- Category: Movie Reviews
- Written by Gilbert Seah
HOT DOCS 2017 - Toronto
Hot Docs Toronto is supposedly the largest documentary film festival in North America. It begins April 27th. Though a single regular ticket is pricey at $17, there are good deals in more are bought in packages. Seniors (60+) and students are given a deal. They see free - for screening before 5 pm.
For more information such as schedule of films and list of films by category, click on the link below:
Here is the ticket information:
Hot Docs 2017 tickets, passes and packages are now on sale.
CraveTV Hot Docs Box Office
605 Bloor Street West, Toronto, ON M6G 1K6
March 21 - April 26: 11:00 AM - 7:00 PM (week days), 11:00 AM - 5:00 PM (weekends)
April 27 - May 7: 10:00 AM - 9:00 PM
Regular Tickets: $17
Premium Tickets: $22 - $24
FREE Daytime Screenings
Courtesy of documentary Channel
Seniors (60+) and students with valid ID can take advantage of free admission to films that start before 5:00 p.m. Pick up your tickets at the screening venue’s box office on the day of the screening, subject to availability.
CAPSULE REVIEWS of selected documentaries:
78/52 (USA 2017) ****
Directed by Alexandre O. Philippe
78/52 offers an unprecedented look at the iconic shower scene in Alfred Hitchcock's PSYCHO - the "man behind the curtain" and the screen murder that profoundly changed the course of world cinema. The famous shower scene - the opening and closing of the bathroom door; the water streaming from the shower; the curtain slowly pulling apart; the repeated stabbing; the blood flowing down the bath; the door bathroom door slamming shut. The entire scene’s storyboard with the script is read aloud (and also the pages of the novel of the same name by Robert Block, illustrating the differences) to the audience as the scene, unfolds one step at a time, offering a fresh insight. The contribution of both Edward Hermann to the music and George Tomasini to the sound effects are detailed in the film, providing more insight and pleasure to the cineaste. The film includes clips of films that have been influenced by Hitchcock. Director Philippe (DOC OF THE DEAD) has done thorough and detailed research on Hitchcock and the shower scene and it shows. The result is one of the best and most insightful documentaries on the techniques of the Master of Suspense.
ASK THE SEXPERT (USA 2017) ***
Directed by Vaihali Sinha
The sexpert of the film is the columnist a 91-year old retired gynaecologist, Dr. Watsa of the Mumbai Times who has a column for years running that answers questions about sex. Despite sex being a taboo topic in that country, the column’s brand of non-moralistic advice and humor has emboldened many to write in with their questions, the vast majority of whom seek basic information. Director Sinha follows the doctor often at work, as he sees patients or while he sitting by his computer dishing out often comical advice. The film diverges to sex education in India and how Indians should be taught sex. There will be objections - those for the sex education curriculum and for Dr. Watsa’s column. It is not surprising that the angry people are always women. Sinha keeps her film light and flavourful. While entertaining, ASK THE SEXPERT opens eyes on sex education in the huge continent of India.
A CAMBODIAN SPRING (UK 2017) ***1/2
Directed by Chris Kelly
There are serious docs and and there are hilarious docs at HOT DOCS 2017. A CAMBODIAN SPRING is one of the more serious docs of the festival dealing with one of the most serious issues facing people today - human rights and human rights in a country that is corrupted, inhuman and cruel. The country is Cambodia and writer/producer/director/editor Chris Kelly gives his audience an intimate and unique portrait of three people (among them a monk and a resident of a home around a lake stolen by the Government) caught up in the chaotic and often violent development that is shaping modern-day Cambodia. The film, shot over six years, charts the growing wave of land-rights protests that led to the ‘Cambodian spring’ and the tragic events that followed. This film is about the complexities – both political and personal, of fighting for what one believes in. The film educates the world to the real Cambodia. There are unforgettable images on display here - like children taking to the streets and a bloodied injured old woman.
DO DONKEYS ACT? (United Kingdom/Canada/Ireland/United States 2016) ***
Directed by Ashley Sabin and David Redmon
It has to happen eventually - a documentary on donkeys from the donkey’s point of view.
The film’s ethno-poetic-animal-fiction takes its playfully self-reflexive cues from Jean Rouch and Chris Marker. Encouraging the audience to respect a major language barrier the audience might not otherwise consider––the mystery and intrigue of donkey utterances––DO DONKEYS ACT? invites the audience to "step into their shade, listen closely" as we attune to a series of dramatic performances in which one’s eavesdrop on donkeys speaking amongst themselves. Narrated by Willem Dafoe, this tactic is amusing but sometimes, simplicity is the key. Though it might seem trivial to learn more about donkeys, curiosity eventually has its day in this occasionally fascinating portrayal of the neglected animal who is still part of God’s animal Kingdom. Everything you wanted to know that happens inside a donkey sanctuary. The film was shot in several docket sanctuaries including the one in Guelph, Ontario. Present during Hot Docs will be Co-Director David Redmon.
INTEGRAL MAN (Canada 2016) ***
Directed by Joseph Clement
As this reviewer teaches mathematics at a college in Toronto, it is expected that INTEGRAL MAN be selected as a documentary to be reviewed. The human subject of INTEGRAL MAN is Jim Stewart, the most published mathematician since Euclid, a man of unparalleled ambition. His books are sold the world over. But this man is also a music lover. Stewart set out to create one of the most renowned pieces of residential architecture in North America and succeeded, demonstrating the perfect match between client and architect. The other subject of the film is this residence, overlooking a ravine in Rosedale, Toronto which the film spends more than half the time showcasing. Unbeknownst to Jim however, an unexpected turn of events is set to unfold. He is diagnosed with cancer. The film is a worthy tribute to a man who has devoted his life to music and has paid back his dues to that art from. Beware! The film is full of glorified decadence!
LET THERE BE LIGHT (Canada/France/Italy/Switzerland/USA 2017) ***
Directed by Mila Aung-Thwin & Van Royko
This documentary attempts to answer the question: Can mankind create a small sun on Earth? The purpose, to develop a clean, safe and unlimited power, has been an obsession for scientists and inventors for centuries, and an underlying preoccupation for society as a whole. For decades, fusion has been delayed and thwarted by failure, miscalculation, fraud and politics. But today, fusion is being pursued with a renewed zeal. The film explains the process of fusion, as simply as possible to the audience, assumed to know nothing about Physics. But as the film progresses, the doc gets bogged with the details of scientists explaining all the different processes involved in the collaboration, that according to the directors is taking place among 37 countries. At times, the film plays like an educational piece slotted for schools. Still, the doc is educational, even if not always entertaining. The funniest segment involves a 40-year old native of Bowen island (Canada) working alone on his fusion reactor in his garage. Director Aung-Thwin and Royko do their best to get her audience to identity with the subject. Attending Hot Docs will be director Mila Aung-Thwin and Physicist Michel Laberge.
PACmen (USA 2017) ***
Directed by Luke Walker
Not to be confused with Pacman the video game, PACmen is a group, as introduced at the start of the film that has access to almost unlimited funds. This observational documentary called PACmen, directed, producer, and written by Luke Walker, follows the people behind the Super-PACs that persuaded Dr. Ben Carson to run for President. This is all true and Ben Carson is seen often in debate with now President of the United States Donald Trump, who was then just a competitive candidate. This makes the film more interesting though the audience now knows who won the Presidency. Believing Carson can save the Republican Party, they successfully draft him to run, raise millions of dollars and catapult him to the top of the polls. However, as Carson’s political inexperience begins to show (he know nothing about the Middle East, which is really sad), his constant media gaffes make fundraising increasingly difficult. Donors and voters abandon Carson’s campaign as wallets close, hearts open and faith is tested. As Trump inexplicably rises, the campaign descends into chaos and the PACmen begin to wonder… did they pick the wrong saviour? Walker’s documentary would be more relevant if the PACmen picked a winner instead of a loser. This is an example of the luck of the draw.
PECKING ORDER (New Zealand 2017) ***
Directed by Slavko Martinov
Witten and directed by Slavko Martinov, PECKING ORDER is literally about the pecking order of chickens. The setting is Christchurch, New Zealand - the 148-year old Christchurch Poultry , Bantam and Pigeon Club. The subject is competitive poultry pageantry as a highly entertaining hobby—it’s an obsession. For members of Christchurch Poultry, Bantam and Pigeon Club in New Zealand, it’s also way of life. Among the members are Seniors Beth Inwood and President Doug Bain who have tasted the glory of raising perfect rosecomb cockerels and rumpless pullets. Most of the members are old. But Martinov injects some fresh blood into the film with newbie teenagers Rhys Lilley and Sarah Bunton (though they do not impress me as the brightest of kids) enjoying the fun. But there appears to be trouble in paradise. Feathers start to fly when infighting breaks out in the club during the run-up to the 2015 National Poultry Show. The film traces the change of presidency while highlighting the chooks National Show as its climax. Still the film is totally fun, shallow that it appears to be, but perhaps some of life lessons can be learnt from watching these chicken lovers. There is always something amusing when one hears chicken clucking.
SHINERS (Canada 2017) ***1/2
Directed by Stacey Tenenbaum
SHINERS in this documentary are the men and women who make their living cleaning our shoes. Director Tenenbaum takes her audience from New York to Tokyo and beyond including La Paz in Bolivia. Toronto is also included. Before you can dismiss shoe shining as a degrading menial job or the film as an irrelevant one, SHINERS is surprisingly one of the brightest and happiest docs on show. It is akin to the satisfied face of a customer after seeing his footwear clean and shiny for the first time. The film also demonstrates the different cultures with reference to shining. In Bolivia, these shiners cover their faces so as not to be recognized. In Japan, one shiner dresses in a suit charging his customers as much as $25 a shine, but a beer is included in the deal. The film also shows the reasons these people are doing this job - be it the freedom, supporting their families or just being happy, as one college educated lady shiner confesses. Guaranteed! You will never look at a shoe shiner the same way again! The most important thing about the film is that the film teaches respect for every human being. The smile on the face of Vincent, the shoeshiner in Toronto featured in the doc at the end says it all.
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