Gush: Hot Docs, a spotlight on music docs

April means Hot Docs, which means challenging my mind. Sadly, in my lines of employment over the last two years, I haven’t been afforded that luxury.

One of my favourite types of documentaries is the music documentary. The Bloor Hot Docs Theatre has brought some amazing nuggets to Toronto over the last two years, including: Good Ol’ FredaThe Wrecking Crew and Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me. Perhaps it’s sixties nostalgia or maybe the large baby-boomer population in close proximity to the theatre, but I dig it and I’ll ride that wave.

Now to take you to the Hot Docs Festival, which started yesterday and runs all the way until Sunday May 3. Here are my picks for music docs of this year’s Festival:

Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck

This doc really requires no explanation. The trailer alone gave me full-body chills.

Stay Awhile

Toronto filmmaker, Jessica Edwards, created this gem to follow the past of her parents and aunt, who were the three lead singers of seventies Canadian group, The Bells. The blurb promises that you know the band’s one hit, but as a child of the late eighties, the tune “Stay Awhile” never hit my ears.

Music Lessons









Get local with a short 20-minute feature on the talent and teachers at Sistema Toronto. The one-off screening on Tuesday April 28 at 6:30pm will be followed up by a performance by the Sistema Toronto Yorkwoods Orchestra and an in-conversation with.


I’ve always had a special attraction to Mavis Staples. A few years back I realized that my My Chinese mom actually holds a close likeness in appearance to the veteran Staple Singer. I’m pumped to learn more about the powerhouse woman behind the equally powerful voice.

What Happened, Miss Simone?

Does it cheapen at all when Netflix presents a film? Maybe. But never enough Nina
Simone. She lacked the warmness Mavis has, but I dig her style.

Monty Python: The Meaning of Life

Not your conventional musicians, but they’ve certainly been responsible for a number of tunes that I find myself humming day-to-day (see: “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.”

See also: Pleasure at Her Majesty’s screening as a par of the Redux retrospective Hot Docs programming.

As I Am: The Life and Times of DJ AM

This movie’s so new, there isn’t even a complete trailer out yet. Tomorrow is the international premier of this film.

They Will Have to Kill Us First


A beautiful partner piece to Timbuktu, a film the Bell Lightbox recently screened. If you’re unfamiliar, there is a huge struggle to keep culture alive in northern Mali where the Jihadists have imposed the strict Sharia law for the last three years. This film looks like a great account of the day-to-day struggles that I can’t even begin to imagine.

Home Cooked Music









I just had my core shook at the TIFF Kids screening of The Landfill Harmonic. I’m over-the-moon excited for this less-than-nine-minute Canadian short that focuses on repurposed items to create musical instruments.

Side note: Hot Docs has rejected me two years in a row now for a media pass. I look forward to one day getting accredited, but in the mean time I’ll keep writing my thoughts on what I see and hear at the festival.