Hot Docs

Hot Docs: Notorious Mr. Bout [2014, Tony Gerber, Maxim Pozdorovkin]

Posted on by Ricky in Hot Docs | Leave a comment

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A documentary in which you end up with more questions then when you started. The Notorious Mr. Bout is an entertaining documentary about Victor Bout, who most will know as “the merchant of death”. A savvy businessman and an aspiring documentation, we get incredible access to Mr. Bout’s private video collection which chronicles his journey from a small town businessman to supposed international arms dealer. In a weird sense, the documentary takes a fairly neutral stance on whether or not Bout was guilty of the crimes he was accused of. The filmmakers did not have any videos of Bout trading arms, which obviously begs the question of how much of the video collection was actually available (or destroyed before the film). The film also sparks the question of what actually is international arms dealing and how does one actually get into it. Since Bout and his wife (who acts as a narrator somewhat) maintain their innocence, I guess it’s only fair that none of these issues where discussed. An entertaining 90 minutes nonetheless

TIFF Bell Lightbox 1Sat, Apr 26 7:00 PM
TIFF Bell Lightbox 1Sun, Apr 27 1:45 PM
TIFF Bell Lightbox 1Sun, May 4 7:00 PM

Hot Docs: The Songs Of Rice, Doc Of The Dead, Shield And Spear

Posted on by Gary in Hot Docs | Leave a comment

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Songs of Rice [2014, Uruphong Raksasad]

If you can sit through the first 7 minutes of this dialogue-free film, then you will be able to enjoy the agrarian charms of the Thai countryside. It is chock full of old-world (read: Song dynasty China) customs mingling with new-world (read: Japanese engineering) know-hows. Plus cross-dressers. Watch out for Ultraman-ish harvesters, ridiculously fireworks, and of course, rice.

ROM Theatre, Fri, Apr 25 6:30 PM
TIFF Bell Lightbox 2, Fri, Apr 25 6:30 PM
Tiff Bell Lightbox 4, Fri, May 2 4:30 PM

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Doc of the Dead [2014, Alexandre Philippe]

George Romero, Simon Pegg, Bruce Campbell, Max Brooks, and creators of infamous series like The Walking Dead were all once zombies. Fine, they all once thought like zombies (… zombies don’t think). Some of them gave birth to the modern zombies (… and zombies don’t fuck). Others can’t stomach another’s take on zombies (… but zombies eat brains). Watch, and find out just how these zomb-pioneers turned millions into zombies on a city corner near you. Hint: BRAINZZZ.

Bloor Hot Docs Cinema, Sat, Apr 26 11:59 PM
Hart House Theatre, Sun, Apr 27 9:30 PM
Royal Cinema, Sat, May 3 9:45 PM

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Shield and Spear [2014, Petter Ringbom]

Artists, musicians, designers, journalists, activists, and community workers do not operate the same way in South Africa as they do here. Just like the Civil Rights movement didn’t resolve the race issue, the end of Apartheid in 1994 didn’t elevate everyone to an equal footing. Art is already vulnerable due to its intangible nature. Throw politics into the mixture, then even a single oil painting can become explosive and divisive for 50 million people. Shield and Spear documents the confessions and the trials of those who are trying to rebuild South Africa, against rampant corruption and political manipulation, in the image of their ideals. It’s a surprisingly uplifting piece that deserves serious thoughts, while you sip imported espresso sarcastically on College St.

TIFF Bell Lightbox 3, Sun, Apr 27 7:00 PM
Scotiabank Theatre 4, Tue, Apr 29 1:30 PM
ROM Theatre, Fri, May 2 9:30 PM

Hot Docs: Pulp [2014, Florian Habicht]

Posted on by Ricky in Hot Docs | Leave a comment

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As a die hard Pulp fan, you can only imagine my excitement when a Pulp documentary was announced. Similar in many ways to the LCD Soundsystem documentary, the film explores the time and space around Pulp’s homecoming (and potentially last) show, which of course, takes place in Sheffield. An ode to the city as much as it is to Pulp, we get testimonials from both city residents and traveling tourist about Pulp and how much the band meant to them. There are sweeping vistas of the mediocrity that is Sheffield and it doesn’t really strike you as a place to visit. These conversations are intertwined with the band’s account of key moments in Pulp history, from the beginning to the high that was Different Class and the ensuing drama afterwards. It was cool to see the other members (Candida talks!) of Pulp talk and there were definitely interesting stories shared.

As with most concert films, there was no shortage of live performance and it was nice to see the mixture of uncontrollable excitement and anxiousness of the fans before the show. I felt those same emotions three years ago when I was in Spain waiting for my Pulp show. A must watch for any fan and there’s no doubt you will leave with Common People stuck in your head.

Bloor Hot Docs Cinema, Sun, Apr 27 11:59 PM
TIFF Bell Lightbox 1, Mon, Apr 28 4:00 PM
Royal Cinema, Sun, May 4 7:00 PM

Hot Docs Review: The Unbelievers [2013, Gus Holwerda]

Posted on by Paul in Hot Docs | 1 Comment

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In an introduction to his film at the premiere screening, director Gus Holwerda mentioned that in making this film, he was hoping to create a rock doc about science and that’s a fairly accurate description of what this documentary is all about.  Much like your standard film made about a touring band, The Unbelievers follows around scientists Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss on a speaking tour of sorts as the two make appearances at various talks, debates, and media appearances.

While the two subjects of this documentary do come across as charming enough, I also found that they could come across as a bit smug.  I understand their position as many of their religious opponents do come off as anti-intellectual, but the film does tend to come across as an attack on religion, which I found to be a bit much at times. While not religious myself, I do feel that if someone gets something out of religion that improves their life or makes them a better person, then more power to them, as long as it doesn’t affect policy or education or impact on the lives of those who don’t believe.  I think my view on religion is best stated by the character of Jeff Winger on the TV series Community: “To me, religion is like Paul Rudd. I see the appeal and I would never take it away from anyone, but I would also never stand in line for it.”  That said, in many cases, people do use their religious beliefs to try and get things like “intelligent design” taught in the schools, which does seem like a barrier to progress in many ways.

Krauss and Dawkins speak of the idea of ridiculing that which doesn’t make sense as a tactic to argue for scientific ideas. The idea does seem a bit mean spirited, but when they point out some of the more outlandish, unbelievable elements of religious dogma, concepts like evolution and the big bang certainly sound a lot more rational.

In a discussion after the film, they elaborated on some of the concepts discussed in the film, with Krauss making the point that  “the great thing about our beliefs is that they are shakable.”  In the end, while their notions of eradicating religion altogether may be a bit unattainable and while most of those who will see The Unbelievers will have already made up their mind on the subject one way or the other, perhaps this is the message that people should take away from the film – that it’s a good idea to challenge your beliefs.