Film, Film festivals
Hotdocs Diving into the Unknown
Diving into the Unknown

Toronto's famous documentary festival arrives in Australia with amazing true stories from around the world

Canadian documentary film festival hotDocs is coming to Australia for the first time, bringing 24 of the best feature documentaries from 15 countries to Palace Cinemas in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra. Here are Time Out’s ten highlights.


Ghanian reporter Anas Aremeyaw Anas has a reputation for “naming, shaming and then jailing”. The famous anti-corruption journalist keeps his identity hidden from the public as he reveals a side of Africa rarely seen. The film follows Anas and his team the ‘Spice Girls’ – young female reporters – exposing a number of crimes. 

Diving into the Unknown

Finnish adventurers are diving through a five-kilometre long, 130 metre-deep cave in Pluaden, Norway, when things go horribly wrong. This film follows the survivors as they go back down to try and retrieve the bodies of their friends. Conducted under a veil of secrecy after the official rescue was called off for being too dangerous, the operation to recover the drowned divers proves the ultimate real-life underwater thriller. 

Gun Runners

This film follows two Kenyan former criminals who, through a government-sponsored program, traded in their AK47s for sneakers in the hopes of making it as professional runners. We see them try to put their violent pasts behind them, embrace tough training regimes and build new lives.

I Am the Blues

This musical journey down to the Bayous of Mississippi features interviews with living legends of Blues such as Jimmy “Duck” Holmes, Bobby Rush, Barbara Lynn, Lazy Lester and Little Freddie King – many of them in their eighties.

Jim: The James Foley Story

Photojournalist James Foley was kidnapped in Syria on Thanksgiving Day 2012. Two years later, the infamous video of his execution introduced much of the world to ISIS. This film tells Foley’s life story through interviews with friends, family, and fellow journalists. In addition, former ISIS hostages reveal never-before-heard details of Foley’s captivity.

League of Exotique Dancers

A tribute to the days of burlesque in Las Vegas, the film features nine dancers aged between 65 and 86 who wowed audiences from the late 1950s to burlesque’s end in the 1970s. The film celebrates female empowerment while tackling the sexism, racism and stigma faced by striptease performers of the era.

Motorkite Dreaming

Follow four amateur adventurers and two microlights – essentially motorbikes with wings – as they fly 4,000 km across Australia. Aidan and Daryl, along with their fiancés, are led by two Aboriginal guides through five deserts and 20 Indigenous language nations.

Raving Iran

Follow the story of two rave DJs from Iran, Anoosh and Arash, who deal with a constant fear of imprisonment (the underground techno scene is illegal in Iran). Offered the chance to perform in Switzerland at the biggest techno festival in the world, they have to choose if following their dreams is worth sacrificing family, friends, culture and country.  

A Syrian Love Story

This film follows a Syrian family torn apart by the Assad dictatorship and begins prior to the Arab spring when Raghda is a political prisoner while his wife, Amer, cares for their young children. Following Raghda’s release from prison they flee to France where they are given political asylum, to watch the revolution from afar.  


A native of economically depressed Flint, Michigan, Clarissa ‘T-Rex’ Shields literally fought her way out to become the youngest member of the US Olympic boxing team. The film tracks her life story, including her relationship with her coach Jason Crutchfield, who trained her from the age of 11 through to her preparation for the 2012 Olympics and beyond.

By: Becky Feigin

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