Canadian Spectrum at Hot Docs
by Ralph Lucas – Publisher
(April 17, 2019 – Toronto, ON) As promised in an earlier article, this is a look at some of the films in the Canadian Spectrum at Hot Docs, which gets underway in 8 days with the feature
nîpawistamâsowin: We Will Stand Up. We have previously covered this important documentary, including an on-camera interview with its director, Tasha Hubbard. If you can’t make it to opening night on April 25, it has its second screening on Saturday April 27 at the Tiff Bell Lightbox and its last one week later on May 4 at the Isabel Bader Theatre on the University of Toronto Campus.
There are 20 films in the Canadian Spectrum, but don’t expect all of them to be set in Canada and don’t expect all of them to be in either of the country’s official languages. Where the language of the film isn’t in English or French there are always subtitles and in some cases the story is told so effectively through the images that no words are required. Such is the case for River Silence.
In theme and look it seems to be an extension of the multi-award-winning film Anthropocene, but instead of ranging far and wide, River Silence trains its cameras on a small village and a group of people, many Indigenous Brazilians, displaced by the building of a dam on a tributary of the Amazon. The cinematography is wonderful—the drone shots providing a special perspective—and the editing allows the story to flow as easily as the river these people once knew must have. This may be an environmental story but it is highly personal, the story of four people and their families and how each is impacted by change and how they have become powerless pawns in a game far larger than any of them can imagine. Pay attention to the closing sequence of supers that spell out the scope of the tragedy that is taking place along the Amazon. River Silence screens on April 6 and 28 and again on May 3. All screenings at different times but all at the TIFF Bell Lightbox.
Despite the evidence all around us that weather has changed and we are to blame, the Neanderthals in power (with apologies to Neanderthals) seem hell bent on turning back the clock hoping no one notices that wildfires have grown in size and number, rising sea levels have already damaged island nations, winters seem ever more impossible and heat waves claim more lives every year. The Hottest August is a Canada-U.S. coproduction from director Brett Story. Story shot this film in and around New York on every day of August 2017. Trump had been President for less than a year, white nationalists seem emboldened, if it isn’t wildfires scorching the west coast, it’s hurricanes threatening the east coast. For 31 days she captured a slice of the United States in transition, a moving picture of a singular time that just might stop you in your tracks when you revisit this moment in history. The Hottest August has its first screening on April 29 at the TIFF Bell Lightbox, its second on May 2 at the Scotiabank Theatre and its third and final screening back at the Lightbox on May 3.
Matt Gallagher’s new film, Prey, carries a warning from Hot Docs: “Content notice: Film contains sexual violence trigger material.” Prey is about the indefensible sexual abuse within the Catholic Church that has been defended by the church by its use of an old Mafia tactic, Omerta, or silence. Gallagher’s film tracks the case of a certain Father Hod Marshall, who pled guilty to 17 assault charges. One of his victims, seeking closure for what happened during his childhood, filed suit against the Basilian Fathers of Toronto. The film centres on a man known by some as “the priest hunter,” lawyer Rob Talach and on a number of survivors who provided testimony. Prey will have its World Premiere on Friday April 26 at the Tiff Bell Lightbox. It screens the next day at the Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema and finally back at the Lightbox on May 2.
Ingrid Veninger’s documentary, The World or Nothing is nothing if not different. Two Cuban men, twin brothers, have moved to Spain to seek their fame and fortune, hoping for online stardom as they shoot their own dance videos. Seemingly inseparable, they do everything together. Towards the end one says he will only marry if his intended bride accepts his brother as part of the marriage. While they are, or should be, grown men, they are dreamers, perhaps even Beautiful Losers, who miss their mother, go forward blinded by hope and want nothing less than, as the title says, The World or Nothing. The 84-minute doc has its World Premiere on Saturday April 27 at the TIFF Bell Lightbox. Its second screening is also there and its last screening will be on Thursday May 2 at the Hart House Theatre on the University of Toronto campus.
A Place of Time and Tide is a very Canadian film. Co-directed by Sébastien Rist and Aude Leroux-Lévesque, this 78-minute exploration is set in the fishing villages along the Gulf of St. Lawrence in eastern Québec. If you thought the end of the cod fishing industry only impacted our Maritime provinces and particularly Newfoundland and Labrador, this film will be an eye-opener on a part of the country long overlooked, almost forgotten, where the older English-speaking population hope to preserve their traditional way of life, while the younger people look elsewhere for their future. A Place of Time and Tide has its World Premiere at Hot Docs on Saturday April 27 at the TIFF Bell Lightbox. Its two final screenings will both be at the Scotiabank Theatre on Sunday April 28 and Saturday May 4th.
There are 20 films including some shorts in the Canadian Spectrum, 12 of them are World Premieres. This brief selection gives you an idea of the variety of films within this part of Hot Docs. There is far more information online. The 26th edition of the festival will take place from April 25 to May 5, 2019.