We love Hot Docs. Every year, the festival brings films from far and wide that inspire questions, incite discussion, and invite us to explore new worlds. We focus on the work of amazing female directors, reviewing our top picks for 2012.

Ai Wei Wei: Never Sorry, directed by Alison Klayman, review by Monica Heisey
Journalist Alison Klayman gained “unprecedented access” to artist and activist Ai Wei Wei during four years in China. 

Brooklyn Castle, directed by Katie Dellamaggiore, review by Haley Cullingham
Brooklyn Castle puts an engaging face to the struggle for adequately funded schools: the amazing IS 318 middle school Chess team. 

Detropia, directed by Rachel Grady & Heidi Ewing, review by Becca Lemire
In 1930, Detroit, Michigan was the fastest-growing city in the world. Today, it’s the fastest-shrinking. Detropia is a rare glimpse into the life of the city that most journalists, photographers and documenters miss.

Dylan, directed by Ania Winiarska, review by Sara Harowitz
Dylan follows a kid named, well, Dylan, who’s 14, lives in Belfast, and scoots around town smoking cigarettes and talking about all sorts of things. 

Finding North, directed by Lori Silverbush & Kristi Jacobson, review by Ashleigh Gaul 
One of the latest in a series of “99%” documentaries, Finding North explores poverty in America through one of its best-kept national secrets: its malnutrition epidemic.

Life in Stills, directed by Tamar Tal. Review by Haley Cullingham 
Ben and his 96-year-old grandmother Miriam keep his grandfather Rudi Weissenstein’s legend as a famous photographer alive with a fury of bickering, tenderness, and hard work at their shop in Tel Aviv. But developers want to knock down the shop and build. Miriam, naturally, isn’t having it. 

Manhood, directed by Shawna Steele. Review by Haley Cullingham
David Mitchell and his girlfriend were getting it on two days in to their romantic Jamaican vacation, when suddenly…SNAP.

My Freedom, Your Freedom, directed by Diana Naecke, review by Sara Harowitz
Separately following two women as they leave prison in Berlin and try to connect their newfound freedom, My Freedom, Your Freedom takes an unflinching look at what prison means to Western society.

My Name Is Faith, directed by Tiffany Sudela-Junker, Jason Banker, and Jorge Torres-Torres. Review by Haley Cullingham
An interview with Tiffany Sudela-Junker, who is also the adoptive mother of the subject of the film, a 13 year old girl whose traumatic childhood has left her with Reactive Attachment Disorder.

Pot Country, directed by Mario Furloni & Kate McLean, review by Haley Cullingham
Pot Country is a beautifully-shot doc about the struggling marijuana farmers of Northern California.

Sexy Baby, directed by Ronna Gradus & Jill Bauer, review by Jen McNeely
Porn is unavoidable on the net, and this doc asks if young girls are capable of distinguishing a sense of self from the hypersexualized alter ego they so often show off on Facebook.

Smoke Traders, directed by Catherine Bainbridge & Jeff Dorn. Review by Haley Cullingham
The Mohawk nation controls 50% of the tobacco trade in Eastern Canada, and the revenue revitalizes their communities. But the RCMP don’t like them selling tax-free tobacco to non-Natives. 

The Mystery of Mazo de la Roche, directed by Maya Gallus, review by Monica Heisey
Writer and director Maya Gallus provided a much-needed introduction to this literary pioneer, who, despite being one of the most successful female writers in Canadian history, is in danger of slipping into obscurity.

The World Before Her, directed by Nisha Pahuja, review by Haley Cullingham
The dichotomy in The World Before Her, between the Miss India pageant and a Hindu fundamentalist camp, offers some fascinating parallels.