More Hot Docs 2021 – Take Two
Ralph Lucas – Publisher
(April 16, 2021 – Toronto, ON) As promised yesterday, today we continue our look at Canadian films playing in some of the many programs at Hot Docs 2021. We mentioned two films in the World Showcase but didn’t provide any details. The first has the intriguing title Neighbouring the Moon.
Reza Farahmand was born in Birjand, Iran in 1978. He graduated in Agricultural engineering but turned to filmmaking and is mostly known for his documentary films. His first film, Climbing Room was given a First Place Award at the Fajr International Film Festival and also won a Crystal Simorgh for Best Documentary Filmmaker in Valencia, Spain. More recently, Women with Gunpowder Earrings brought him a Best International Director Award from the Locarno Film Festival. Neighbouring the Moon runs 75 minutes and focuses on Syrian sisters Juli and Maryam who, along with their mother have spent the last nine years living in a cramped room inside Aleppo’s biggest hospital. While their mother attends to COVID-19 patients, Juli and Maryam form their own brigade of young hospital helpers. Neighbouring the Moon is about an anything-but-normal family dealing with what seems like an endless war, the scourge of the COVID-19 pandemic while holding onto their dreams of a normal life. This is a Canada-Iran-Syria co-production in Arabic with English subtitles. All Hot Docs films can be screened online across Canada from April 29 to May 9.
Only I Can Hear from director Itaru Matsui is a Japan-Canada co-pro that profiles a remarkable teenager in a very remarkable family. A family that for five generations has produced only deaf children. Nyla, who is 15 when this documentary was shot, is the only one born with the ability to hear. An ability she declares is both a gift and a curse. Nyla is one of four CODA children in this 52-minute doc. CODA stands for Children of Deaf Adults. Only I Can Hear is essentially about communication and finding acceptance in a world that relies on the spoken word.
Systems Down is another Hot Docs program and Dead Man’s Switch a crypto mystery is a new doc from director Sheona McDonald. The crypto part deals with the rise of new currencies based on not much more than faith. Think Bitcoin, one of several blockchain currencies. The Dead Man part is the true story of Gerald Cotten, one of many entrepreneurs and once CEO of Canada’s largest cryptocurrency exchange. Investors poured more than $200 million into his company when…and this where the mystery part begins, while on his honeymoon in India he suffers a mysterious death that leave his trusting investors empty-handed. Vancouver-based director Sheona McDonald’s previous credits include the documentaries Inside Her Sex, When Dreams Take Flight and Capturing a Short Life. Dead Man’s Switch a crypto mystery runs 78 minutes.
Another Canadian film in the Systems Down program is Gary Lang’s The Face of Anonymous. The 87 minute film is a profile of the famous, or infamous Commander X , the persona behind some fairly nefarious goings on online including an affiliation with Anonymous, the very elusive online network responsible for corporate takedowns and political disruption. He takes credit for crippling credit card companies that were attempting to sideline Wikileaks and claims a role in the Arab Spring. In short a compelling character now ready to go public about his exploits and expose a group that safeguards its secret identity. Gary Lang has directed, written or produced over three hundred highly-rated programs seen on international television and brings a wealth of experience to this fascinating doc. The Face of Anonymous is a Canadian film in English with some Spanish and English subtitles.
In an earlier story we mentioned the first 13 films selected by Hot Docs for their Special Presentations program. One of the Canadian films not mentioned that time is The Death of My Two Fathers directed by Sol Guy. Described as a “a multi-generational contemplation on race, death, love and the importance of family,” the story’s foundation is a recording made by Guy’s dying father, a recording it took him 20 years to find the courage to again hear his father’s voice. It is a compelling piece of filmmaking that we’re sure will have distant echoes for many if not most families. The Death of My Two Fathers runs 84 minutes.
Nike’s Big Bet was mentioned in that earlier story. In detail, this 80-minute film from Paul Kemp documents the famous footwear manufacturer’s desire to develop some elite runners in the hope of reestablishing America’s top-of-the-podium position in international track and field. Called the Oregon Project, it started in 2001 and ended in 2019 when coaching legend Alberto Salazar was handed a four-year doping ban from all coaching activities. Kemp explores both supporters and detractors to tell the story of high finance in the world of sports competition.
We covered Yung Chang’s film Wuhan Wuhan in yesterday’s article, also screening in the Special Presentations program. This year Hot Docs offers up 219 films from 66 countries in 12 programs, with 50 per cent of the directors in the Festival program being women. In short, there is something for everyone and for the first time these films will be available across Canada to online subscribers. Ticket and subscription information, and more is available online.
Ralph Lucas is the founder and publisher of Northernstars.ca. He began writing about film and reviewing movies while in radio in Montreal in the mid-1970s.