This dissertation looks at the ways in which the Toronto-based Hot Docs documentary film festival is undergoing a process of transforming documentary cinema and culture from the margins to the mainstream through a process of the commercialization of documentary. In particular three interlocking forces are examined, including populism, consumerism and liberalism. By privileging commercial interests and strategies over local community, advocacy and political activist considerations, Hot Docs is developing into a very successful and vital cultural institution and event, both nationally and
globally. This thesis investigates the consequences of the festival’s commercial strategy with two aspects in mind—the mode of its consumption, and the management of contestation and dissent—and argues that radical perspectives, local advocacy and political participation are being eroded for the sake of a large, accessible and attractive festival image and performance.