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Films about Indigenous influences, declawing cats among Hot Docs world premieres

A documentary about the ways Indigenous people have shaped modern western culture and a closer look at the controversial practice of declawing cats are among the films headed to this year’s Hot Docs festival.

The newly announced Special Presentations lineup includes the world premiere of “Red Fever,” in which Montreal-based Cree filmmaker Neil Diamond travels across North America and Europe to explore how Indigenous cultures been revered, romanticized and appropriated.

Also having its world premiere is “American Cats: The Good, The Bad, and The Cuddly,” in which “Full Frontal With Samantha Bee” correspondent Amy Hoggart explores cat declawing, the effect it has on pets and why some regions haven’t banned it yet.

Other films making their international debuts include “Lost in the Shuffle,” which profiles world champion magician Shawn Farquhar as he creates a new trick; and “Le Mans 55: The Unauthorized Investigation,” which delves into the catastrophic 1955 Le Mans car race in France, where more than 80 audience members were killed.

Director Sam Habib will debut “The Ride Ahead,” an expansion of his Emmy-winning short film “My Disability Roadmap,” exploring a 21-year-old’s desire to start a career and find love while dealing with a disability.

The festival — which runs from April 25 to May 5 in cinemas across Toronto — will also see the North American premiere of “Michel Gondry, Do It Yourself,” offering a look at the French filmmaker’s career and creative process.

Among films making their Canadian premieres will be Montreal-born director Barry Avrich’s “Born Hungry,” which tells the story of Sash Simpson, who was raised in poverty in southern India before eventually becoming one of Toronto’s top chefs.

Canada’s largest documentary film festival said last week it was facing financial struggles that put its future in question.

In an email asking audiences for financial support, the non-profit organization’s president Marie Nelson said the festival was running out of cash after facing setbacks from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nelson said the organization has also asked for help from all levels of government, as well as various foundations and corporate partners.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 12, 2024.

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