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PEN Canada partners with Hot Docs on a new series

Authors Vincent Lam, Camilla Gibb, Miriam Toews, and Linwood Barclay

Four Canadian novelists will present a series of international documentaries this winter, thanks to a new partnership between PEN Canada and Hot Docs. Beginning in February, authors Vincent Lam, Camilla Gibb, Miriam Toews, and Linwood Barclay will each present a documentary of their choice at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema in Toronto, followed by a Q&A with the audience.

PEN Canada executive director Tasleem Thawar tells Q&Q that authors were asked to select films that related to freedom of expression or their creative process. “We tried to pick for authors who wrote different kinds of books with different audiences who we thought might pick films that were really different from one another,” she says. “They took a lot of time to pick something that they could talk about and something that really resonated with them. There was a lot of back and forth.”

The series will kick off on Feb. 10 with Vincent Lam’s selection, Hatsumi, produced and directed by Chris Hope. The film, released in 2012, traces the experiences of the director’s grandmother through the Japanese internment in Canada during the Second World War.

Camilla Gibb’s selection, which took over two months to source and secure rights for, is the 1973 documentary The Unknown Famine. Directed by U.K. journalist Jonathan Dimbleby, the film features one of the earliest reports on the Ethiopian famine in the 1970s.

Miriam Toews’ selection, Marwencol, is the debut feature by American director Jeff Malmberg. The 2010 film explores the life and work of artist Mark Hogancamp, who used art to rehabilitate himself following a brutal attack that left him brain damaged. Toews will present the documentary on March 24.

The last film in the series, to be presented by Linwood Barclay on April 14, is the 2010 documentary Sons of Perdition, which follows three teenage boys exiled from a polygamist community.

Further information is available at the PEN Canada website.