Hot Docs

Gary’s Hot Docs 2010 Primer

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Toronto – The 17th annual Hot Docs (much more enticing a title than “Canadian International Documentary Festival”) is just around the bend. Since Toronto is our main base of operation, panicmanual would be very ignorant if we spend the next week dillydallying in the sun at Harbourfront while other people engage their brains with current, worthwhile and beautiful imagery and sounds. Which is why we’re NOT. Watch out for previews and reviews from us that will give you a helping hand in choosing from the 171 flavours that Hot Docs has to offer. Here’s a list of films that I think will be interesting (see links to the respective sites or visit Hot Docs for showtimes. Like TIFF’s during its peak, the loading can tax patience):

Bhutto – A biographical sketch of the recently assassinated, former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto. From the hippie movement of peace and love to counter-terrorism in modern Pakistan, witness how the politics reared Bhutto, and how it all relates to the rest of the world.

Made in India – Unable to foot the US$100,000 bill for a surrogate mother, a Texas couple move to the reproductive economy of India for a cheaper option. Ethics and political issues abound, this film might also shine light into the psychology and natural selection of our species… hopefully.

Wasteland – Artist Vik Muniz travels to the outskirts of Rio de janeiro. His project: building social conscious pieces of art with nothing but another man’s garbage and the help of “pluckers” – men and women whose living depends on picking out recyclables. This might make you think the next time you throw out that Starbucks paper cup.

Grace Milly Lucy… child soldiers – The story of three Ugandan women on being transformed into killing machines and wives for rebel commanders. Their role as activists in the community promises to be an interesting psychological portrait. (Actually, see Ricky’s preview just below!)

House of Suh – A loyal and promising young man murders his sister’s boyfriend and shocks a whole community.

The Rainbow Warriors of Waiheke island – By telling the story of how Green peace’s famous ship and its crew came to rest on the New Zealand island in their old age, we take a closer look at what was a social movement and what is now a multinational entity. How should protests and environmental “injustices” be dealt with in the face of other, more broad-reaching forces?

Casino Jack and the United States of Money – How does a Republican lobbyist rise to and fall from power? This film goes through the paces and tries to convince you that even playwright can’t do better than real life, American politics.

Human Terrain – This film exposes the counter-insurgency program of its namesake. Is it an academic study of social interactions and how best to approach other cultures, or a intelligence program geared towards the exploitation of these “best practices” for military ends?

Kings of Pastry – A documentary on the mouth-watering creations from chefs at the pastry olympics Meilleur Ouvrier, also held every 4 years. It’s no iron chef, but the concentration and devotion is arguably more intense.

The Corporation – Corporations are legal entities. What are they like, as a “person”? Do they visit their grannies with pies or let the dogs poo all over the neighbour’s lawn? This is an old documentary, but I haven’t seen it and its message may be ever more poignant in the face of the recent economic crisis.

Well. That’s my shortlist – add and subtract as necessary. See you around the cinema!

Hot Doc Reviews: Grace, Milly, Lucy..Child Soldiers [2010, Raymonde Provencher]

Posted on by Ricky in Hot Docs, Reviews | 1 Comment

Toronto – “TIA – This is Africa” says Leonardo Di Caprio’s character in Blood Diamond, a movie about the insidious diamond trade industry in Africa, where normal rules don’t necessarily apply. There have been many movies recently (Last king of Scotland, Blood Diamond, Hotel Rwanda, err.. 24:Redemption) about the plight of this continent and while the glossed up pretty people version is nice, Hot Docs now presents you with a riveting documentary about the same subject that Hollywood has been trying to educate you about.

Grace, Milly, Lucy..Child Soldiers is a NFB documentary about female child soldiers who were abducted from their families at a young age and forced to become killers, wives and mothers to those in the Lord’s Resistance Army, a rebellion force in the conflict in Uganda. All three ladies have left the army and now have formed a support group for other women who have left the rebels as well.

Through a series of interviews, we learn of the hardships that all these women faced in their lives, from their abductions, to their training, to initiations (which involves killing) and to forced marriages with other soldiers. The stories that the women tell are honest and brutal, and to my surprise, the woman’s hardship continues after leaving the rebels as they have to deal with the stigma of having ‘lived in the bush’ from the rest of the people in town.

As a documentary, Grace, Milly, Lucy..Child Soldiers is captivating and informative. Raymonde Provencher brings a new twist to the whole African debacle and it’s definitely worth watching.

Grace, Milly, Lucy… Child Soldiers is playing as a part of Canadian Spectrum for Hot Docs

Wed, May 05 7:30 pm @ The Royal Cinema
Sat, May 08 4:00 pm @ The Royal Cinema

Hot Docs Review: The Story Of Furious Pete [G.I. Productions, 2010]

Posted on by Wade in Everything, Hot Docs | Leave a comment

The Story OF Furious Pete is the story of Peter Czerwinski, who at the age of 16 was hospitalized and nearly died as a result of anorexia. Now, seven years later, he is a champion in the sport of competitive eating. Peter’s mother also has MS. That is pretty much it. I did not enjoy this documentary. Here are the reasons why.

1. As far as documentary subjects go, some people make better subjects than others. I think that Pete is a poor subject. The movie shows Peter as a shy guy who rarely shows his emotions. This might be a charming characteristic in some, but in this movie, it just doesn’t work for me. We are never really let into Petes’ world. In the off chance that we were let into his world, then there isn’t much there to explore.

2. There was an obvious attempt to tie in the whole MS story line with Peter’s mother. As an audience member, this story line fell flat. I think the reason that I didn’t care about it was because we were only TOLD about his mothers MS condition instead of being SHOWN. Documentary is a visual medium. We didn’t see her struggle with the disease which would have made me, an audience member, care more. Also, the whole MS storyline was tacked onto the end of the movie. If it had a larger presence throughout the movie, it might have worked better.

3. I did get interested when they started to discuss and investigate the different rivalries between Pete and the other competitive eaters on the competitive eating circuit, but that story line quickly ended. Didn’t the producers see King Of Kong? Obviously not.

Summary:
Throughout the movie, Furious Peter did not face any struggles. He has beaten anorexia and he destroys his competitors in his eating competitions. Why do I want to see him succeed? There was no antagonist, or at least no obvious one to me. If you want to see a movie about a dude who stuffs butter and hot dogs into his mouth, than Furious Pete is worth checking out. Outside of that, I would pass.

Screening Times
Friday April 30th, 7:30 PM – ROYAL
Sunday May 9th, 1:30 PM – CUMBERLAND 3

Hot Docs Review: Leave Them Laughing [2010, John Zaritsky]

Posted on by Allison in Everything, Hot Docs | Leave a comment

After the disappointment of the very cardboard documentary about the Magnetic Fields, I switched gears entirely to Leave Them Laughing, a documentary featuring one-woman entertainment machine (and Canadian) Carla Zilbersmith. A lead singer, comedienne, actress, teacher, and mother, her rapid deterioration to Lou Gehrig’s Disease sucks you in. In the first few minutes of the film I had written her off as a saucier, iller Rita Rudner but there are truly funny and genuine moments in this doc, regardless of how cliched they are.

Again, I reiterate that the reason this film (somewhat) works is because of Zilbersmith’s willingness to bear it all on camera. Her greatest fears seem real, her relationship with her son is unique, and even her most gaggingly “Bucket List” moments engage us. She has a wicked sense of humor throughout, peppered inbetween a horribly long-running routine about her world condom collection.

35% of the film features  nauseating triteness. There’s the bitter divorce routine (her husband left her for a 20-something before she was diagnosed) where she tosses her wedding ring into the ocean with a bunch of girlfriends, the “I need to have sex too” routine (which I admit sounded a little too close to home),  the tender moments with the teenage son who’s taking care of her (“life isn’t fair but don’t let this disappointing moment define you”), and her last bow routine (during her final live musical performance).

There are a couple of moments that surprised me.  Most notably her tongue-in-cheek trek to the Holy Land Experience, where she jokingly wants to present the Jesus performer with a heart shaped box of chocolates and a seasonal teddy bear, only to break down in tears when the Sheppard Girl is so touched by her story she fails to pick up on the joke. There is also her hilarious blog, which her son now updates. It seems Carla is on her last leg, and her ability to laugh at herself while calling herself a dried out cripple is pretty admirable.

Leave Them Laughing is co-presented with ALS Society of Ontario and is showing on:

Thu, May 06 9:15 pm, Isabel Bader Theatre
Sat, May 08 3:15 pm, Bloor Cinema