, Shelley Sella, Susan Robinson and LeRoy Carhart continue to carry on the legacy of Doctor George Tiller after his assassination in 2009.

The Exhibition (Director: Damon Vignale) – Canada

Shot over six years, this gut-wrenching yet inspiring story follows artist Pamela Masik, who in 2006 began painting massive and often gruesome portraits of missing Vancouver women. Recommended by Hot Docs Senior Canadian Programmer Lynne Fernie, she feels that the film brilliantly highlights issues of art, representation, violence and appropriation. Further controversy surrounds the fact that Robert Pickton murdered 26 of Pamela’s subjects.

Terms and Conditions May Apply (Director: Cullen Hoback)

Face it, no one really reads the fine print – online, at home, or otherwise. Investigating what governments and corporations really do with your personal information, Cullen might just make you think twice before the next time you click ‘accept’.

Photo by Paul Galipeau courtesy the Hot Docs website.