The 2021 Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival is presenting four world premieres of National Film Board of Canada (NFB) documentaries that explore powerful themes of identity and human rights by Indigenous, LGBTQ2+ and women film creators. This year’s festival will be available online to all Canadians from April 29 to May 9.

Two new NFB feature-length films are premiering in Canadian Spectrum:

Someone Like Me by Sean Horlor and Steve J. Adams, a team of Vancouver filmmakers who are interested in stories about social and criminal injustice, particularly with regards to the LGBTQ2+ community.

 Kímmapiiyipitssini: The Meaning of Empathy by Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers, a multi-award-winning filmmaker and actor, and member of the Kainai First Nation and the Sámi in Norway, whose recent work includes the acclaimed 2019 feature The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open.

Two short NFB docs are also debuting, each paired with a mid-length film:

Into Light by Sheona McDonald, a Canadian Screen Award-winning director, writer and producer based in West Vancouver.

Mary Two-Axe Earley: I Am Indian Again by Kahnawake creator Courtney Montour, who works in documentary film and digital media exploring issues of Indigenous identity.

All films will be accompanied by Q&As. The NFB is programming live Q&As for all its films, bringing together directors and special guests, where online audiences can ask questions in real time. Additionally, feature-doc Q&As with filmmakers will be prerecorded by the festival.

See below for full details on each of these four presentations.

Someone Like Me by Sean Horlor and Steve J. Adams


Drake, a young gay man from Uganda, leaves behind everything he knows to attain the universal freedoms everyone deserves: to be who he is and love whomever he chooses without fear of discrimination, persecution, or violence. A group of queer strangers unite to resettle Drake in Vancouver, but they are tasked with a year-long commitment to someone they’ve never met, and struggle with the challenging conditions of this support. Together, Drake and his sponsors embark on an emotional journey in search of personal freedom, revealing how in a world where one must constantly fight for the right to exist, survival itself becomes a victory. It’s interesting to note that Canada is the only country in the world that has a refugee program that specifically targets LGBTQ+ community, and the only country where private citizens can directly sponsor and resettle refugees – from any community.

Produced by Teri Snelgrove and Shirley Vercruysse, and executive-produced by Shirley Vercruysse for the NFB’s BC & Yukon Studio. 

As proud members of the LGBTQ+ community, directing duo Sean Horlor and Steve J. Adams have created work that shines a spotlight on misunderstandings—queer and otherwise. The pair have directed and produced more than 20 projects together, including the award-winning short The Day Don Died (Hot Docs 2019) and Brunch Queen (Inside Out 2018). They recently completed a series of shorts for Knowledge Network entitled Dear Reader, and their next feature documentary, Satan Wants You, is currently in development with CBC Documentary Channel. Someone Lie Me is their first feature-length documentary.

Kímmapiiyipitssini: The Meaning of Empathy by Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers

ElleMáijá Tailfeathers’ film is an intimate portrait of survival, love and the collective work of healing in the Kainai First Nation in southern Alberta, a Blackfoot community facing the impacts of substance use and a drug-poisoning epidemic. Community members active in addiction and recovery, first responders and medical professionals implement harm reduction to save lives. This work is contextualized within the historical and contemporary impacts of settler colonialism; Kímmapiiyipitssini: The Meaning of Empathy draws a connecting line between the effects of colonial violence on Blackfoot land and people and the ongoing substance-use crisis. Held in love and hope for the future, the film asks the audience to be a part of a radical and profound change in Tailfeathers’ community. 

Watch The Trailer

Produced by Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers and Lori Lozinski (Seen Through Woman Productions) and NFB producer and executive producer David Christensen (North West Studio), with the participation of Telefilm Canada and the assistance of the Hot Docs CrossCurrents Canada Doc Fund.

Into Light by Sheona McDonald

When a child reveals who they truly are on the inside, how does a parent set aside their own expectations to help them become their most authentic self? Set against the northern landscape of Yellowknife, Sheona McDonald’s new documentary captures a season of change as a mother and child navigate the complexities of gender identity together. As elemental changes parallel this extraordinary journey, the return of brighter days uncovers a confident and social little girl with an encyclopedic knowledge of dinosaurs, a deep love of animals, and a parent who fully embraces this magical person. 

Produced by Teri Snelgrove and executive-produced by Shirley Vercruysse for the BC & Yukon Studio. Sheona McDonald of West Vancouver is not a member of the LGBTQ+ community herself, but was requested by the family portrayed in the film to direct their story.

Mary Two-Axe Earley: I Am Indian Again by Courtney Montour

The powerful story of Mary Two-Axe Earley, who fought for more than two decades to challenge discrimination against Indigenous women and became a key figure in Canada’s women’s-rights movement. Montour uses audio conversations recorded by Alanis Obomsawin as well as never-before-seen archival footage to engage in a deeply personal conversation with the late Mohawk activist, who stood up to challenge sexist and genocidal government policies. She speaks with Nellie Carlson, Mary’s lifelong friend and co-founder of Indian Rights for Indian Women, and meets with three generations in Mary’s Kahnawake kitchen to reflect on the legacy of a woman who galvanized a national network of allies to help restore Status rights to over 100,000 Indigenous women and children.

Produced by Kat Baulu and Ariel Nasr and executive-produced by Annette Clarke for the Quebec-Atlantic Studio. Courtney Montour (Kanien’kehá:ka / Mohawk) is from Kahnawake, and a member of the LGBTQ+ community, although the film itself does not have an LGBTQ+ topic.

Hot Docs, North America’s largest documentary festival, conference and market, is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to advancing and celebrating the art of documentary and to creating production opportunities for documentary filmmakers. Hot Docs will present its 28th annual edition online from April 29-May 9, 2021, during which a full roster of industry conference sessions, market programs and networking events will be held for Canadian and international delegates, including the renowned Hot Docs Forum, Hot Docs Deal Maker, Distribution Rendezvous and The Doc Shop. Year-round, Hot Docs supports the Canadian and international industry with professional development programs and a multi-million-dollar production fund portfolio, and fosters education through documentaries with its popular free program Docs For Schools. Hot Docs owns and programs 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, and operates Hot Docs at Home streaming platform.


About the Author

Bryen Dunn is a freelance journalist with a focus on travel, lifestyle, entertainment and hospitality. He has an extensive portfolio of celebrity interviews with musicians, actors and other public personalities. He enjoys discovering delicious eats, tasting spirited treats, and being mesmerized by musical beats.