hot docs

Hot Docs Review: Downeast [David Redmon and Ashley Sabin, May 1, 2012]

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

1x1.trans Hot Docs Review: Downeast [David Redmon and Ashley Sabin, May 1, 2012]

Baltimore – We are all familiar with the disappearing agricultural facet of our society: the youth-drain in farming and fishing communities, the increasingly jarring difference between reality and our idea of food production/consumption, and the inevitable social movements that follow that uncomfortable thought. More and more, agriculture recedes into the background and becomes an autonomic part of our?consciousness. The arithmetic of a small population of agricultural workers and a tanking capitalist economy can’t be pretty. Downeast is the account of the drive of a Boston-based businessman to start a lobster packaging factory in the ashes of a shut-down sardine packing plant.

The film starts out very simply – Antonio Bussone, an Italian-immigrant, has been carefully amassing the funding to build and operate a lobster plant in Gouldsboro, Maine. He wants to take over the abandoned Stinson sardine plant, under this very laudable reasoning: the community has been devastated by the economic ice age, and he wants to help. There are few young workers left and the aging population knows little else, the federal government is willing to offer subsidy, and there is still room among fast-growing Canadian competitors in the lobster packaging market. It sounds like the perfect, win-win pitch. But alas, the town selectmen (councillors) does not agree with him. In fact, not a few of them are wholly against the idea. So, without the town council’s and the federal government’s blessing, Antonio tries his best to push through the tough waters, meeting financial woes and unfriendly locals head-on, to a not-surprising end of what could have been a great business as well as community-saving adventure.

What really struck me the wrong way was not the unnecessary bureaucracy during such a difficult time, or the conservative banking behaviors. Frankly, I expected the cheques to bounce, the payment to lag behind labor, the banks to freeze their business accounts, and the pitiless investors to withdraw at the first sign of weakness.?It was the prideful, xenophobic and short-sighted display from the town selectmen that really perplexed me. Antonio really never had a chance, because these men had vested interest and liked nothing better than nepotism and scorched-earth tactics. I found it totally bewildering that a councillor has the wherewithal, especially in a small town where the lives of each person is by definition so much more interwoven with another’s, to deny the spoken will of the people he claimed to represent. And to do so in directly in front of his constituency. Of course, it helped that the directors had contrasted this with Bussone. The “American by choice” spoke humbly about a will to make things better for everyone, banked with his own house on credit, and should practically be beatified when compared to the business stereotypes. It is an interesting explanation as to why some of these communities have folded easily while other thrive despite troubling-times. “Help me help you” is sometimes tougher than it sounds. I recommend watching this if you don’t care that I have basically dissected it tail, claw, and knuckle like a lobster.

Downeast will be screened again on May 5th, 11AM @ the ROM.

Hot Docs Review: Dragan Wende – West Berlin [Dir: Lena Müller/Dragan von Petrovic, 90 minutes, Germany/Serbia, 2012]

Posted on by Ricky in Hot Docs | Leave a comment

1x1.trans Hot Docs Review: Dragan Wende   West Berlin  [Dir: Lena Müller/Dragan von Petrovic, 90 minutes, Germany/Serbia, 2012]

The following review is written by our friend and fellow documentary lover Joe from Mechanical Forest Sound, check out his blog for Hot Doc reviews, exceptional live recording and probably a helluva lot more thought out writings

Every historical change creates winners and losers. The collapse of the Iron Curtain is generally considered as a positive historical moment, but there are those who prefer things the way they used to be. Some people adjust to historical changes, and others semi-willingly become living anachronisms, to whom “West Berlin” is still a walled city and “Yugoslavia” an undivided country.

From his childhood home in Yugoslavia, Vuk Makismovi? always thought that his uncle (the titular Dragan Wende) lived a life of romantic intrigue in the clubs and restaurants of West Berlin’s famous Ku’damm. When, as an adult, Makismovi? makes the trek to Berlin he finds things are more banal then he imagined. The nightlife has gone downhill since the wall collapsed, and Uncle Dragan now works as a hustler and security guard outside a bordello, living in a cramped apartment with a piano that Liza Minnelli might have played once. Still, Makismovi? followd his uncle around, watches him work and meets his friends while trying to get to the core of all the stories of the glamourous (and occasionally shady) decades gone by.

The problem here is that Uncle Dragan isn’t nearly as interesting as Makismovi? wishes he was — and Makismovi? himself, who spends a fair amount of time on camera, isn’t particularly compelling either. Although there might be an interesting documentary to be made reflecting on the high times on Ku’damm during the Cold War, this isn’t it.

Some occasional newsreel-style historical segments are intrusive (and a little cheesy) and don’t help matters. There are a few moments where things come to life a bit, especially when Grandpa Mile (Uncle Dragan’s father) comes to Berlin to collect a pension for building a city he feels no affection for. Another anachronism, he pines for the days of Tito and a united Yugoslavia while castigating the younger generations for being lazy. But overall, this drags along to the point it wears out its welcome. The film-makers commented that the cut being shown here was still something of a work-in-progress, so some trimming might improve things a bit. But as it stands, Dragan Wende – West Berlin‘s not recommended.

Hot Docs Review: Meet The Fokkens [Rob Schröder and Gabriëlle Provaas, 70 minutes, Netherlands, 2012]

Posted on by Ricky in Hot Docs | Leave a comment

1x1.trans Hot Docs Review: Meet The Fokkens [Rob Schröder and Gabriëlle Provaas, 70 minutes, Netherlands, 2012]

The following review is written by our friend and fellow documentary lover Joe from Mechanical Forest Sound, check out his blog for Hot Doc reviews, exceptional live recording and probably a helluva lot more thought out writings

Ignore the terrible and gimmicky English-language title to this one, and pretend it’s called it’s original Ouwehoeren. From the Dutch, the film-makers mentioned that renders as something like “to chatter like an old whore”. No insult in this situation, as that’s exactly what 70-year-old identical twins Louise and Martine Fokkens do. Prostitutes in Amsterdam’s red-light district for over half a century, Louise and Martine have seen it all and discuss their lives and careers without shame. In fact, they’re open-hearted and charmingly ribald throughout. Martine, in fact, is still at work, sitting in her window and calling out to passers-by who look like they might want a spanking.)

Like any job, there are mixed feelings, with pride in one’s work rubbing up against frustration at the circumstances that led on there in the first place. Both sisters have a few regrets but are never short of dignity and laughs as they swap stories and memories. They’re wonderful characters, a two-headed army who frequently dress the same and share a deep bond. Warm and funny, this film also gives us a chance to look at a lot of important issues — not just at prostitution generally, but also at elder sexuality, the changing face of The Netherlands, family reconciliation and the value of art as therapy. Recommended.

Do note that in sharing the space with sex workers (and their clients!) this film gets a bit more explicit than you might have expected going in; but truth be told, the most prurient images to a Toronto audience might be the shots of a functioning modern LRT system.

Meet The Fokkens screens one more time, Fri, May 4 7:00 PM @ Cumberland 2

Hot Docs Review: Legend of a Warrior [Corey Lee, Canada, 2012, 78 min]

Posted on by Ricky in Hot Docs | Leave a comment

1x1.trans Hot Docs Review: Legend of a Warrior [Corey Lee, Canada, 2012, 78 min]

One of the four billion fighting documentaries at Hot Docs this year, Corey Lee’s Legend of a Warrior is actually not about fighting. The film is actually about Corey Lee’s attempts to reconnect and repair his relationship with his father, a famous martial artist teacher who has trained world champions and movie stars in the craft of ass kicking. Frank Lee’s story is fairly typical of a lot of Asian’s who immigrated from Hong Kong to Canada in hopes of greener pastures in the 60′s/70′s/80′s. In an effort to provide for his family, Frank consumed himself into his work throughout Corey’s childhood and as a result, the typical emotional ties that binds a family together were severely tested. With a family of his own, Corey is now keen on rebuilding his relationship with his dad, and in the process, learn about and reclaim some of his Chinese identity in the process. The two train together over a course of a year, culminating in a trip to great city of Hong Kong to get a first hand look at where it all began.

A bit slow at times, Legend of a Warrior does succeed in portraying a certain Asian-Canadian Old-New world experience that a lot of Asians in North America can identify with. The film includes some amusing comic book style retelling of how Frank became a legend and some of the fighting scene that Frank’s students go through gives you a good insight into the discipline and perseverance that is required in the world of fighting. I personally got a kick out of seeing the two eating at Chinese restaurants I frequented when I was living in Edmonton, but that probably only affects 1% of the Hot Docs audience.

Go see this with your father, and then give him a hug after.

Mon, Apr 30 9:15 PM Cumberland 2
Thu, May 3 1:30 PM The ROM Theatre
Fri, May 4 4:00 PM Isabel Bader Theatre