Hot Docs: Who Took The Bomp? Le Tigre on Tour [Kerthy Fix, 2011]

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Toronto – Who Took The Bomp? Le Tigre on Tour is a damn good rock documentary that chronicles the life and times of feminist electro-clash band Le Tigre as they embark on a world tour following the release of their last album This Island. Often labelled as icons for many different groups including queers and dykes, the documentary dives right into the lives of the three Le Tigre members – JD Samson, Johanna Fateman and Kathleen Hanna. We get to see backstage footage, archival interviews and of course, concert footage. Some of the fashion styles and stage show antics of the band are explained, along with the usual story of how the band got together. The documentary highlights some of the struggles the band endures – being an all-female rock band, dealing with the labels associated with them and of course, whether or not to compromise some of the bands vision for publicity. Through it all, the members of the band remain incredibly entertaining, fun and all appear to have outstanding personalities. I have seen many rock documentaries and it’s refreshing to see a band whose personalities shine as much as Le Tigre’s. There is a particular gym scene that showcases the bands sense of humor and is one of the many memorable scenes in the film. There are also cameos by other bands including the band Hatebreed, who delivered the following quote “We rage harder in one minute then some people do in their lives”. I wanted to see a documentary on them afterwards.

Highly recommended for any music fan.

Wed, May 4 7:00 PM, The Royal Cinema
Thu, May 5 11:45 PM, Bloor Cinema
Fri, May 6 9:30 PM, TIFF Bell Lightbox 3

Hot Docs: Gravity Was Everywhere Back Then, Fightville, Magic Trip

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Toronto – Hot Docs is upon us once again.  And in the interest of cleaning my plate before I see too many films and get backlogged, I’ll be killing three birds with the proverbial one stone by offering up reviews of three films at once.  On the surface of things, these docs have nothing in common.  One is the story of a man’s quest to somehow heal his sick wife, one is about ultimate fighting, and one is about LSD.  But in a sense, they have one thing in common: they’re all about people expressing individuality and finding new ways to look at the world.

Gravity Was Everywhere Back Then [Brent Green, 2010]

I’m not really sure if this even counts as a documentary.  Director Brent Green presents a quirky, stylized portrait of a man named Leonard who builds a special house in the hopes of somehow saving his wife Mary from cancer.  Green rebuilt Leonard’s house based on blueprints he found and with the help of some actor friends, recreated events the way he thought they happened.  While much of the film was rather sweet and endearing, I found Green’s voiceovers to be a bit  overbearing at times, especially when he went off on tangents about liking The Mountain Goats and Leonard Cohen and getting into some angry sounding rants against religion.  Actually, his narration sounded kind of frantic and nervous (and often annoying) throughout.  It got old quick.  Despite these stylistic digressions, I found the film to be somewhat effective and interesting, even though at the end of it all I was left wondering how much (if any) of this doc was actually true.  Maybe that was the point.  “You have to build your own world,” Green says at one point.  In telling the tale of Leonard Wood, he has certainly shown us such a world.  Still, I wish he wouldn’t try so hard.        

Wed, May 4  7:30 PM @ Cumberland 3
Fri May 6  6:15 PM @ TIFF Bell Lightbox 4

Fightville [Michael Tucker, Petra Epperlein, 2011]

Fightville, on the other hand, was a totally satisying film.  A portrait of the World of mixed martial arts and the men who populate it (colourful characters, all of them), it’s a fascinating look at a handful of fighters, trainers and promoters and what it is that drives them exactly.  A common thread amongst them all is the notion that fighting is something real, true, and primal.  They not only see the world through the eyes of a fighter, but they kind of look at fighting as the most important thing in the world.  If you’re an ultimate fighting fan or a novice who’s curious what the appeal of it all is, this is definitely worth watching.

Tuesday, May 3 3:45 PM @ Cumberland 2

Magic Trip [Allison Ellwood, Alex Gibney, 2010]

The 1960s was a time of great social change and great musical milestones.  And drugs.  Lots and lots of drugs.  Magic Trip examines the exploits of writer Ken Kesey and his band of “merry pranksters” as they embark on a journey across America and within their own minds.  After volunteering himself for some early government sponsored experiments with LSD, Kesey becomes a proponent of the drug and it’s effects.  In fact, one of the most compelling scenes in the film revolves around an audio recording made of Kesey during one of these experiences as he describes what he sees.  Most of the information in this film is pretty much common knowledge to anyone who’s looked into the ’60s counterculture movement, but to see the footage and hear it in the words of those involved is still pretty interesting. 

Sat, Apr 30 9:45 PM @ Isabel Bader Theatre
Mon, May 2 3:30 PM @ Isabel Bader Theatre

Concert Review: Grails, April 28, Sneaky Dee’s

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Toronto – I managed to miss every show in the big Godspeed You! Black Emperor marathon this past weekend.  I managed to miss out on the Mogwai show too.  So I figured in order to get my weekly dose of instrumental rock, the Grails show at Sneaky Dee’s was the place to be. 

Opening the show was British guitarist James Blackshaw, who impressed with his intricate guitar picking in a style similar to players like John Fahey or Bert Jansch.  While many in the crowd were watching pretty intently, there were several in the crowd who talked throughout his set.  I understand in a way – he’s the opening act, he’s playing instrumental guitar music that could basically be background music if you’re not paying attention, but these people were relatively close to the stage.  The back area of the bar was a little less packed, so why not go back there?  Or just show up late so you don’t have to watch him. 

Once Grails came onstage, it didn’t really matter if people were talking, as their music has a little more heft to it.  Taking the stage to some kind of creepy amplified breathing sounds, the six piece band displayed their instrumental dexterity from the get-go.  The Portland based group has a sound that borrows from a wide range of influences, melding it all together into something rather impressive.  There were elements of psychedelia, metal, jazz, world music, and film scores (with a few obvious nods to spaghetti westerns in particular), all of it having a very wide scope and expansive feel.  There were a few moments when the audience wasn’t sure if a song had ended and thus didn’t know whether to clap or not and a few other moments when the band seemed to end their songs too abruptly, but nobody in the audience seemed to care that much – most were marvelling at the sounds these guys were making. 

Grails – Almost Grew My Hair by pelecanus_net

Hot Docs: Dolphin Boy [2011, Dani Menkin, Yonatan Nir]

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Toronto – Dolphin Boy is a heartwarming story about a young man’s road to recovery following a traumatic assault. When we first meet Morad, he is a heavily traumatized despondent soul who has withdrawn himself from the entire world. With possible institutionalization looming, the Morad’s father explores all avenues and decides on a one last option – dolphin assisted therapy. He abandons everything and takes his son to Dolphin Reef Eilat. The majority of the documentary takes place at there. Occasionally narrated by one of Morad’s doctors, Dolphin Boy is a documentary that makes you fully realize the consequences of violence that we as people inflict on each other on a daily basis. The suffering that both Morad and his family encountered is intense and the filmmakers did a tasteful job in documenting just how much one violent act can affect others.

Dolphin Boy doesn’t focus on the science or details of dolphin assisted therapy. Instead, the film relies on footage of the therapy in action to tell the story. Within the 72 minute time frame of the movie, we see a lot of footage of the dolphins and Morad swimming with the dolphins. The therapy looks rather fun and the unconditional love shown by the dolphins towards the patients are believe to heavily assist in the recovery process.

I found this documentary to be quite heart-warming. You build a connection with Morad the first time you see him, and as you see his father do everything humanly possible to try to bring his son back, you really start pulling for this family to recover. It’s also slightly refreshing to see a documentary bring some light to the plight of the victims. I suspect most filmmakers find the chance to delve into the psyche of attackers/killers too tempting, which results in a large amount of films/documentaries dedicated to exploring so called “method behind the madness” for any particular violent criminal. Dolphin Boy takes you to the other side, shows you how a family is literally torn apart by actions of someone else and if anything, will make you think twice the next time you think about punching someone in the face (even if it’s just a thought).

Dolphin Boy screening times:

Thu, May 5 9:00 PM @ Bloor Cinema
Sat, May 7 9:45 PM @ TIFF Bell Lightbox 3