hot docs

Hot Docs: Double Happiness [2015, Ella Raidel]

Posted on by Ricky in Everything | Leave a comment


Chinese officials travel around the world, fall in love with a quaint Austrian town named Hallstatt and decide to rebuild it brick for brick in … China?

That actually happened. The story was primed for a documentary and Double Happiness was that film…. Only it’s not. Filled with gimmicky camera work and effects, overlong setup shots, questionable segments and a general lack of coherency, Double Happiness is a documentary that disappoints because the story could have been so good.

Having said all that, I’ll be one to admit that I prefer my documentaries to be straight forward, full of data points and counterpoints. first time director Ella Raidel seemed to have taken a more artistic and more emotional approach. You could say she wanted to appeal to our hearts instead of our brains. There are some poignant shots of a China growing out of control and two vocal performances that I found to be odd, yet perhaps I am too dry for this. Still, the subject at hand is fascinating and the film does touch on that enough to keep you interested. Not enough data in my opinion, but there’s always Wikipedia.

Hot Docs: (T)ERROR [2015, David Felix Sutcliffe, Lyric R. Cabral]

Posted on by Ricky in Everything | Leave a comment


A riveting documentary that dives head first into the world of FBI informants. Following a FBI informant on a case, (T)Error is one of those documentaries where the less you know going in, the more enjoyable if is. There are twists, there are turns and after the film you will definitely have questions.

On a thematic scale, (T)error poses the same questions many other documentaries have asked. in the post 9/11 world, America has become a heightened, paranoid state which has engaged in many questionable tactics in the name of the security. How are citizens affected? How does freedom of speech clash with these policies? What are the real motivations?

The story presented in (T)error is one that will have you thinking those things all while being highly entertaining. Check it out

Showing: TIFF Bell Lightbox 1, Sun, May 3 11:30 AM

Hot Docs Review: Danny (2014, Justin Simms, William D. MacGillivray)

Posted on by Jack Derricourt in Hot Docs | Leave a comment


A teary-eyed man stands at a podium and utters these words: “Orson Welles once said, if you want a happy ending, you need to know when to end your story.” Like Citizen Kane, Danny is a story of a political giant that begins at the end. Danny Williams was a rarity in Canadian politics. In a political culture where we often vote away what we don’t want rather than democratically embrace an agenda of action, the fiery former premier is a rare case study.

The guy who outright mutinied against Stephen Harper in the early 2000s? The premier of Newfoundland and Labrador that everyone was talking about on the radio and tv and in the paper? Yep, that was Danny.

The movie does a solid job of addressing the post-Confederation history of Newfoundland, especially the series of bad deals dealt to the province that left what was once a thriving, independent nation a mere pawn in the federal game. The struggles of recent years have been an attempt to negotiate for a fair share of offshore oil profits, a fight that Danny was born for. It’s a familiar story to many Canadians, and one that should interest anyone that has witnessed how oil has become the central economic issue of our country.

The more direct subject of the film is given a familiar, biographical treatment in the midst of this broader provincial story. He is shown wearing a variety of hats: student, hockey player, dutiful son, Rhodes scholar, trial lawyer. His early years in office are explained in painful terms, as dealing with the catastrophic changes to fishing in the province was a constant ordeal for the newly minted politician. Thankfully, along came Paul Martin, a boxing buddy for Danny, someone he could treat to his Newfoundland and Labrador jab-punch of patriotism. We won’t mention Steve here.

Danny has a captivating story, born out of an incredibly charismatic, quotable person. Yet there is something to be said about championing a politician too unabashedly. To be proud of one’s folk heroes is a great thing, but we live in an age that demands more nuanced approaches to its public figures. The premier’s former staff provide a great deal of the commentary throughout the story, something that felt forced and one-sided. If a man is to be judged, his detractors should be given voice, and he should be allowed to stand up to their test. I feel Danny didn’t give its subject the chance to outbully the bullies who would see him cut down.

As a tribute, the documentary is a just approximation of everything that Canadians loved about Danny Williams, and it should be applauded. For a politician with means and determination is the sort of symbol we need in our current political climate. The film asks its viewers to abandon harsh criticism and pessimism, allowing Danny to remain enshrined in a Kubla Khan of newspaper headlines and coffee break stories. Perhaps we should oblige.

Danny screens again on Sunday, May 3 @ 1:15 PM at Isabel Bader Theatre.

Hot Docs Review: Love Between The Covers (2015, Laurie Kahn)

Posted on by jessica in Hot Docs | Leave a comment


The world of romance writing is not just about the fantastical love between two characters, but also the intense pay-it-forward sisterhood of its predominantly female community. In an hour and a half, Love Between the Covers tackles everything under the umbrella, but throughout it shines how empowering writing and reading romance fiction is for women. And that’s what you call an HEA (Happily Ever After).

Hopefully this documentary educates those who scoff at romance titles in grocery stores and libraries. Romance fiction is a multi-billion dollar section of the publishing industry, and underneath it lies practically any other genre – science fiction romance, historical romance, fantasy romance, horror romance, Amish romance, etc. There’s something for everyone. The documentary tackles this issue head on right off the bat – scoffing back at those who scrunch up their noses saying ‘you read that?’ and saying point-blank why it’s so great. To put it lightly, author Beverly Jenkins chuckles, “We are the shit.”

Love Between the Covers gives a boost to so many interesting romance authors – Jenkins, Mary Bly (Eloisa James), Len Barot (Radclyffe), Susan Donovan, Celeste Bradley and Nora Roberts, to name a few – as well as lots of others in the publishing industry. It’s impossible not to be impressed by them. Very few get to make it their day job but it’s clear they do it for the passion. There are a lot of scenes of women writing on their laptops at home in their PJs. Readers hang on to every word, and authors pump out multiple books per year. They show tremendous spirit in their work, compassion for one another and honour for the trade. They know how to craft great love stories and many have found their niches to fill in cracks such as the lack in queer and person of colour areas, which has changed many people’s lives since. This documentary is full of fantastic, hilarious quotes. It’s easy to follow along through the narrative of the work and the industry. These women are sassy, down to earth and incredibly smart. They tackle every hurdle fearlessly, explaining this is one place you’ll find women’s sexuality fairly represented… you can have sex without dying a horrible death… the idea that romance novels are sneered at because they’re written by women, for women and about women… the list goes on.

Above all, love trumps hate.

Love Between The Covers screens on Friday, May 1  @ 9:30 PM at Fox Theatre.