While Black Sheep is not going to be covering the 2010 Toronto Hot Docs film festival directly, it is still our great pleasure to preview some of the titles that will be featured this year. Founded in 1993, the Hot Docs festival is committed to presenting over 150 of the best documentaries floating around the festival circuit. This year is no exception as the festival showcases docs from directors as famous as Steven Soderbergh and Alex Gibney, as well as giving voice to local filmmakers and marginalized filmmakers the world over. As is true with the documentary approach itself, Hot Docs is interested in the truth in its purest form and that is what you will get.
Even though I cannot attend the festival as much as I’d like to, the festival organizers were kind enough to send me a bunch of screeners to help you weed through what may or may not be great in this year’s 11-day festival schedule. And so begins Black Sheep’s Hot Docs 2010 Preview …
Directed by Thomas Balmes
Screenings: Thursday, April 29, 6:30 PM, Wintergarden Theatre
Friday, April 30, 1:45 PM, Isabel Bader Theatre
It is no fun to start off a preview with an unfavourable review for the opening film, especially when that film is about the world’s most precious resource, babies. The trailer for this BABIES, which has a theatrical run scheduled for May 7, is adorable. I found the film itself insufferable though, which might mean I have no soul. I realize what a monster that makes me sound like but I’m really not. I just don’t see the point in following around four newborns in four very different locations throughout the world when, if I want to see a baby just being cute, I can visit any number of my friends. It's like watching BARAKA with babies, except nowhere near as striking and nowhere near as effective. It’s just kids being kids with no outside explanation as to why we’re watching. After about ten minutes, these babies get pretty tired and you remember fairly quickly why you stopped babysitting years ago. It did give me concern though; if I couldn’t handle these babies for an hour and twenty minutes, how am I going to handle my own at some point?
I SHOT MY LOVE
Directed by Tomer Heymann
Screenings: Tuesday, May 4, 7:30 PM, The Royal Cinema
Thursday, May 6, 4:15 PM, Cumberland
Tomer Heymann found some great appreciation after his last documentary, PAPER DOLLS, about a group of Filipino transvestites who emigrate to Israel to take care of old Jewish men, was honoured at the Berlin International Film Festival, picking up both audience and jury prizes alike. For his follow up project, Heymann decided to turn the camera on himself or, more accurately, on those that he loves. He meets Andreas Merk, a German dancer one night while he is in Berlin for the festival and they fall in love. He spends the next while filming that process by keeping the camera on his boyfriend and asking him leading questions that are clearly meant to spark a big debate about how complicated their relationship should be considering he’s Jewish and Andreas is German. Thankfully, Andreas is cute and fun to watch but I SHOT MY LOVE rarely feels genuine, which means the love he supposedly shot rarely comes through.
LIFE WITH MURDER
Directed by John Kastner
Screenings: Saturday, May 1, 9:45 PM, Isabel Bader Theatre
Sunday, May 9, 3:45 PM, Bloor Cinema
Of all the screeners I was sent for this festival, this was the one I put off to the end. It was the longest, first of all, which makes me sound incredibly lazy but hey. It was also the most potentially depressing of the bunch. LIFE WITH MURDER tells the story of a Chatham, Ontario family torn apart by a chilling tragedy. Mom and Dad come home to find their daughter murdered and their son missing. Soon enough, it becomes clear that their son may have killed their daughter. He is arrested, tried and convicted of the murder but yet his parents never leave his side. This film forces you to think hard about family and forgiveness but never lets you ignore the possibility of misplaced trust and the dangers of blind faith. Having been too young to remember this case in the news, watching the details be revealed in this film horrified me. It is not an easy experience but still a brilliant one.
Directed by Mike Hoolboom
Screenings: Saturday, May 1, 9:45 PM, The Royal Cinema
Sunday, May 9, 9:30 PM, Isabel Bader Theatre
I’m new to Toronto but I imagine that there will be a strong amount of local interest in MARK, a sensitive and touching portrait of now deceased activist, Mark Karbusicky. Without any previous knowledge of who Mark was, it is pretty easy to understand why people loved him – and love him they did. By piecing together childhood photographs, found footage and interviews with friends and loved ones, director, Mike Hoolboom, is able to create a palpable sense of who Mark was and what he valued. I can’t be certain whether it was Hoolboom’s intention to leave the details of why Mark killed himself vague but the result is that we spend more time focusing on his life than his death, which is more honourable anyway. MARK presents a handful of very real people with very real emotions that stay with you and make you wish you had been lucky enough to know Mark too.
THE “SOCALLED” MOVIE
Directed by Garry Beitel
Screenings: Sunday, May 2, 9:15, Bloor Cinema
Tuesday, May 4, 11:30 AM, ROM Theatre
This one is particularly difficult to describe. I lived in Montreal my whole life and I never heard of this guy. After seeing Garry Beitel’s NFB production, THE “SOCALLED MOVIE”, I wish I had heard of him a long time ago. The guy I’m talking about is a man by the name of Josh Dolgin, who goes by the moniker, “Socalled”. Dolgin is 32, gay and Jewish, and he spends his days as either a hip-hop artist, a filmmaker or a magician. The music he creates is a blend of funk, hip-hop and klesmer music and he brings it to people everywhere who want to transcend the cultural limitations of the music while still appreciating the history these cultures bring. He is pretty direct about how he is more a behind the scenes guy than anything else but it is his undeniable genius and incredible drive that propel him inevitably to the forefront of everything he does. And why does he do it? Simply put, because he can. We should all try because we can is how he sees it. And speaking of seeing it, you all should definitely see THE “SOCALLED MOVIE”.
Directed by Nicolas Sherman
Screenings: Sunday, May 2, 6:45, ROM Theatre
Tuesday, May 4, 4:30 PM, Cumberland
Sunday, May 9, 4:00, Innis Town Hall
Gordon Hempton needs you to be very quiet. He has unheard wonders of beauty just waiting to share with you but you first need to learn how to actually hear them. Don’t be concerned that you may not be able to. Even Hempton himself didn’t learn to hear properly until he was 27. It’s not that he had any hearing disabilities; no, it was rather an inability to be still and truly just listen. SOUNDTRACKER, tracks Hempton, a professional nature sound recordist, on one of his sound journeys. Director, Nicolas Sherman faced the difficult task of making a movie about sound. He needed to allow the time for the audience to take in all the layers of Hempton’s discovered soundscapes without sacrificing the image or his own artistic expression. And just like the delicate balance between the song of a bird and a passing whistle-blowing train – the symphony we follow Hempton in hopes to find – Sherman finds the perfect sweet spot.
Well, that's all I have, preview-wise, that is. Before I go though, I would like to mention that the National Film Board of Canada has decided to make their collection of over 5500 films completely available for free to screen at the NFB Mediatheque, as of May 1. This great offer applies to both the Toronto and Montreal locations and should be taken advantage of as often as possible. The timing could not be better for tourists in Toronto for Hot Docs so don't miss out. The NFB Mediatheque in Toronto is located at 150 John Street, just near the Scotiabank Theatre.
Enjoy Hot Docs everybody!
For tickets, just click the Hot Docs link.