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dreaming, remembering and reappraising: nine European films on individual and collective realities of life

European Film Promotion (EFP) is delighted to announce the seventh edition of THE CHANGING FACE OF EUROPE in collaboration with Hot Docs - Canadian International Documentary Festival, taking place from 25 April – 5 May 2024.

The CHANGING FACE OF EUROPE - supported by the Creative Europe – MEDIA Programme of the European Union and the participating EFP member organisations - features nine exceptional new European documentaries selected by the Hot Docs programming team which illustrate and examine a new and contemporary Europe from a cultural, social, geo-political and economic perspective.

In addition to festival screenings and access to a comprehensive industry programme, the directors and producers of the films will be part of on-site and online events orchestrated by EFP, including networking sessions and one-on- one meetings with key distributors, buyers, and festival programmers from North America.

“The European documentary scene is keeping its tradition strong, crafting some truly visionary non-fiction films, and these nine docs are the cream of the crop,” shared Marie Nelson, Hot Docs’ President. “Entering our seventh year of collaboration with European Film Promotion, we eagerly await the opportunity to present these exceptional films at the 2024 Festival, poised to inspire and ignite the imaginations of Toronto audiences."

“It’s our mission to bring European stories to the world. Many thanks to Hot Docs for the chance to highlight the strength and diversity of European documentary filmmaking and provide our filmmakers with an inspiring range of opportunities to network with the North American industry. The diversity of perspectives is all the more important as dialogue and exchange are at the heart of THE CHANGING FACE OF EUROPE," says EFP Managing Director Sonja Heinen.

Kelly – Someone Else’s Dream (Estonia, France) follows Estonian freestyle skier Kelly Sildaru. She was just 13 years old when she won a gold medal at the 2016 Winter X Games in Aspen. After breaking numerous other records, she broke her silence and accused her father and coach of abuse. Her candid behaviour sets courageous standards in the world of professional sport. Helen Löhmus’ and Leana Jalukse’s entry celebrates its World Premiere at Hot Docs.

In Norwegian Democrazy (Norway), directors Fabien Greenberg and Bård Kjøge Rønning approach the leader of the Islamophobic hate group “Stop the Islamisation of Norway" (SIAN), Lars Thorsens, and provide an eye-opening glimpse of provocation for provocation's own sake, which is laid bare in a battle for democracy on the streets. Woman of God (Slovenia) by Maja Prettner follows the evangelical pastor Jana. Torn between her family, her faith and her own traumas, she searches for a path to freedom. Both films celebrate their International premieres in Toronto.

North American Premieres in this year’s programme include Limits of Europe (Czech Republic, France, Slovakia) by Apolena Rychlíková, about well-known Czech journalist Saša Uhlová who goes undercover for two years as an travelling worker. She reveals what life is really like for economic migrants who are forced to leave their children and families. Laszló Csaki’s Pelikan Blue (Hungary), a droll animated film, reveals the little-known story of how three young Hungarians forged train tickets in the late 1980s so that an entire generation was able to discover the western world. Edoardo Morabito’s second feature film The Outpost (Italy, Brazil), is a cinematic approach to Christopher Clark, a Scottish eco-warrior who has dedicated his life to saving the Amazon rainforest. To achieve his ambitions and force the government to act, Chris always comes up with unconventional ideas, such as organising a Pink Floyd concert in the heart of the forest. Is he serious? In Stray Bodies (Greece, Switzerland, Italy, Bulgaria) director Elina Psykou raises big existential questions about life and death. More and more people are travelling to other European countries to escape their national laws in order to keep control of their own bodies, whether in terms of euthanasia, abortion or artificial insemination.

Rounding off the programme is the Canadian Premiere of Echo of You (Denmark). In her sensuous and life-affirming portrait, director Zara Zerny tenderly portrays nine elderly Danish people who talk about what it is like to carry on living without their beloved ones by their sides. They share their heartaches and express their loneliness and describe with great sensitivity and beauty what it means to live with memories. In Such A Resounding Silence (France), that celebrates its Ontario premiere, French actress, Emmanuelle Béart, reveals her own abuse. Joined by three other survivors, Béart co-directs this skilful critique of how France’s laws and social ethics enable a national child abuse crisis.

THE CHANGING FACE OF EUROPE in collaboration with Hot Docs - Canadian International Documentary Festival is made possible thanks to the support of Creative Europe – the MEDIA Programme of the European Union and the participating national film promotion institutes EFP’s member organisations: Cinecittà (Italy), Czech Film Center, Danish Film Institute, Estonian Film Institute, Greek Film Centre, National Film Institute Hungary, Slovenian Film Centre, Norwegian Film Institute and Unifrance. Media partners are Variety, POV Magazine, Business Doc Europe and Cineuropa.

about Hot Docs

Hot Docs, North America’s largest documentary festival, conference and market, is a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to advancing and celebrating the art of documentary and to creating production opportunities for documentary filmmakers. Hot Docs will present its 31st annual edition from April 25 to May 5, 2024, in cinemas across Toronto. Hot Docs will also mount a dynamic series of knowledge sessions, networking opportunities and market programmes for documentary practitioners and industry delegates, including the renowned Hot Docs Forum and Hot Docs Deal Maker. Year-round, Hot Docs supports the Canadian and international industry with professional development programmes and a multi-million-dollar film fund portfolio, and fosters education through documentaries with its popular free programme Docs For Schools. Hot Docs owns and programmes the Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema, a century-old landmark located in Toronto’s Annex neighbourhood and the world’s first and largest documentary cinema.

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selection 2024

"Cheap labour toiling at unskilled and essential work is the open secret of all highly developed European economies. But when celebrated Czech journalist Saša Uhlová goes undercover for two years as an itinerant worker, the human cost of late-stage capitalism comes into stark view. Wired with a hidden camera, Uhlová picks asparagus in Germany, cleans hotel rooms in Ireland and provides personal health care for the elderly in France. But she doesn’t just simulate the unlivable conditions of labour; she endures the emotional damage inflicted by sporadic phone calls and non-existent visits home to her husband, children and ailing father. Exhausted, isolated and completely vulnerable to external forces, Uhlová personifies the paradoxical social value of the migrant worker. Shockingly immersive and deeply personal, this original exposé reveals the unsustainability and inhumanity of middle-class European life." – #HotDocs

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Limits of Europe
Director: Apolena Rychlíková
Czech Republic, Slovakia, France

"Gather your tissues for this stirring look at a rarely explored stage of aging: after-love. Life-long relationships generally end up being told as one-sided stories, since one partner almost always outlives the other. Here, an ensemble of Danish men and women aged 80 and up offer their collective experience of losing their person, and the life that continues without them. They describe heartache, yes, and loneliness at times, but these expressive individuals also detail with great beauty what it means to live fully with memories. Through gorgeous cinematography, artful projections and the naturalness of their age, these other halves express the feel, smell and taste of the spaces they now experience alone. Far from a sad testament of loss, this sensuous, life-affirming portrait generously shares what it means to say - and survive - goodbye." – #HotDocs

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Echo of You
Director: Zara Zerny

"Estonian freestyle skier Kelly Sildaru was just 13 years old when she won gold at the 2016 Winter X Games. Coached by her dad, who took up the sport himself when his daughter turned two, the pair became a media sensation—child prodigy and untrained coach. Setting and breaking record after record, many before the age of 10, Sildaru fused her commitment to cracking expert tricks with her father’s unrelenting drive to excel. Given her unmatched success on the mountains, no one would have predicted the injury that would derail Kelly’s first Olympic run, or the even more devastating secret she was about to reveal: her father had been abusing her for years. Fellow ski legends, sports agents and Sildaru’s mother join the icon herself in this powerful testimonial that sets a new standard of sports bravery." – #HotDocs

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Kelly - Someone Else's Dream
Director: Helen Lõhmus, Leana Jalukse

"In 2023, film star Emmanuelle Béart (Manon of the Springs; Mission: Impossible) publicly revealed she is an incest survivor. A national reckoning around child sexual abuse was already underway in France after accusations were made against a prominent family when Béart set about lifting the veil of silence around the crime. Choosing both first-person and ensemble documentary voices, Béart creates a powerful platform for fellow fighters to challenge the insidious shame that arises from incest. Along with co-director Anastasia Mikova, two other women and a man, Béart points the finger at the laws and social taboos of a country where a child is sexually victimized every three minutes. Reluctant to include her own story at first, Béart powerfully remonstrates: “the silence—which is first imposed by the person who rapes you—this silence makes a terrible noise within you and takes all kinds of forms” in this stirring and personal critique." – #HotDocs

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Such a Resounding Silence
Director: Emmanuelle Béart, Anastasia Mikova

"Across the European Union, access to abortion, IVF and assisted dying varies drastically from country to country. Terminations are illegal in Malta, while nations like Italy protect a woman’s right to choose. If an Italian woman wants an IVF procedure, however, she must go abroad to countries like Greece. To circumvent these border restrictions, European residents are increasingly turning to medical tourism as a solution. While logistically practical, this personal travel can make for extremely vulnerable experiences. In this bold experiment, cameras accompany those seeking prohibited treatments from the start of their journeys, and the equally dedicated opponents they meet en route. Real women, performance artists and activists from both sides of the moral divides are given voice and space in this daring social critique. As controversial as it is timely, Stray Bodiesdemonstrates just how arbitrary bodily autonomy can be." – #HotDocs

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Stray Bodies
Director: Elina Psykou
Greece, Switzerland, Italy, Bulgaria

"What good is freedom if you can’t afford it? As the Berlin Wall tumbled across the Eastern Bloc in the 1990s, it drew aside the Iron Curtain’s repression and physical containment of Hungarian citizens. The borders to the rest of Europe, and indeed the world, were now open—but only for those who could afford the extraordinary cost of travel. With nothing to lose, three young tricksters happen upon the fact that the distinctive blue ink used on international train tickets allows for easy forgery. Soon, these accidental kingpins of a capitalist syndicate find themselves caught in the wheels of an old-school communist police investigation. Droll animation tells the little-known story of an unlikely gang that valiantly tripped open the West for a new generation. Watch incredulously as the cops crack the scheme but not the youthful spirit of self-determination in this comical tale." – #HotDocs

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Pelikan Blue
Director: László Csáki

"Christopher Clark, a Scottish eco-warrior, set out to build an Outpost of Progress in the heart of the Amazon rainforest - a utopian commune run by Indigenous People that balances technology with nature. Against the odds, he brings computers and utilities to the settlement while fending off deforestation and illicit trading at every turn. When wildfires burn out of control, Clark realizes that to save this last patch of undisturbed rainforest, he must motivate the Brazilian government to create a protective reserve - but how? By staging a Pink Floyd reunion concert in the heart of the still-burning bush, of course! Filmmaker and friend Edoardo Morabito follows Clark headlong around the world to meet eccentric contacts and organize the gig. Is this a crazy scheme from a mad dreamer, a desperate stunt driven by a desperate man, or both?" – #HotDocs

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The Outpost
Director: Edoardo Morabito

"A racist decides to burn the Qu’ran as an act of free speech in Norway. This is the extent of the logic behind Lars Thorsen’s publicity stunts for his Islamophobic hate group, Stop the Islamization of Norway (SIAN). Thorsen’s antics are unoriginal and offensive, but his protests have the desired dual effect of attracting attention (and outrage) and forcing the police to protect his right to self-expression. To understand SIAN’s inner workings and strategies, the filmmakers present themselves as neutral journalists to Thorsen and his followers. For three years, they watch the braggart entreat anyone in public squares or parking lots to debate his rhetoric and then hide behind the law when his “knowledge” is challenged. What co-directors Fabien Greenberg and Bård Kjøge Rønning deliver is a revealing look at provocation for provocation’s sake, laid bare in a street-level battle for democracy." – #HotDocs

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Norwegian Democrazy
Director: Fabien Greenberg, Bård Kjøge Rønning

"Brought up as the child of two ministers, Evangelical pastor Jana is struggling to practise what she preaches to her rural Slovenian parish. Extolling the virtues of sacrifice and commitment, she pursues her church career while her husband raises their daughter at home. But, as she ministers unconditional forgiveness to her followers, she struggles to turn the other cheek to her own traumas, both past and present. The patriarchy Jana serves requires that she, like many women, turn her reflections inward and find purpose in her suffering. How much healing can faith provide before her shame and sins trespass against her? Raw, emotional and completely relatable, one woman’s crisis of belief underscores a far more universal fight for accountability from those in power." – #HotDocs

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Woman of God
Director: Maja Prettner