This Week in Film: Hot Docs Edition
The 18th edition of the Hot Docs Film Festival is in full swing this week, and blogTO is most definitely on board. We've reviewed over 38 films so far and are now shuttling from venue to venue in search of the absolute best films of the festival. While you can look forward to our coming round up of the best and worst in a few days, for now take a gander at our top picks (so far) for the week.
All films listed here have NOT gone rush as 11:59pm on May 1st.
MONDAY MAY 2ND - EMPIRE NORTH - BLOOR CINEMA - 9:15PM
Danish artist Jakob Boeskov pulled off quite a stunt in 2001. After 9/11, he built a sniper gun designed to shoot GPS sensors into demonstrators; the pricks of the sensors penetrating the skin feeling like a mild mosquito bite. The gun was a fake, but the flocks of technology developers and international arms dealers were not. Hilarious and terrifying, it's like a performance-art James Bond film, only with real stakes. Raises provocative questions left and right, while also succeeding in turning the idea into an entertaining fiction. (BW)
TUESDAY MAY 3RD - PEOPLE IN WHITE - CUMBERLAND 3 - 1:30PM
I didn't have high expectations before watching People in White, but I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of this film. I'll be honest, it's not exactly a fun movie to watch, but it does a phenomenal job of tackling a tough issue. The film portrays the experiences of mental care patients through their own words and reenactments, and explores the unique relationships they have with their physicians from the patients' perspectives. It was definitely an eye-opener. (CC)
WEDNESDAY MAY 4TH - DRAGONSLAYER- ROYAL CINEMA - 9:15PM
Most of the time, I fall for docs with a charismatic subject, well constructed story arc, or candid expose - none of which are present in Dragonslayer. That might just be the point. Tristan Patterson's first film captures a genuine "disaffected suburban youth" thing by following Josh "Skreech" Sandoval around. Sandoval offers up a pretty aimless period of his life to the filmmaker, in which his main interests, aside from skateboarding, are romance and bongs. Dragonslayer got nods for best cinematography at SXSW and picked up the grand jury prize for documentary feature. (CM)
THURSDAY MAY 5TH - BUCK - ISABEL BADER - 1:15PM
Yet another horse tale, but one with a lot more human heart than you'd expect. Buck is the story of Buck Brannaman, a horse 'whisperer' of sorts who took the horse training world by storm by introducing his take on a kinder form of horse wrangling. With a woeful backstory which highlights the lack of respect he was brought up with, Buck is funny as well as heartwarming (there's that word again!) and really interesting as the crew follows his clinics and allows us to experience his 'magic' of sorts, a magic that really resides in body language and pride. But a horse comes by at the end of the film which presents a real challenge to Buck, the question arises, is he really able to rehabilitate ANY horse, or are some horses, like people, too broken to be fixed? (DD)
FRIDAY MAY 6TH - WILD HORSE WILD RIDE - BLOOR CINEMA - 6:15PM
What began as a cheesy introduction to a perhaps biased documentary, became a very touching film that eased it's way into my heart. Wild Horse, Wild Ride follows the Extreme Mustang Makeover Challenge, an 100 day quest to take a completely random undomesticated wild Mustang and train it to be a trusting, dexterous horse. The best horses of the bunch can look forward to being auctioned and adopted by impressed new owners and no horse has left without a home. The film follows professionals, amateurs, show men (and one HECK of a show woman) as they compete with each other, themselves and their stubborn mustangs to achieve in 100 days what some might deem impossible in a lifetime. The bonds they make will break your heart when you realize that many of them can't afford to keep their new friends. (DD)
SATURDAY MAY 7TH - BEAUTY DAY - ISABEL BADER 4:15PM
Roof skiing, egg snorting and rocket skateboard, but Canadian? This isn't Jackass, but Cap'n Video, the alter ego of one Ralph Zavadil, a St. Catharines man with a camera, a cable access show and tons of terrible ideas. The once small-town curiousity became (in)famous after a misguided self-recorded stunt landed him in the hospital and was distributed to news media outlets who portrayed him in the wrong light. As his antics post-accident became more desperate, his show was cancelled. But almost two decades later, the temptation arises again, and his long-time fans want to help. Can they do it? With all the flashy/cringe-worthy stunts, Beauty Day surprises as a really well-plotted character story and as the film progresses, Cap'n Video eventually taking a backseat to the more interesting story of Ralph Zavadil himself. (DD)
SUNDAY MAY 8TH - THE BALLAD OF GENESIS AND LADY JAYE - ROM THEATRE - 8:45PM
Are you familiar with the story of Throbbing Gristle-member and performance artist Genesis Breyer P-Orridge? If not, then step right up for one helluva fascinating, gender-bending trip. Genesis and his wife Lady Jaye had an experimental relationship that they termed 'pandrogeny', which saw both partners issue various body modifications to themselves (nose jobs, facelifts, breast implants, etc.) so that they could look like twin hybrids of each other. Sound a bit like Hedwig and the Angry Inch come to life? It kind of is. An assemblage of home videos and films from their time together, plus new footage, the viewing experience gravitates between a chaotic nightmare and a blissful dream. (BW)
Tickets for all Hot Docs films are $14, cash only at the venue on the day of the film, or in advance online, on the phones, or at the advance box office at 131 Bloor St West.
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