How do you get your documentary to the Academy Awards? It's all about visibility.
Sure, you can count on the alchemy of strong reviews and a notorious subject to land you on Oscar's short list - as Banksy did with last year's prankish Exit Through The Gift Shop - but for the most part the rules are pretty much the same for docs as they are for studio features: orchestrate a festival premiere and get people talking.
Hot Docs has a strong record of giving Toronto its first glimpse of future Oscar contenders. James Marsh's Man On Wire played here in 2008 on its road to winning the Academy Award for best documentary feature - though technically its buzz started a few months earlier at Sundance.
Other films that have picked up Oscar momentum at Hot Docs include Super Size Me in 2004, Enron: The Smartest Guys In The Room, Murderball and Street Fight in 2005; Iraq In Fragments in 2006; No End In Sight and War/Dance in 2007; and Burma VJ: Reporting From A Closed Country in 2009.
Last year, Hot Docs helped launch Gasland and Waste Land - though Oscar's ultimate winner, Charles Ferguson's Inside Job, made its Canadian premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival. TIFF also makes a point of launching a few Oscar contenders of its own, including documentary feature winners Bowling For Columbine and The Fog Of War. That's just how things go in this town.