Gary’s Hotdocs 2012 primer

Baltimore – Honestly. If I were in Toronto, you lot would be reading reviews to kingdom-come in the coming week. Alas I am not. Still, driven by an insatiable thirst for movies/documentaries, I will tell you what caught my eyes in this year’s listing at Hotdocs while sitting miles (oops, I mean kilometers) away from Toronto. You probably knew what Hotdocs (Canadian International Documentary Festival) is – but did you know that Hotdocs.ca lags behind an automated document generating company in Utah when it comes to Google search? I have noticed this for a few years now… perhaps we should start a movement to improve that status. And we can film a meta-documentary. And then promote it during Hotdocs 2013. And then I won’t have any other complaints and your urge of instant gratification will be satisfied 3 sentences sooner. Follow the link on each film’s title to find out about screening time.


Indie game the movie
There are certainly worse obsessions, but games can etch your life away in a very real way, and unfortunately it’s a spreading phenomenon as gaming replaces sports for many people. In this era where EA dictates your gaming tastes as completely as Apple rules your gadget designs, is making an independent game just an express route to internet fame and financial independence? Or is it another orthodox expression of brilliant introverts that only differs, by the size of your bank accounts, from being employed by Google? The trailer seems to hint at the fermentation of several Vincent van Gogh’s… who struggle to find themselves, to challenge as well as explain themselves artistically, to retrive the hundreds of hours spent on one’s own dream and inevitably stop being financially-challenged. If I sound un-impressed, don’t forget that I can’t control the flow and tone of these words as if I was designing a game. I think this will be something cool. Plus, if you have ever played Braid, or Super Meat Boy, or Limbo, or Machinarium, or any number of these deceptively beautiful indie games, you know that most of them are also full of pain and sorrow, and sad stories alway make good films.

WTF?! You don’t want to see a movie about an animal penis collection?? My point exactly.

There are hobbies, and then there are fetishes. The first category you share with others, and the latter you stow away in your deposit boxes, your basements, or your underwear hoping that it will one day become “cool”. A sex doll will probably become cool only when you stop… OK, let’s try another sentence with the subject in another position… dammit. I don’t know if I have just perfectly demonstrated the stereotypes that filmmaker Allison de Fren had when she began the project, but a few reviews of the film have surprisingly described the fresh perspectives that her film brings to the subject. Here at PM, we’re all about fresh point-of-views. I think this is worth your time.

This movie, probably not by coincidence, shares its name with a 1930s Broadway play and an erotic novel, neither of which I look forward to ever revisit during internet searches. Introspective and autobiographical documentaries typically invoke the inner narcissist, often losing their connection with the audience (me) in minutes – and that’s what YouTube is for. But with multiple voices and personalities, a ventriloquist’s autobiography is something that might overcome the barrier. British comedian Nina Conti utilizes the puppets bequeathed to her by late mentor and lover Ken Campbell to both mourn the loss, and reinvent her self-confidence. But by the end of the last sentence I’m already wondering if this is a mockumentary.

Two years ago, I went to see Enemy of the People. It was the kind of hard-hitting documentary that you must include in any complete visit of Hotdocs – how do you create contrast without the ugly things in life? Jai bhim Comrade, as I understand it, documents the suffering of the Dalits – the untouchables in the Indian caste system. The “lowest of the low” since the ancient times, these are people who were supposed to have been given an equalized opportunity to survive in the modern era. Of course, this film would scarcely be identified as a type of  magnum opus if it was a celebration of their triumph over high society and peaceful reintegration. Prepare for 198 minutes of class warfare, bigotry from all directions, blood/gore and not a few tears.

While we’re at it, let’s continue the dark streak. Here’s an assignment: go see both of these films and piece together which side has the more human story. These are both films about the West Bank occupation. One is the culmination of 6 years of work by a Palestinian farmer who lives by the separation wall, another is the collected interviews of the legal brain trust within the Occupied Territories in the Gaza strip. On one hand, you can experience the devastation within a West bank neighborhood first-hand, and in the other you can pass silent judgement on the lawmakers themselves and test your political mettle. Since it behooves neither the Palestinians nor the Israelis to back down in the dead-locked situation, it is your duty as a world citizen to hear both sides of the story. Both of these are award-winning documentaries at Sundance and other festivals.

You probably can’t tell by looking at an X-ray of me, but I was a skater kid. Our bunch disbanded after a friend smashed his skull on a slab of smooth concrete just before yours truly was to embark on the same tests of Newtonian physics. After that I took to skateluge and finally got nowhere. Unlike me, guys like Mike McGill and Tony Hawk did get somewhere with their skateboarding, and they are in this film as well as the skate team it showcases. If the rise of a pop culture lifestyle is not your cup of tea, you will at least be able to appreciate the athleticism involved. As I learned long ago, not every kid with 4 urethane wheels can skip over a manhole cover without eating dirt.

We all know the feeling that the modern world is somehow more sick than the one from which it arose. If there’s a disease, there must be a cure. If nothing, the modern world is at least much more medicated than the old one. Pharmaceutical companies can walk on two rails, 1) the next wonder drug for an existing disease, or 2) the next debilitating disease that can be controlled by orphaned chemicals from the massive effort in 1). If the second option sounds vaguely evil, just think about the plethora of DIY projects – you already have the pieces necessary, why not take advantage of it? It’s the same train-of-thought; the big difference is that while you mess up your interior fashion with failed DIY projects, pharmaceutical companies could mess people up. I mean, they do it in the traditional, drug-addict method instead of the underground, shadowy assassin route. This promises to be an interesting peek into the minds and lives of the heavily medicated.

There are bound to be other gems more interesting than these during the festival. As I recall, one year Ricky’s favorite film was about a parking lot, and mine involved a Danish guy in Brazil. So, go out there and heat up some seats!

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Posted on by Gary in Everything, Hot Docs

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