HOT DOCS FILM FEST REVIEWS

DOC ON, DUDES! OVER THE NEXT 11 DAYS, ONE OF THE WORLD’S BIG­GEST DOC­U­MEN­TARY FES­TI­VALS ROLLS OUT DOZENS OF PRE­MIERES. HERE ARE REVIEWS OF THE BIG-BUZZ FILMS AND THE TINY GEMS YOU SHOULDN'T MISS.

NOW Magazine - Hot Docs - - Hot Docs Film Fest Guide - By NOR­MAN WILNER, SUSAN G. COLE, GLENN SUMI , RAD­HEYAN SI­MON­PIL­LAI and AN­DREW PARKER

AI WEI­WEI: NEVER SORRY

(Ali­son Klay­man, USA, China). 91 min­utes. Subti­tled. Rat­ing: See in­ter­view and re­view, page 10. Apr 26, 6: 30 pm, Bloor Hot Docs Cin­ema; Apr 26, 9: 30 pm, Bloor Hot Docs Cin­ema; Apr 28, 4:15 pm, TIFF Bell Light­box 1.

THE KID AND THE CLOWN

(Ida Grøn, Den­mark). 53 min­utes. Subti­tled. Rat­ing: Emotionally drain­ing and only as long as it needs to be, this look at Dan­ish chil­dren’s hos­pi­tal clown An­gus and his bond with young pa­tient To­bias, who’s bat­tling can­cer and has only a 30 per cent chance of sur­viv­ing, does a great job of show­ing how hard it can be to put on a happy face for work ev­ery day.

It can be hard to watch To­bias un­dergo painful chemo­ther­apy and pine to feel bet­ter, but An­gus lets us know it’s okay to feel some­thing even if

has to stay dis­tant be­cause of his job. His on- cam­era re­marks and con­fes­sions feel like years of cathar­sis com­ing out all at once. Apr 27, 1: 30 pm, Is­abel Bader The­atre; Apr 28, 1: 30 pm, TIFF Bell Light­box 3; May 5, 2 pm, TIFF Bell Light­box 3.

THE IN­VIS­I­BLE WAR

(Kirby Dick, USA). 99 min­utes. Subti­tled. Rat­ing: Hav­ing con­fronted an abu­sive Catholic priest in Twist Of Faith and clos­eted anti­gay law­mak­ers in Out­rage, di­rec­tor Kirby Dick ad­dresses another ob­scene abuse of au­thor­ity in The In­vis­i­ble War: the cul­ture of rape that ex­ists within the U. S. armed forces.

Dick and pro­ducer Amy Zier­ing open with the statis­tic that ap­prox­i­mately 20% of women in the mil­i­tary have been sex­u­ally as­saulted while serv­ing – and pro­ceed to show how that’s pos­si­ble, de­pict­ing a cul­ture of al­pha- male en­ti­tle­ment fur­ther en­abled by a mil­i­tary struc­ture that blames the vic­tim and dis­cour­ages the fil­ing of com­plaints. ( A rape vic­tim can be charged with adul­tery if her rapist is mar­ried.)

It’s an im­por­tant, in­fu­ri­at­ing work. The tes­ti­mo­ni­als from as­saulted ser­vice­women and men should be screened on a loop in re­cruit­ing of­fices around the world. Apr 27, 3: 30 pm, Bloor Hot Docs Cin­ema; Apr 28, 9 pm, ROM The­atre; May 5, 3:15 pm, Bloor Hot Docs Cin­ema.

THE AM­BAS­SADOR

(Mads Brüg­ger, Den­mark). 94 min­utes. Rat­ing: After in­fil­trat­ing North Korea as a phony comic in his last film, Dan­ish jour­nal­ist Mads Brüg­ger seeks to ex­pose just how eas­ily diplo­matic ac­cred­i­ta­tion can be pur­chased in Africa for the pur­poses of smug­gling and il­le­gal trad­ing. From set­ting up back­room deals with crooked con­suls and bro­kers to cre­at­ing his own front op­er­a­tion in the Cen­tral African Repub­lic, he crafts a coal-black com­edy that gets ex­po­nen­tially more dan­ger­ous the deeper he goes.

The film plays things almost too straight at times, mak­ing Brüg­ger seem far from like­able and even a bit racist. It’s hard to tell what’s gen­uine and what’s man­u­fac­tured. But the up- close look at a blood- di­a­mond mine and the wit and chills in hid­den- cam­era in­ter­views carry lots of weight. Apr 27, 4 pm, Is­abel Bader The­atre; May 4, 4: 45 pm, TIFF Bell Light­box 2; May 5, 9 pm, Re­gent.

PRI­VATE UNI­VERSE

(He­lena Trestikova, Czech Repub­lic). 83 min­utes. Subti­tled. Rat­ing: In 1974, He­lena Trestikova made a doc­u­men­tary about Jana and Petr Ket­tnerova, a Czech cou­ple about to have their first child. Trestikova stayed in touch with the Ket­tnerovas over the decades, and this is the story of their fam­ily as told through films, videos, photographs and Petr’s ex­haus­tive di­aries.

It works as a metaphor for re­cent Czech his­tory. Their el­dest son, Honza, be­comes an an­ar­chist, a dropout and a pot­head (in that or­der); the Soviet regime comes and goes. Through it all, Jana and Petr main­tain a pleas­ant sta­bil­ity. It’s in­trigu­ing to watch the fam­ily grow up right in front of you, but the lin­ear or­ga­ni­za­tion packs a lot of birthdays and Christ­mases into an hour and a half. Apr 27, 6 pm, TIFF Bell Light­box 3; Apr 29, 1 pm, TIFF Bell Light­box 3.

ETHEL

(Rory Kennedy, USA). 97 min­utes. Subti­tled. Rat­ing: Kennedy junkies will go wild for this ten­der love let­ter to Robert Kennedy’s wife, Ethel Skakel Kennedy.

The gold here is the archival footage (the wealthy Kennedy and Skakel clans took mas­sive quan­ti­ties of home movies) and the film gets added emo­tional punch from hav­ing been made by Robert and Ethel’s youngest child, Rory,

who never met her fa­ther; Ethel was preg­nant when her hus­band was as­sas­si­nated. In­ter­views with Ethel and her chil­dren flesh out the por­trait.

Un­for­tu­nately, the doc makes the fa­tal er­ror of con­cen­trat­ing almost en­tirely on her life while Robert was alive. Ethel raised her 11 kids – you read that right – and has been fur­ther­ing her own per­sonal causes for over 40 years since his death in 1968. Apr 27, 6: 30 pm, Is­abel Bader The­atre; Apr 28, 11 am, Is­abel Bader The­atre; May 6, 6: 30 pm, TIFF Bell Light­box 1.

MOM AND ME

(Danic Cham­poux, Canada). 52 min­utes. Subti­tled. Rat­ing: Danic Cham­poux com­bines grotesque an­i­mated se­quences and in­ter­views with peo­ple with var­ied per­spec­tives (in­ves­ti­ga­tory, jour­nal­is­tic, as­tro­log­i­cal, his mother) to recre­ate his child­hood ob­ses­sion with the Hell’s An­gels in SorelTracy, Que­bec, north­east of Mon­treal.

Fo­cus­ing on the rise and fall of An­gels leader Mau­rice “Mom” Boucher ham­pers the film’s later mo­ments, and the over-the-top an­i­mated recre­ations are silly rather than shock­ing, but over­all this is an en­ter­tain­ing por­trait of a de­pressed neigh­bour­hood run by hoods. Apr 27, 6: 30 pm, Cum­ber­land 2; Apr 29, 3: 30 pm, TIFF Bell Light­box 4.

MY THAI BRIDE

(David Tucker, Aus­tralia). 54 min­utes. Subti­tled. Rat­ing: UK busi­ness­man Ted (his line of work is, un­for­tu­nately, never re­vealed) loves his Thai­land trips, es­pe­cially the sex tourism. When he meets Tip, who’s work­ing at a bar, she’s help­ful and car­ing. Soon, he’s liq­ui­dated all his as­sets, moved to Thai­land, mar­ried her, fi­nanced a pig farm and built them a house. Thai laws re­strict for­eign own­er­ship, so Ted naively puts all his hold­ings in Tip’s name.

He’s a sad case, vir­tu­ally in­vis­i­ble to women in his coun­try of ori­gin and look­ing for love in all the wrong places. She moved into the sex trade after work­ing three years for $ 4 a day at a plas­tics fac­tory and re­al­iz­ing she’d never make enough money there to change the life of her young daugh­ter. So who’s ex­ploit­ing whom? View­points shift so quickly, it’s an almost dizzy­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. This doc is a les­son in neu­tral­ity. Apr 27, 7 pm, Innis Town Hall; Apr 28, 4: 30 pm, TIFF Bell Light­box 2; May 5, 4 pm, Re­gent.

TIL­MAN IN PAR­ADISE

(Ju­lian Vo­gel, Ger­many). 27 min­utes. Subti­tled. Rat­ing: In Ju­lian Vo­gel’s short, a mid­dle-aged Ger­man bar­tender named Til­man tries to find love in a brothel called Par­adise. Claim­ing to be too shy to talk to women in every­day cir­cum­stances, he fre­quents Par­adise (at con­sid­er­able ex­pense) to court the work­ing girls, look­ing for one who might of­fer more than sex.

What starts out as an in­ter­est­ing flip on the stereo­type of the ma­nip­u­la­tive pros­ti­tute – here, the client is the one look­ing to trap some­one into a longterm re­la­tion­ship – grows more com­plex, and some­what more un­set­tling, the more time we spend with Til­man. It’s a strong character study that makes the most of its com­pact run­ning time. Apr 27, 7 pm, Innis Town Hall; Apr 28, 4: 30 pm, TIFF Bell Light­box 2; May 5, 4 pm, Re­gent.

WHERE HEAVEN MEETS HELL

(Sasha Fried­lan­der, USA). 80 min­utes. Subti­tled. Rat­ing: Sasha Fried­lan­der’s doc on In­done­sian sul­phur min­ers is worth a look for the strik­ing cin­e­matog­ra­phy alone. Con­trast­ing the sul­phur’s bright, toxic yel­lows against the mine’s harsh, grey back­drops, the di­rec­tor com­poses Ed­ward Bur­tyn­sky-wor­thy vi­su­als.

Work­ers carry 70 to 90 ki­los of sul­phur on their backs while nav­i­gat­ing their way around Kawah Ijen, an ac­tive vol­cano that would give the WSIB a heart at­tack. The min­ers break their backs and risk their lives for an in­come that doesn’t even pay for a ba­sic ed­u­ca­tion for their chil­dren.

Fried­lan­der al­lows them to speak for them­selves about their lives and dreams, but never de­vel­ops a greater nar­ra­tive or ar­gu­ment. She’s sat­is­fied to sim­ply ob­serve a so­cial in­jus­tice with­out min­ing its greater im­pact. Apr 27, 7 pm, TIFF Bell Light­box 2; Apr 28, 11 am, ROM The­atre; May 5, 7:15 pm, TIFF Bell Light­box 3.

SHE SAID BOOM: THE STORY OF FIFTH COL­UMN

(Kevin Hegge, Canada). 64 min­utes. Rat­ing: Kevin Hegge’s near- ha­gio­graphic doc about the lo­cal founders of the queer­core mu­sic move­ment re­vives the spirit of the 1980s queer art scene in ways that will make you giddy.

Sub­ver­sive all-fe­male out­fit Fifth Col­umn – in­clud­ing GB Jones, Caro­line Azar and Bev­er­ley Breck­en­ridge, all in­ter­viewed here along­side other col­lab­o­ra­tors and scene- mak­ers – chal­lenged art con­ven­tions, gen­der roles and punk’s ho­mo­pho­bia while em­brac­ing mul­ti­me­dia strate­gies and the teen mu­sic sen­si­bil­ity punk loathed.

Kath­leen Hanna of Bikini Kills and Le Ti­gre won­ders why Fifth Col­umn never got credit for help­ing birth the riot girrl move­ment. Truth is, Fifth Col­umn had some self- de­struc­tive habits, not the least of them their ten­dency to fight with each other in­ces­santly.

But, claims Hegge, all that con­flict may have been the fuel for their cre­ativ­ity.

A cool trip down mem­ory lane. Apr 27, 7:15 pm, Royal Cin­ema; May 1, 9 pm, Cum­ber­land 2; May 4, 7 pm, Fox The­atre.

AIDA: A NAT­U­RAL-BORN ARTIST

(Shogo Watan­abe, Ja­pan). 99 min­utes. Subti­tled. Rat­ing: In Ja­pan, the land of con­for­mity and reg­i­men­ta­tion, un­kempt, chain-smoking con­tem­po­rary artist Aida Makoto is an anom­aly, and this fas­ci­nat­ing doc cap­tures him in all his con­tra dic­tions as he pro­cras­ti­nates on two mas­sive projects, one de­pict­ing heaps of dead salary­men.

Makoto doesn’t re­veal much about his process or in­spi­ra­tions – he seems ob­sessed with sailor-suited girls – but Shogo Watan­abe’s cam­era catches ev­ery­thing, in­clud­ing his loving if slightly frus­trated artist wife, a son who seems to have in­her­ited his dad’s ADHD, and what it’s like to live a bo­hemian life in mid­dle age. Apr 27, 7:15 pm, TIFF Bell Light­box 4; Apr 28, 1:15 pm, Cum­ber­land 3; May 5, 1:15 pm, Cum­ber­land 3.

HER­MAN’S HOUSE

(An­gad Singh Bhalla, Canada). 81 min­utes. Subti­tled. Rat­ing: Her­man Wal­lace, a mem­ber of the Black Pan­thers, has been in soli­tary con­fine­ment at Louisiana’s An­gola prison since he was ac­cused and later con­victed of killing a guard – in 1972. In 2003, New York artist Jackie Sumell asked Wal­lace what his dream house would look like, re­sult­ing in a project ded­i­cated to imag­in­ing and de­sign­ing that space, along with a replica of the 6- by-9-foot cell in which Wal­lace ac­tu­ally spends his days.

Ne­ces­sity dic­tates that di­rec­tor An­gad Singh Bhalla spends most of his time with Sumell, and as en­gag­ing as she is, the movie suf­fers from the lack of Wal­lace, who’s heard in a phone in­ter­view and glimpsed in a few old pho­tos. We’re sup­posed to feel his ab­sence, of course, but Bhalla strug­gles with that more than he should. Apr 27, 9 pm, TIFF Bell Light­box 1; May 2, 9:15 pm, ROM The­atre; May 6, 9: 30 pm, TIFF Bell Light­box 2.

THE IN­VIS­I­BLE WAR

ETHEL

MY THAI BRIDE

AIDA: A NAT­U­RAL-BORN ARTIST

SHE SAID BOOM: THE STORY OF FIFTH COL­UMN

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