S&M: Short and Male at Hot Docs 2008

Hot Docs: Even More of What to Watch

Hot Docs kicks off this week, and while Tim gave you a fantastic preview of what to watch yesterday, if you're still looking for a few more recommendations, here's a fresh list of seven films that weren't on yesterday's picks.

Top Pick

Standard Operating Procedure — Picking an Errol Morris documentary might be the fashionable and predictable thing to do, but Morris' most recent film is breathtakingly powerful. Detailing the atrocities at Abu Ghraib and going deep into the minds of the people that were in the middle of the abuse, Standard Operating Procedure is disturbing and enlightening at the same time. The accompanying film website is pretty powerful itself.


Triage: Dr. James Orbinski's Humanitarian Dilemma — Documentaries very rarely are superhero movies, as those kinds of films usually belong to the realm of fiction. Triage, however, is a superhero film at its best: Dr. James Orbinski, former president of Médecins Sans Frontières, is really out there to save the world, and the obstacles he has to face are scarier than any supervillain. Disheartening and uplifting at the same time, this would fall under my "highly recommended" category if I had one.

S&M: Short and Male — I'll admit that I may have enjoyed this film more than most because I am short and male myself, but Howard Goldberg's documentary about height discrimination is humorous and poignant. There are moments in the film that seem too heavy-handed and too political, but in general S&M is an excellent and funny look at how us short guys have trouble getting jobs, service, respect, and —most importantly— women.

The English Surgeon — It's hard to make brain surgery glamorous, and luckily Geoffrey Smith doesn't try to do that with his documentary about brain surgeon Henry Marsh and his work in the Ukraine. What he does, instead, is to pair a stunning score by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis (some of the best music at Hot Docs this year?) with a heartbreaking story about surgeons and patients and the difficulty of being responsible for people's lives.

Air India 182 — It has now been almost 23 years since the Air India tragedy, and until now, there really hasn't been an earth-shattering film treatment of the incident. There are people my age who haven't even heard of the incident, so Sturla Gunnarsson's documentary is not only timely, but much needed. There isn't much in the film that most of us probably don't already know, but the first-person accounts in Air India 182 make this doc a valuable film to add to the Canadian archive.

All Together Now — The six-year-old child in me may be coming out here, but lots of pretty colors and vibrant music is a sure-fire recipe to hold my attention. This documentary on Cirque du Soleil's Vegas show Love is full of visual and aural treats, as is in any show by Cirque, but also shows us a side of the production we're not used to seeing: grappling with budgets, permissions, casting, and all the doldrums of circus life.

Not Recommended

The Unbearable Whiteness of Being — Faisal Aziz's film is by no means a bad one. Instead, my main gripe with it is that, at 11 minutes, it doesn't have enough substance to effectively tackle its important subject matter: skin lightening in the South Asian community. The Unbearable Whiteness of Being brings up some good questions regarding the politics of skin tone, but does little to address and probe those questions. I'm waiting for Aziz to turn this film into a longer, full-length doc before recommending it this time.

Stay tuned to blogTO for more picks, more contests, and more Hot Docs goodness in the next few weeks.

Photo: Promotional still from S&M: Short and Male.

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