Hot Docs

Hot Docs Review: Nénette [2009, Nicolas Philibert]

Posted on by Ricky in Hot Docs | 1 Comment

Toronto – I think Planet Earth has spoiled me on all documentaries involving animals. I loved that documentary, even bought it on blu ray (from England, not the Siguorney Weaver one) before I had a blu ray player. Hell, I still don’t have a blu ray player. The footage captured in that documentary was astounding, so it set the bar pretty high in terms of documentaries involving animals.

Now obviously, the documentary Nénette is not that type of documentary, but I’m just doing the comparison to give you some expectations of footage I had going in to this documentary.

Nénette is an orangutan who has been at the Jardin Des Plantes zoo since 1972. One of the zoo’s most popular attractions, the ape gets regular visits from many visitors, many of whom have seen Nénette through the years and have developed emotional attachments to it. The documentary consists of many faceless people talking about their relationship to Nénette and how they think Nénette is doing/feeling. It doesn’t take a zoologist to realize that this is one depressed animal. The zoo settings are horrendous and there really isn’t that much room for an animal of that size to roam. That’s beside the point though. The film consists ENTIRELY of zoo footage, which could have been great if the animal, you know.., did anything. Anyone whose seen an older animal at a zoo would know that those animals tend to do nothing. So what you get is 70 minutes of a bored orangutan, doing pretty much nothing but sitting down and occasionally moving. There wasn’t even many zoo keeper – orangutan interaction you might expect from a documentary about an animal at the zoo. Visually, I had a hard time keeping my attention on the screen, and that is an issue considering the film is entirely subtitled (because it’s in French).

Aside from the zookeepers, there weren’t many “experts” in the field who were interviewed, so I guess for me, it seemed like a lot of the opinions and information was not something I would fully trust or believe. I didn’t really get anything out of this viewing other then that Nénette is probably pretty sad.

Here is a more in-depth article about the movie, with explanations from Nicolas Philibert as to why he made the movie.

Nenette (70 minutes) plays on the following days:
May 6, 7:00 PM, Isabel Bader Theatre
May 8, 4:30 PM, Isabel Bader Theatre

Here is a trailer in french.

Hot Docs: The “Socalled” Movie [Garry Beitel, 2010]

Posted on by Mark in Hot Docs, Movies, Reviews | Leave a comment

Toronto – What is it about human nature that drives us to create? Most of us travel through life worried about stepping outside the boundaries prescribed by society. But there are others that seem to have a creative fire that burns brightly from the outset. They create, and create, and create. Some are lucky enough to turn their mental manifestations into a career. The “Socalled” Movie is a portrait of just such an individual.

Socalled is the stage name of Josh Dolgin, a Montreal-based musician that blends Jewish klezmer music with hip hop and funk. The documentary consists of 18 short films that examine different aspects of his life. One vignette shows Josh introducing funk Trombonist Fred Wesley (of James Brown fame) to klezmer music. Another explores the creation of his youtube sensation You Are Never Alone.

It is interesting to see the creative process at work in Josh’s head. However, the energy and momentum created by many of the short films is often derailed with a more plodding interview style that is interspersed throughout. While the “18 short films in a row” approach does allow freedom to jump around, it does come at the expense of continuity. In glimpses we see Josh wear so many hats; first as a musician (pianist, singer, arranger, rapper, producer, composer, and accordionist), and then as a magician, a cartoonist, and a filmmaker.

How could you see [the history of the world] … and not want to be a part of that?  How could you see all this stuff that humans have done with their time and brains and not want to at least give it a try? Cause there’s only one shot of being a part of the world. – Josh Dolgin

It was only at the very ending of the film that things coalesced with Josh’s quote above. In an earlier short, he was quick to admit that he didn’t think of himself as a great singer. Yet he is inspired to keep trying by the creativity he sees around him. Josh wants to be a part of the human saga; and who can blame him? It’s what has been driving him to create his entire life. How human is that?

Hot Docs runs from April 29 till May 9th. The complete Hot Docs schedule can be found here.

Socalled is screened on the following dates

Sun, May 02 9:15 pm at Bloor Cinema.
Tue, May 04 11:30 am at The ROM Theatre.

Gary’s Hot Docs 2010 Primer

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

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