Hot Docs

HotDocs review: His & Hers [2010, Ken Wardrop]

Posted on by Gary in Everything, Hot Docs, Reviews | 3 Comments

Toronto – From the killing to the loving fields, I guess the switch is very distinct. I believe I saw the best Mother’s Day gift this year – but alas this idea will be unoriginal the moment I put up this article, and rendered impossible since I found out from Ken after the Q&A that it’s not in DVD form (at least not for consumers). Sigh. The shopping will have to continue.

His & Hers is a “vignette of 70 women spanning 90 years as it relates to their male counterparts”. That’s the official composition, at least. I think it is a very neat route of developing a character (his mom) who had, at one point in her life, possessed the same states of mind of each of these women and they, in turn, hers. From baby girls to advanced grandmothers, this is almost a celebration of the collective pains and joys of Irish women in the Midlands, where Wardrop drew a 15 or so mile radius and found his cast. The audience (full house at Cumberland 3) moved up and down with predictable empathy as Wardrop shows us the intimately funny and the depressingly inevitable. This is yet another film that should not be described. Due to the 16mm film choice, the filmmakers really had to stick with stationary shots and just a few minutes with each women (apparently film stock is rare). But the choice of angles were quite interesting. I can definitely appreciate how they selected the shots – you could freeze-frame and probably pick out still photos that are worth exhibiting. True, they’re not portrait shots, but they tell the story AND backdrop at the same time, which is important when your director comes from a short-film CV and intended this one to be a collection of shorts.

I don’t believe Wardrop set out to advance our knowledge about the entirety of the female experience. It’s a simple film about simple experiences. If that’s a sin, well, then one’s experiences must be too complex for the average 90 years old. There are reviews like this which marked it as terrible. Read it if you want to get another perspective; it’s quite funny as well. Take your mom to see it and I guarantee she’ll love it, if she can get through the accent.

HotDocs review: Enemies of the People [2010, Thet Sambath / Rob Lemkin]

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

Toronto – “How many holes of Hell will I be in? I will never see the sun as a human being again. I am desolate.” The person who said this believes in reincarnation. I have heard very few people who honestly detest themselves to that degree. Enemies of the People showed us several. 30 years ago on the Killing Fields of Cambodia, indirectly or directly, with and without comrades, they murdered millions. Apocalypse Now was horrendous, but Marlin Brando and Martin Sheen was just passing through…

“… a ditch there, by the banyan tree. One in that rice field. Two more that side… we didn’t want to put too many in each…”
“I was the first to come back… the decomposing bodies made the rainwater boil…”
“I got used to it, and I used to always carry human gall bladder for drinking… now I am disgusted.”
“I bathe in the pond, but I know there are bodies in there so I don’t drink…”
“… I choose the nation. Individuals I can cast aside… these people need to be solved (sic).”

People still have to live on that land. They don’t have the option of leaving; but they do have the need to find out who did and ordered the killings. So Thet Sambath did. His family was destroyed during the purge. Father killed by cadres, mother died during child birth after a forced marriage, brother mistaken for elements of another faction within the regime. He poured a decade into getting close to and wrangling confessions out of the commanders (he spent years getting close to Brother number 2, the second in command in the Khmer Rouge regime, above) who did the deed. I really don’t have too much to write about this film in the same way that I can’t have much to write about going to heaven/hell. There’s really no other way to present this type of material. It is heavy but also nuanced. And when I came away from the film, knowing that Sambath got some type of reconciliation, while the leaders and commanders faces War Crime trials and self-loathing, there is no vindication, just an overwhelming sense of dread. Whether anyone told the whole-truth, whether you or anyone detected a hint of remorse/deceit, or if the film will be used in the tribunal, is no longer important. I guess I’m just disappointed by history. Don’t say I didn’t warn you: this is not a bad documentary, but you’re unlikely to be glad that you watched it.

Hot Docs Review: Joan Rivers, A Piece of Work [2010, Ricki Stern, Annie Sundberg]

Posted on by Ricky in Hot Docs | 5 Comments

Toronto – When you mention Joan Rivers these days, all you really think of is the plastic surgery and all the red carpet hi-jinx she gets into at award shows for the E! Network, where she probably comes off as half-wacko, half-bitter brash comedienne. Many people have forgotten/do not know about her trailblazing ways as a brash female comedy in the 60s and 70s and this documentary, directed by Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg, looks past all the recent history and reveals to us the real person behind Joan Rivers – a tireless workaholic always looking to prove herself to her detractors.

I thoroughly enjoyed the documentary – it was hilarious and really did go behind the scenes of what it is like to be a (fading) celebrity. Joan Rivers is funny and well aware of what it’s like to be in the “industry”. You really get an appreciation for how hard she works, although you do feel a hint of sadness at the fact that at 75 years old, she is still trying to prove herself and get into the spotlight. My only qualm with the film is that it doesn’t really address why she decided to do all that plastic surgery. There was a few minutes on it and that’s about it.

You should probably see this if you are a fan of pop culture or are looking for a good funny documentary.

Joan Rivers, A Piece of Work plays again MONDAY, May 3rd at 4:00 at Isabel Bader Theatre.

Hot Docs Review: The Parking Lot Movie [2010, Meghan Eckman]

Posted on by Ricky in Hot Docs | 1 Comment

Toronto – Documentaries that are light and funny are quite rare these days, since it’s definitely more meaty as a filmmaker to focus on some unknown social issue taking place in some unknown city in some random third world country. This is why the Parking Lot Movie was so appealing when I saw it on the schedule. The documentary takes a look at the lives of current and former parking attendants who work at the corner parking lot in Charlottesville, Virginia (home of University of Virginia). This parking lot is special because owner Chris Farina does not use a automated system and instead employs a steady cast of misfits and miscasts, most of whom are too overeducated and overqualified to be working at a parking lot (including Yo La Tengo bassist James McNew).

The documentary mostly consists of testimonials of all the attendants coupled with footage of day to day interactions with clients, most of whom look down upon the attendants. Meghan Eckman did a great job with finding quality comments from the attendants and the attendants were all very well spoken and quite humorous.

Definitely recommended if you are looking at having a good time.

Parking Lot Movie plays on the Cumberland Parking lot Rooftop on Thursday, May 6 at 8:00 pm