Hot Docs 2010

Hot Docs 2010 Preview, Part 3

The 2010 version of Hot Docs is now officially underway with the screenings of Babies and the Rush documentary last night at the Winter Garden. Over the next ten days there will be plenty of more films to be seen. Like previous years, we've had the chance to check out a number of docs in advance. For our reviews so far, check out Part 1 and Part 2 of our Hot Docs Preview.

This is the final preview post for this year's film festival. Unlike previous years when there were some clear standouts like End of The Line and Street Fight, this year I haven't seen anything yet that's really wowed me; but I have watched a number of good docs (and some not as good ones). Here's a list of what I'd recommend and not recommend from what I've seen so far.

RECOMMENDED



Bhutto

This highly anticipated and slickly produced doc not only tells the story of former Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto but also of one of the world's most prominent political families, beginning with the ascendancy and killing of her father, former Prime Minister Zulfikar Bhutto. Directors Duane Baughman and Johnny O'Hara rely heavily on audio footage from the subject herself, but also include exclusive interviews with her husband, daughters and other members of her family. While the doc may not offer too many new details for those familiar with her story it's worth a watch for those wanting to learn more about both Bhutto and the history of her country.

Kings of Pastry

I'm a sucker for food docs which probably makes me more predisposed than most to liking this 84 minute take on the prestigious MOF competition in France. Here, directors Chris Hegedus and DA Pennedbaker follow 3 of the 16 candidates who have qualified for the grueling final that will decide who among them will be crowned the world's best pastry chefs. For anyone who likes cooking shows or is interested in the culinary arts this is a must watch.

The story of Furious Pete

This is a fun doc that tells the tale of Pete Czerwinski, a Toronto-area competitive eating champion. While the backdrop of the story is that Czerwinski once was anorexic, this isn't really an overcoming the odds type of film. Instead, it's just an inside look at one guy's special skill and how it takes him to eating challenges across the US and to local fundraising events where crowds guess how long it's going to take him to eat a tray full of ribs. Make sure to stay until the very end to witness Furious Pete attempt to eat the 72 ounce steak at Lonestar.

Made in India

This doc follows an infertile American couple who decide to use the services of Planet Hospital to find a surrogate in India to give them the child they're unable to bear themselves. What unfolds is a 9 month odyssey from conception to child birth featuring all the central participants along the way including the surrogate, her family, the infertile couple and the agencies in the middle who you can't help but suspect are on the take. The whole thing is depressing, from the shady agencies to the ill-prepared Americans to the surrogate who you just know is going to get ripped off in the end.

A Drummer's Dream

After being approached by Quebec-based percussionist Nasyr Abdul Al-Khabyyr, a collection of the world's most respected drummers came together for a week-long getaway at a remote farm in the Ontario cottage country to host a one-off drummers camp for forty lucky young musicians. The students were treated to lessons from some of the best rock, jazz, Latin, soul, fusion and metal drummers in the world, including Dennis Chambers, Kenwood Dennard, Horacio "El Negro" Hernandez, Giovanni Hidalgo, Raul Rekow and five-time World's Fastest Drummer record-holder Mike Mangini.

Intimate details and ferocious jam sessions were captured by director John Walker, and resulting film offers a rare look at the personalities, philosophies and eccentricities of the people behind behind the kits - musicians that have performed with the likes of Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, Carlos Santana and more. As the energy, passion and talent of dozens of drummers grew over the week, even the director couldn't resist the urge to pick up the sticks and contribute to the explosive final jam session that capped off an unforgettable camping experience. (Matt McAndrew)

NOT RECOMMENDED

Enemies of the People

I wavered about whether to recommend this doc or not but ultimately decided against it because there are simply better made films to be seen at this year's festival. The main problem with Enemies of the People is that it plods, just like some of the farmers and animals in the rural Cambodian towns in which it's based. To be fair, the film should be on the must-see list for anyone interested in the history of Cambodia, Pol Pot and the infamous killing fields. I wish it were better edited because the investigative work here is just astonishing and includes amazing interviews with Brother Number Two - Pol Pot's second in command. Perhaps it's for that reason this film won Sundance's World Cinema Special Jury Prize for Documentary earlier this year.

We Don't Care about Music Anyway

On the Hot Docs web site, this is billed as a look at "Tokyo's world renowned avant-garde music scene" but what it fails to mention is that the doc has almost no dialogue. Only go if you're totally prepared to sit in a dark theatre listening to a variety of screeches and other sounds and then briefly learn that the musicians behind them don't know how to play instruments and were inspired by soundtracks from video games they used to play as a kid. I suppose the best thing I can say is that this is a film you're either going to be totally into or walk out after 5 minutes.



Candyman: The David Klein Story

At last check this was the number 2 most buzzed about film according to the Hot Docs web site. I have no idea why. Well, maybe I do. A documentary about the founder of the Jelly Belly jellybeans sounds promising enough. Too bad the doc is just boring. Sorry jelly bean fans.

See also:

Hot Docs 2010 Preview, Part 2
Hot Docs 2010 Preview, Part 3


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