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The Hot Docs 2021 Festival is about to get into full swing for audiences across Canada. Check out our top picks for art-related documentaries featured in this year’s packed roster.

The man who paints water drops

Kim Tschang-yeul painting in his studio. Image courtesy of Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival.

Festival season is beginning to pick up steam as we roll into the spring and summer months. Although some festivals are formatted differently this year, the 2021 Hot Docs Festival remains focused on sharing diverse stories from a wide range of global perspectives. From April 29 to May 9, Canadian audiences will be able to stream a whopping 219 documentary films over the course of eleven days, many of which will be premiering on screens for the first time. What’s more, special programming will include an exclusive selection of livestream discussions and short films. For all the details, including the complete 2021 Hot Docs festival schedule, visit the Hot Docs website

Here are some art-related documentaries we can’t wait to watch. 

Cézanne (2021) 

Directed by Sophie Bruneau

Fall in love all over again with the influential work of Post-Impressionist painter Paul Cézanne. Director Sophie Bruneau’s film transports audiences into Cézanne’s atelier in Provence, France, where his studio space has been preserved by a dedicated team for tourists and art historians alike. This captivating film skillfully brings Cézanne’s work to life for a new generation of artists and art-lovers. 

The Man Who Paints Water Drops (2020)

Directed by Oan Kim and Brigitte Bouillot 

The Man Who Paints Water Drops gives a glimpse into the life and art of renowned Korean artist Kim Tschang-yeul, as seen through the lens of his filmmaker son Oan Kim. This film masterfully examines the complexities rife within their relationship, as father and son and as artists. A man of very few words, Tschang-yeul is best known for revisiting a singular motif in his body of work—water drops. The Man Who Paints Water Drops plays as a portrait of Tschang-yeul’s life and artistic expressions, all with the tragic history of Korea as the backdrop.]

Still Max (2021) 

Directed by Katherine Knight

What does it mean when we fall apart and put ourselves back together again? Co-presented with the Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival and Stephen Bulger Gallery, Still Max offers an answer to that age-old question by diving into the life of Canadian multidisciplinary artist Max Dean. This film documents how Dean uses his art to grapple with his prostate cancer diagnosis and later when his partner, artist Martha Fleury, is diagnosed with an aggressive form of ovarian cancer. Intimate and introspective, Still Max recounts how Dean stays steadfast in his truth in the face of aging, illness and grief. 

Poly Styrene: I Am a Cliché (2021) 

Directed by Paul Sng, Celeste Bell 

Marianne Joan Elliott-Said, better known by her stage name Poly Styrene, was a punk rock icon. As frontwoman of the band X-Ray Spex, hers was the  unmistakable voice behind their anthemic debut single, "Oh Bondage! Up Yours!". Being of British and Somali descent, Poly was the first Black woman in the U.K. to lead a successful rock band. Her lyrics unapologetically spoke about her mixed racial identity, misogynist attitudes, consumerism and postmodernism. This film reveals her legacy and private demons through old photographs, archival videos and present-day interviews compiled by her daughter, Celeste Bell. 

High Maintenance (2020)

Directed by Barak Heymann, Lukasz Konopa

High Maintenance

Dani Karavan, main protagonist of High Maintenance, looking at his own work, the White Square in Tel Aviv, Israel. Image credit: Lukasz Konopa.

High Maintenance tells the story of 88-year-old acclaimed Israeli sculptor Dani Karavan. He sets out on a journey across Europe and Israel to view some of his nearly 100 environmental site-specific monuments, before they begin to deteriorate at the same rate as his health. Through his often humorous travels, he also questions completing a controversial commission for the Polish government commemorating those who rescued Jews during the Second World War. Striking a balance between political, playful and emotional, High Maintenance is an all-encompassing cinematic portrait.

For the full Hot Docs schedule, visit here and for more Hot Docs Cinema year-round programming click here. If you’re looking for more explorations of creative minds, check out the documentaries listed under Artscapes

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