Hits and misses at the ultimate reality show + Complete schedule
Friday, April 30 COOKING UP DREAMS (Ernesto Cabellos, Peru/Brazil). 75 minutes. Subtitled. Rating: NN This celebration of Peruvian food looks terrific, but the cinematic recipe is missing some essential ingredients.
In an effort to trace the growing influence of this tasty cuisine, the filmmakers travel from the rivers, jungles and streets of Peru to high- end restos all over the world where expert chefs ply their trade.
You’d think that along the way the film would explain the principles behind this style of cooking and the basic foods required, but that info never surfaces. The signature recipes aren’t translated into English, so unless your Spanish rocks, you won’t even be able to discern what these great cooks are making.
Looks delicious, though. If you go, don’t go hungry.
SUSAN G. COLE • Friday ( April 30), 6: 30 pm, Cumberland 3; Saturday (May 1), 1: 30 pm, Cumberland 3, May 9, 9: 30 pm, Cumberland
ñTHE OATH (Laura Poitras, U. S./ Yemen). 97 minutes. Some subtitles. Rating:
NNNN The diverging fates of two al Qaida members – and brothers-in-law – who were close to Osama bin Laden in the late 1990s play out in elegant contrast in Laura Poi
tras’s gripping documen
tary. Nasser al- Bahri (aka
Abu Jandal) and Salim
Hamdan were bin Laden’s bodyguard and driver respectively, and both men fell into U. S. custody after the 9/11 attacks. Hamdan was subjected to “enhanced interrogation” and dumped into Guantánamo Bay. AlBahri, who seems far more connected, was released and now drives a taxi in Yemen and preaches jihad to impressionable young men.
Their radically different fortunes mirror America’s post-9/11 struggle to define its national character – and underscore The Oath with a powerful moral anguish. NORMAN WILNER • Friday ( April 30), 7 pm, Isabel Bader; May 7, 4 pm, ROM.
THE STORY OF FURIOUS PETE (George Tsioutsioulas, Canada). 85 minutes. Rating: NNN See interview and review, page 5.
• Friday ( April 30), 7: 30 pm, Royal; May 9, 1: 30 pm, Cumberland 3.
THE DEVIL OPERATION (Stephanie Boyd, Canada/Peru). 69 minutes. Subtitled. Rating: NNN Like Under Rich Earth, a Hot Docs entry from 2009, The Devil Operation tracks grassroots protests against an aggressive mining operation, in this case, the U. S.- owned Yanacocha mine in Peru.
Centre stage is Father Marco Arana, who finds a way to negotiate between the activists and the mega- corp and its very scary security forces.
What distinguishes The Devil Operation is the way the filmmakers have appropriated photos, videos and reports compiled by those very security forces and wielded them in the pursuit of justice. SGC
• Friday ( April 30), 9 pm, Cumberland 3; Monday (May 3), 2 pm, Cumberland 2.
ñDISCO AND ATOMIC
WAR (Jaak Kilmi, Estonia/Finland). 78 minutes. Subtitled. Rating:
NNNN Many of us have fond memories of 80s TV, but you might say that for the citizens of Estonia, watching Knight Rider was life altering. Director Jaak Kilmi recalls that era in Disco And Atomic War, a witty, insightful and thoroughly entertaining political thriller about how the Iron Curtain did battle with contraband Western-tinged airwaves from Finland.
Kilmi chronicles how every Soviet attempt to censor pop culture on television was met with an Estonian insurgency, like locals making pirate antennas out of a thermometer. All the while, the director draws on his personal childhood memories for some context, with hilarious dramatizations of how the Cold War played out in Estonia.
RADHEYAN SIMONPILLAI • Friday ( April 30), 9:15 pm, ROM; Saturday (May 1), 2 pm, Cumberland 2. DISH: WOMEN, WAITRESSING & THE ART OF SERVICE (Maya Gallus, Canada). 70 minutes. Some subtitles. Rating: NNN Dish will change how you view your next restaurant experience. Interviewing female waiters around the world, director Maya Gallus serves up some tasty tidbits: the industry favours younger women, women often make the worst customers and, damn, there are a lot of sex-themed restaurants in Montreal (including one where the female servers are naked).
Apart from these things, plus a rare glimpse into the world of Paris’s highend restaurants and a bizarre place in Tokyo where “maids” call their male customers “masters,” there’s not much that’s remarkable. The film looks good, but there’s little tension or momentum. And while Gallus makes fine use of ironic vintage ads about the profession, it would have been nice to layer in classic waitress scenes from films. (Five Easy Pieces, anyone?) GLENN SUMI • Friday ( April 30), 9:15 pm, Bloor; May 8, 1: 30 pm, Royal, May 9, 6: 30 pm, Bloor. Saturday, May 1
ñSHINJUKU BOYS (Kim Longinotto, Jano Williams, UK/ Japan). 53 minutes. Subtitled. Rating:
NNNN I can see documentary filmmakers lining up outside the New Marilyn Club for a chance to get into this subculture. It’s the place where women, not necessarily lesbians, come to party with women dressed as men.
Kim Longinotto and Jano Williams succeed because they focus on three very different “hostesses.”
Trans man Tatsu is on male hormones. Kazuki, who binds her breasts, has a transsexual female partner, and Gaish, a little bit stone butch, seems to dress like a man because it gives her licence to be cruel to women.
Sensational sequences inside the club give a rare glimpse of a fascinating underworld. SGC
• Saturday (May 1), 11: 30 am, ROM.
ANNE PERRY – INTERIORS (Dana Linkiewicz, Germany). 70 minutes. Rating: NN Anne Perry – Interiors is respectful to a fault.
Perry is the celebrated crime writer – over 50 books – with a dark past. She helped her friend Pauline murder Pauline’s mother and was jailed for the crime. She kept it a secret until 1994, when Peter Jackson released Heavenly Creatures, a film about the crime starring Kate Winslet.
Director Dana Linkiewicz was invited to shoot in Perry’s home in Scotland, where she writes tirelessly attended to by a secretary and manager and her fiercely protective best friend.
Perry has said very little about the crime, so you might expect some related material here. But except for a sentence or two at the end, there is none, only euphemisms like “the occurrence” and, my fave, “the thing that happened.”
But if you’re looking for a portrait of a writer’s life in a gorgeous country house, Anne Perry – Interiors is for you. SGC • Saturday (May 1), 2:15 pm, ROM; May 7, 2 pm, Innis Town Hall.
TALHOTBLOND (Barbara Schroeder, U. S.). 76 minutes. Rating: NNN The allure of Internet anonymity is vividly illustrated in this cautionary doc about an online love triangle that led to a murder – and the bizarre twists that came to light in the subsequent police investigation. Director Barbara Schroeder didn’t need to tart up the action with voice- over narration by an actor impersonating the murder victim, though; the truth is compelling enough on its own. NW • Saturday (May 1), 3: 30 pm, Bloor; Sunday (May 2), 11: 45 pm, Bloor. Over the next 11 days, one of the world’s biggest documentary fests will rock your world. NOW has screened some of the fest’s best – and the rest. So take notes. Consult the complete sked (on page 7). And don’t forget to check out nowtoronto.com/hotdocs for updates, reviews and reports.
ñBHUTTO Duane Baughman, Johnny O’Hara, U. S.). 115 minutes. Some subtitles. Rating:
Bhutto is an excellent primer on Pakistan’s politics – and the family that dominated them – over the past 60 years.
The focus is on Benazir Bhutto, the first female leader of a Muslim state, who was twice elected president and was assassinated in 2007.
Using archival footage and exclusive interviews with friends and family members, directors Duane Baughman and
Johnny O’Hara chart the Bhuttos’ roller- coaster political careers.
Though not all the interviews are with Bhutto supporters, the film comes across as hagiography as far as the martyred Benazir goes, and no one ever gets to the root of the corruption charges tossed at Benazir and her husband, Asif Ali Zardari. SGC • Saturday (May 1), 6:15 pm, Bloor; Tuesday (May 4), 11 am, Isabel Bader.
ñTHE PARKING LOT MOVIE (Meghan Eckman, U. S.) 84 minutes. Rating: NNNN Once upon a time, a man named Chris Farina opened a parking lot in Charlottesville, Virginia – and decided to hire only graduate students and philosophers to work in the booth. The result was a tiny island of oddballs who banded together against an endless stream of frat boys, sorority girls and all- purpose jerks.
Mixing testimony from employees past and present (including Yo La Tengo bassist James McNew), Meghan Eckman’s charming little documentary makes an awfully convincing case for the lot as a key battleground in America’s ongoing culture war, not to mention a fun place to hang out on a Saturday afternoon. NW
• Saturday (May 1), 6: 30 pm, Cumberland 3; Monday (May 3), 11: 45 pm, Bloor.
ñCHEMO (Pawel Lozinski, Poland). 58 minutes. Subtitled. Rating: NNNN An older man tries to distract his wife with a crossword puzzle; a young woman twists with nausea as her partner watches in helpless sympathy; a father and son talk about guitars.
As concepts go, Chemo is as simple as they come: it’s just close- ups of chemotherapy patients undergoing treatment on a Warsaw oncology ward, accompanied by family or friends.
Pawel Lozinski lets us appreciate every moment that passes, whether trivial or profound. All of it is life. NW
• Saturday (May 1), 7 pm, Cumberland 2; Monday (May 3), 1: 30 pm, Isabel Bader. IN THE NAME OF THE FAMILY (Shelley Saywell, Canada). 90 minutes. Some subtitles. Rating: NN Using the death of Mississauga teen Aqsa Parvez as a starting point, Shelley Saywell probes the murders of young girls in Muslim families. She interviews Aqsa’s friends and supporters before travelling to Dallas to talk to the mother of two young girls who were murdered by their father, and another young girl almost suffocated to death by her brother.
Strangely, Saywell wastes the key moment in the film, when teenaged boys and girls at Parvez’s high school comment that the killings have nothing to do with Islam and everything to do with male power.
I understand Saywell’s passion for giving voice to young women coping with the controlling men in their Muslim families. But the result is a film that disturbs as much by its demonization of Islam as by the murders it describes. SGC
• Saturday (May 1), 7 pm, Royal; May 9, 6: 45 pm, Isabel Bader.
ñWASTE LAND (Lucy Walker, UK/Brazil). 99 minutes.
Subtitled. Rating: NNNN Brazil’s prime artistic export, Vik Muniz, specializes in photos tricked out with found objects. He takes his practice to new heights when he goes to the world’s biggest landfill to engage garbage pickers in his process.
By photographing them and inviting them to incorporate the materials they gather for recycling into the work itself, he creates astonishing pieces and changes his subjects’ sense of themselves.
Except that they all have to return to work in the landfill.
Still, a moving testimony to the power of art. SGC • Saturday (May 1), 7 pm, Isabel Bader; Wednesday (May 5), 9:15 pm, Bloor.
HIS & HERS (Ken Wardrop, Ireland). 80 minutes. Rating: NN It must have been a brilliant pitch – stringing together interviews with some 80 women in the Irish Midlands, from childhood to dotage, to create a single narrative of life experience.
But in practice, Ken Wardrop’s His & Hers just blends its subjects into the blandest possible composite, a predetermined and prefabricated vision of an “ordinary” life. Childhood leads to young love, which leads to marriage, which leads to children, which leads to bereavement. We may indeed all be the same, but in shaping his story to leave out anything dark, different or dramatic – you know, the stuff of life – Wardrop’s not doing his subjects, or his movie, any favours. NW • Saturday (May 1), 7:15 pm, ROM; Monday (May 3), 4 pm, Cumberland 3; May 9, 4: 30 pm, Isabel Bader.
ñDISORDER (Huang Weikai, China). 58 minutes. Subtitled. Rating: NNNN Huang Weikai’s short but powerful film essay looks at a dozen surreal situations in an unnamed Chinese city. Pigs escape on a highway. A driver tries to convince a hit-and- run victim that he’s lying. People find and then leave an abandoned baby. Police discover a freezer full of bear claws.
There’s no narrator, titles or clear arc to the film, which is captured in vivid black-and-white. But Huang finds a visual and aural rhythm, building to an inevitable, disturbing climax. Several features have caught the chaos of rapidly industrialized China, but none is as raw or terrifying as this. GS
• Saturday (May 1), 9 pm, Cumberland 3; Tuesday (May 4), 9:15 pm, Innis Town Hall. CANDYMAN: THE DAVID KLEIN STORY (Costa Botes, U. S./New Zealand). 76
minutes. Rating: NNN California candy entrepreneur David Klein invented the Jelly Belly in the late 1970s and spent the ensuing decades sulking over a business deal that took him out of the corporate picture. All he wants now is recognition, which director Costa Botes – a friend of Klein’s son Bert – is willing to provide by the truckload.
But as the story unfolds, it becomes clear that for all the elder Klein’s bouncy enthusiasm, there’s an undercurrent of rage that no one (including Botes) is willing to confront. Klein’s life story could make a great movie, but this isn’t
it. NW • Saturday (May 1), 9: 45 pm, ROM; Tuesday (May 4), 1: 30 pm, Cumberland 3.
ñLIFE WITH MUR
DER (John Kastner, Canada). 93 minutes. Rating:
NNNNN John Kastner’s exceptional film has everything a hot doc needs: an almost unbelievable situation, great characters and superb storytelling.
When, thanks to clear- cut evidence, Mason Jenkins was convicted of murdering his sister, he insisted he was innocent. His parents believed him. Despite being shunned in their Chatham community and having lost their daughter, they continue to support their son even to this day.
Police interviews, recorded telephone calls and extensive interviews with the case’s detectives construct an astonishing picture of unconditional love. And Kastner leaks key information at just the right times to keep us riveted. SGC • Saturday (May 1), 9: 45 pm, Isabel Bader; May 9, 3: 45 pm, Bloor.
MARK (Mike Hoolboom, Canada). 70 minutes.
Rating: NNN The short life of Mike Hoolboom’s editor, Mark Karbusicky, who hanged himself at the age of 35, is celebrated in this feature- length memorial, which mixes testimonials from his still shaken family, friends and co-workers with footage shot in happier times. The people Karbusicky left behind clearly miss him terribly – it’s heart- rending to watch partner Mirha- Soleil Ross speak of finding his body – but the picture Hoolboom provides is strangely blurry. It’s as though his subject resists being understood, even now. NW
• Saturday (May 1), 9: 45 pm, Royal; May 9, 9: 30 pm, Isabel Bader. Sunday, May 2 DREAMLAND (Þorfinnur Guðnason, Andri Snær Magnason, Iceland). 89 minutes. Subtitled. Rating: NN Have you ever wanted to agree with an agit- prop documentary but weren’t sure it merited your support? That’s how I felt about Dreamland. It’s a hectoring, hand-wringing look at Iceland’s attempts to stabilize its economy over the last decade by jumping into bed with multinational corporations, including American aluminum manufacturer Alcoa. The doc relies on creepy musical cues and questionable talking- head footage to make us mistrustful of the politicians and industrialists who glide across the screen promising prosperity.
But emotional arguments are no substitute for factual ones. I’m hoping there was more substance to co- director Andri Snær Magnason’s original book. NW • Sunday (May 2), 3: 30 pm, Bloor; Tuesday (May 4), 2
pm, Isabel Bader. LA BELLE VISITE (Jean-François Caissy, Canada). 80 minutes. Subtitled. Rating: NNN This spare observational piece tracks 12 seniors living in a retirement home located in a one-time motel on a large lake somewhere in Quebec. They are middle class and well attended to – this is a not an exposé of gross conditions – but like all aging people, their lives are slowly shrinking.
Jean- François Caissy may have chosen too many subjects for us to connect to any of them. And they seem to have made no friendships or connections at the residence, which isn’t typical of retirement home existence.
But that sense of disconnection may be exactly what the director’s after. SGC • Sunday (May 2), 3: 45 pm, Cumberland 3; Tuesday (May 4), 7 pm, Innis Town Hall.
ñBUDRUS (Julia Bacha, U. S./Palestine/Israel). 82 minutes. Subtitled. Rating: NNNN Budrus demonstrates that non-violent demonstrations can still work. Julia Bacha’s film recounts the resistance against the Israeli government’s plan to plow through Palestinian olive groves and erect an imposing wall. The irony is that the wall, meant to protect citizens by separation, managed to unify Palestinians and the Israelis who rallied to their cause.
The film occasionally suffers from selective editing and zooms in too close as if to avoid a bigger picture. However, you can’t help but be moved by in-themoment ground-zero footage that shows picketers squaring off against armed soldiers. RS • Sunday (May 2), 4 pm, Isabel Bader; Monday (May 3), 7:15 pm, ROM.
ñLISTEN TO THIS (Juan Baquero, Canada). 76 minutes. Rating: NNNN Listen To This introduces us to extroverted singer Whitney, shy and gifted writer Jasmine and finally Donta, a troublemaker with a big talent for rapping. All three kids attend the Firgrove School in the Jane- Finch corridor and are involved in a 16-week after-school program that gets them composing and performing songs about their lives.
Under the guidance of several musicians, including jazz artist Thompson Egbo- Egbo and rapper/producer Stokes, the children gradually gain confidence. It’s a lesson for the adults as well, particularly in a scene where the kids recount the violence they live with on a daily basis. I dare you not to cry when Jasmine, encouraged by Stokes, admits she’s an artist. Simply told but inspiring.
Sunday (May 2), 7 pm, Royal; May 9, 4: 30 pm, Royal.
Go ahead and take The Oath, about two al Qaeda members.
Disco And Atomic War drills its point home.
Budrus shows that non-violent protest can work.