- Category: Movie Reviews
- Written by Gilbert Seah
HOT DOCS 2014 – Toronto
The 2014 Hot Docs Festival, April 24 to May 4, will feature 197 official selections from 43 countries, and will open with the international premiere of Brian Knappenberger’s The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story Of Aaron Swartz.
Hot Docs tickets, packages, passes, can be purchased online, by phone at 416.637.5150, or in person at the Hot Docs documentary Box Office, newly located at 2 Bloor Street West (Cumberland Terrace – Lower Level).
For more information on this year’s Festival, visit www.hotdocs.ca.
Mr. Busy managed to catch only 4 documentaries, as just returned from vacation. Capsule Reviews follow, hope these will help your picks.
AI WEIWEI: THE FAKE CASE (Denmark 2013) **
Directed by Andreas Johnsen
This is the sequel to the documentary AI WEIWEI hat opened the HOT DOCs festival a few years back. It begins where the last one ends when the Chinese artist is kidnapped by the Government and released after 81 days for the made-up accusation of tax evasion. Johnsen’s tracks Weiwei’s life that follows his release that includes his art and his followers that support him all the way. The government monitors his every move and confiscates his passport but he refuses to be intimidated or portrayed in any way except by his own hand and voice. He firmly believes that “to show you’re alive, you have to speak out” and slowly regains his confidence by finding novel ways to irritate the authorities despite the restrictions of his parole. He assembles a sculpture based on his imprisonment and smuggles it out of the country. There is nothing depicted in this film the world does not really know of the Chinese government. The film runs out of material very fast. Though the audience will clearly sympathize with Weise’s plight, all can be said in about 30 minutes if film.
DIVIDE IN CONCORD (USA 2014) ****
Directed by Kris Kaczar
DIVIDE IN CONCORD documents champion 80 over year old Jean Hill trying to pass the city of Concord’s new bill of banning bottled water. She is deeply concerned about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch—the world’s largest landfill. She spends her golden years attending city council meetings and cold-calling residents. She has failed in 2010 and 2011. But she never gives up. Her fiercest challenge comes from Adriana Cohen, mother, model and celebrity publicist-turned-pundit, who insists the bill, is an attack on freedom. The film also highlights the same town that incited the American Revolution and inspired Thoreau’s environmental movement, can one little old lady make history? Kaczar’s film is, a expected, on Jean’s side as can be observed in the film’s manipulation of events. Jean always has the last say and the arguments to her favor are shown at the end. Adriana is depicted as a rich, conglomerate manipulated individual who has no concern about the planet. Three is an excellent climax at the film’s end where the end vote to the bill is counted. A feel good, well-intentioned and well made film in which the good prevail.
DOC OF THE DEAD (USA 2013) ***
Directed by Alexandre Philippe
Everything you always wanted to know about zombies but never knew what to ask! DOC OF THE DEAD is the definitive documentary about zombies from its origin (the first movie was WHITE ZOMBIE) to its roots in black slavery to its re-invention through George A. Romero’s DAWN OF THE DEAD and NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD movies. There are lots of interviews taken from venues from comicon and zombie conventions that include zombie celebrities like Romero himself, Sid Haig, director Alex Cox, Simon Clegg (director of SHAUN OF THE DEAD) and other notables. The film also records various zombie walks around the world and talks to organization selling zombie survival kits. This is not that far-fetched an idea after diseases like mad-cow and mad-human disease have become widespread. Philippe’s film is quite exhaustive in dealing with its topic. One cannot complain. But the film is truly dedicated to zombie fans all round the world. If you are not one of them, you would find the entire exercise very strange though still fascinating. I could do with a lot more footage of zombie films though.
THE SHEIK (USA 2013) ***
Directed by Igal Hecht
There have been documentaries made of powerful and famous men. But director Igan Hecht’s subject is a common brawny not too bright wrestler known as the Iron Sheik. The film traces his rise to fall to rise to fame in a film that sees a man put through the test of the temptations resulting from fame and fortune. Iran’s Khosrow Vaziri became the World Wrestling Federation’s Iron Sheik and “camel-clutched” his way to fame in the 1980’s, he achieved the American Dream by personifying a foreign villain. Losing his world championship belt to Hulk Hogan became a defining moment in professional wrestling. The death of one of his daughters drove him to a spiral of self destruction. But with the help of Toronto’s Magen brothers, the Sheik begins a road to redemption and renewed status as a public figure. Hecht creates a character on film that is larger and more important than in real life. Finally the audience is given an important lesson on life in the guise of a story of a famous wrestler.
UKRAINE IS NOT A BROTHEL (Ukraine/Australia 2013) **
Directed by Kitty Green
Australian Kitty Green’s documentary initially appears to be an exploration of Ukraine’s nouveau-feminist group Femen. Ukraine is, in fact, the world’s brothel and serves as the center of sex tourism and supplies a steady stream of women to the international sex trade. All that put’s Femen’s rather attention grabbing, topless protests into some context. Sensational as the visuals may be, Femen has a point. But as the film progresses, it is revealed that a couple of the girls are strippers and that the group is masterminded by a man named Victor, the self proclaimed “patriarch of the new feminism.” Then he admits that he maybe came up with the idea of Femen to get laid. The girls turn out on camera to be not too bright so that the entire exercise seems fruitless. If this is director Green’s purpose, it is not obvious to her audience. The film comes across as disorganized and purposeless as the Femen group.