HotDocs Review: Roadsworth – Crossing the line [Alan Kohl, 2009]

Posted on by Gary in Hot Docs, Movies | 2 Comments


Toronto – By the time the week-long HotDocs ended last year, I think we had watched a total of 10 man-films between all of us at Panic Manual, which entirely justified the cool response from the festival guys this year around. Alas, they were very cool in the pop-culture sense of the word, and sent us material regardless of our past records. We collectively broke down, wept and now have a guilty-conscience. Seriously, I really appreciate this. I am reminded that my self-professed love for docs and shorts together with last year’s incongruous behavior made me a snobbish hypocritical ass, and so I deserve to dwell with my kind in Toronto. And in Peter Gibson’s mind (at least in 2001), Toronto’s not as cool as Montreal. For, around that time the soon to be crowned “Lord Roadsworth” felt an need to express himself. The general fear and hatred stemming from 911 was too much, and he detected the time was right to cheer us up through the most mundane of urban substance – the streets. So spray cans were picked up, plans were meticulously made, stencils were designed and cut, long hours of nights and dawn were spent, and the illegal act of public mischief and vandalism was carried out to the delight of an appreciative public. This was the same people who would eventually be the voice leading to his arrest, the contentious issue of public space, exoneration and even employment. Roadsworth couldn’t had stenciled the response to his street art more dramatically himself.

The documentary opened with a stoic graffiti artist who just wants to do his work. The story quickly mounts to the original motivation and some computer graphics that animates his static stencils. It was a nice touch used sparingly throughout. If one couldn’t read that this was produced with the National Film Board of Canada, by the time it rolled to Peter’s arrest, you would most definitely have identified him as Canadian. The event wasn’t headlining as a freedom of expression crusade. There was no constitutional amendments or artistic movement beneath the yellow paint. The atmosphere was mellow, and the film portrayed the entirety almost as harmless as child’s play. Which it literally was – none of the subjects were obscene/vulgar. Owl, vines, flowers, transformer logo, doves, shoes, zippers and candle sticks are hardly controversial (fine, sharks, bullets, demons and toilet drains weren’t G-rated… but the context were innocuous). Peter himself was not entirely indifferent, but throughout the film you will get a sense that he has accepted that it isn’t a trivial pursuit. Although coming to terms with persecution and the realization that not everyone loves his art – he himself didn’t sometimes – was a little rough around the edges. This isn’t exactly tear-jerking material – but it sucks when it rains on your parade. Keeping with the tone, the artists, friends and even the lawyer interviewed were all fairly evenhanded. As I am writing this, I feel a little similar to what I think the film was trying to say: this was an artistic exercise gone public. The mid section of the film was about Roadworth’s search for why and how he is to expand his career, as he grew more famous. The hindsight look over his works in Europe was presented with a little skew. I didn’t know if I should think of it as a contrast to his more positive public treatment back home, or as a growth phase when he’s running a bit dry on materials. The English at Ashford hated the doves/birds, the toilet drain at Berlin met a down-pour so almost no one noticed, oh and then we have the Dutch lady. Witness she-who-called-the-police while Peter tried to demonize her sidewalk with clouds and tulips. I guess we all have our breaking points but I would not have guess it’s tulips…

You may argue that he “sold-out”. The vandalism lawsuit ended with a slap-on-the-wrist; he now works with the city sometimes to paint public spaces. But I’d say he’s right. There was never anything to sell. He wanted to paint the streets. Whether the City of Montreal allows/pays him to do so is irrelevent. There is integrity in that. If I’m cynical (which I’m not), perhaps that was the goal and he acted in a script that he wrote – in that case all the power to Roadsworth. I do wish he’d use other colors though… but that’s his call really. Any way, I recommend this, especially as a good documentary for a piece of Canadian modern art history.

Hot Docs Preview – Tiger Next Door [2009,Camilla Calamandrei]

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


Toronto – There’s an epidemic in the US, and no it is not the Swine Flu (yet). Experts claim that there are more captive Tigers in the US then there are in the wild. Most of them are housed in shoddy conditions by breeders and despite the love that their owners have for them, many people have a different opinion. The documentary Tiger Next Door explores this issue, focusing on a particular individual named Dennis Hill, a self proclaimed tiger lover who houses 24 Tigers as well as cougars, black bears and lions on his acreage. The documentary explores why people like Dennis would house so many wild animals on their land as well as what the general reaction is of the people around him. Would you want to live beside someone who houses upwards of 50 man eating beasts in their backyard? Probably not.

The documentary is a fascinating one. You can see why an animal lover like Dennis would want to keep animals beasts captive (he loves them, there is no doubt), but at the same time, it’s incredibly frustrating to see such magnificent animals housed in small cages. A good documentary addresses the issues from all angles, and Camilla Calamandrei does that rather well, interviewing law enforcement agencies, nature types, other breeders and also friends and family of the breeders. The lead character Dennis also has an interesting back story that I will let you discover (no, it was not as an extra for zz top). All in all, a good documentary on a topic that not many people are aware of. Next time you drive by a road side zoo, you might think twice before going.

Hot Docs Link

10:00 pm Fri, May 8 – Royal Cinema
1:30 pm Sun, May 10 – Bloor Cinema

$4 Haircut on YouTube

Posted on by Wade in Everything, Hot Docs, Movies | 2 Comments

For those of you who missed the world premier of my documentary this past April at Hot Docs, you can check out $4 HAIRCUT below. I finally got around to posting it. Be sure to watch it past the credits too. Enjoy. $4 Haircut also fulfills my mandatory Asian content quota here at the Panic Manual for the month of December.

Hot Docs: White Vans with Carts Of Darkness

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

Two movies from Vancouver. Lets start with White Vans

I love short films. White Vans is everything that a short film or short documentary should be. It was fun, to the point, had a beginning, middle, end and left you wanting to watch it again.

This is a story of Aren Hansen who had his bike stolen. He is so angry that he decides to set up a sting operation using a planted bike in a high bike theft area of Vancouver. He catches his bike thief on camera and in the act, but then something weird happens. These bike thieves who you hate for the entire film suddenly get compassion from you. As you watch this guy try and steal Arens’ bike, you end up wanting him to get away with it. This movie ultimately ends up being about compassion and trying to make the world a better place by doing what is right. Not bad for a 13 minute short.

Bad Boogie Balling from the Pink Mountain Tops was a nice surprise too.

Carts of Darkness

This movie was billed as being about homeless guys who race shopping carts down hills in Vancouver. But really, it has nothing to do with shopping carts and/or hills.

The movie starts out all about the extreme sport of cart racing and the homeless bottle collectors that do it. Then the movie shifts to focus on the lives and struggles that these men face and the choices they have made in their lives. The director, Murray Siple, told us during the Q&A that he made this movie with the National Film Board. During the process the NFB told him that he had to make the movie WITH his homeless bottle collecting cast, rather than ABOUT them. He did exactly this and it worked.

This movie is about Murray and how he connects to his homeless cast. In the final shot of the movie, it all comes together when Murray is able to give something back to his film friends who have given so much of themselves during the filming process. It is an inspiring moive that everybody can find something that connects to the struggles in their own lives.

Also some great Ladyhawk and Black Mountain in the soundtrack.


If you are keeping track, that is a grand total of 10/10 for these two Vancouver flicks. A solid program to see. The next showing is happening Thursday, April 24th at 12:00 PM at the Isabel Bader