(May 3, 2017 – Toronto, ON) It’s a mixed bag of Canadian films today at Hot Docs. By that we mean there are films from the Canadian Spectrum as well as films from other programs at the festival. Things started early today with the first screening at 10:00AM at the TIFF Bell Lightbox. It’s the 2nd screening of Integral Man. This doc focuses on the late Jim Stewart (pictured), an expect in math who wrote many books on the subject and used the wealth his books created to commission an outstanding and very different home in Toronto’s exclusive Rosedale neighbourhood. A home that was part office, part retreat, but most importantly a home that was also a performance space because Stewart once played violin and always maintained his love of music. The space was often used by fund-raisers and that was Stewart’s way of giving back. The house was named Integral House and thus the title of this film. Integral Man. It’s final screening will be this Friday afternoon.
At 10:30 also at the TIFF Bell Lightbox, it’s Kyoko Miyake’s intriguing film titled Tokyo Idols. It’s this odd, to us, phenomenon where aspiring performers are able to create a fan base of working men who come to worship these young girls and pay to attend special events created in part to increase their idol status but also to make money. It has been called a “fetish economy” and Tokyo Idols explores the topic to its fullest. Writing for Hot Docs, Alexander Rogalski said, “Following Rio, a 19-year-old aspiring pop singer in the twilight of her idol career, and Koji, her dedicated 43-year-old superfan, Tokyo Idols highlights the extremes of fantasy fulfillment.” Executive Producers on this film include Mila Aung-Thwin and Daniel Cross, who was given the Don Haig Award this week at Hot Docs.
One of the programs at Hot Docs is Redux: Films that deserve another outing on the big screen. Today at 1:15 it’s a repeat of the 2005 documentary, Mohawk Girls. Director Tracey Deer explores the lives of teenage girls on the Kanawake reserve in a film that’s been described as “deeply intimate and powerfully political.” That makes it worth seeing and especially in this rare opportunity to catch it on a big screen. Mohawk Girls is followed by two Canadian short films, Christmas at Moose Factory by Alanis Obomsawin, and Nimmikaage (She Dances for People) from director Michelle Latimer. This screening is at the Scotia 7 at 1:15PM.
Birth of a Family from Trisha Hubbard looks at 4 children, 4 of more than 20,000 Indigenous children who were forcibly taken from their families in Canada and adopted out to non-Indigenous families. They are now adults and although they have been able to make contact they have never spent time together. Birth of a Family is exactly what the title promises. A heartfelt and at times disturbing look into Canada’s scarred past and at how related strangers can come together to begin a vital healing process. Birth of a Family screens at 3:00PM at the Scotia 4 in downtown Toronto.
At 6:30 its The Quiet Zone. This is a 45-minute documentary is set in a remote corner of West Virginia where the world’s largest steerable radio telescope is located. It’s there because there is hardly any other radio wave interference. The place also attracts people who suffer from extreme radio sensitivity. Thus, The Quiet Zone. Co-directed by Elisa Gonzalez and Daniel Froidevaux, The Quiet Zone screens at the TIFF Bell Lightbox and is followed by the American 20-minute short, Silently Steal Away.
Another program at Hot Docs is something called DOCX. This is the interdisciplinary section of the festival that celebrates work outside the traditional format. For example, Africville in Black and White is a 90-minute performance piece that traces the legacy, spirit and resilience of an Africanadian community torn from their homes. There is only this one performance and it is tonight at 7:00 at the First Evangelical Lutheran Church, 116 Bond Street in downtown Toronto.
Later tonight there are two documentaries screening in the World Showcase program. At 8:45 at the TIFF Bell Lightbox it’s the North American Premiere of Maison du Bonheur. It’s an exquisitely constructed film broken into 30 segments each revealing something about a retired and vibrant French astrologer. It is, according to one writeup, “an ode to the beauty of everyday life.” Maison du Bonheur is directed by Sofia Bohdanowicz and runs 64 minutes. It screens with the 10-minute Japanese short A Friendship in Tow/Toe.
Ghosts of Our Forest has its first of three screenings tonight at 9:15. Director Daniel Roher takes his camera to Uganda and tells the story of the Batwa people. In 1992, the pygmy Batwa were removed from their ancestral homes by the government to protect the habitat of the endangered gorilla population. Given no compensation, the Batwa people were left to fend for themselves and most now live in poverty. To help his people, 24-year-old Gad Semejeri formed the Batwa Music Club, singing and dancing the spiritual and traditional music of the Batwa. This documentary follows the members as they prepare and rehearse for a concert in Kampala where they hope to raise awareness of the injustice they have thrust on them and their dire situation. Ghosts of Our Forest screens at the Scotia 3.
Finally on today’s schedule is House of Z. It’s a film in the Hot Docs Singular Sensations program. Directed by Sandy Chronopoulos, House of Z is all about Zac Posen, a fashion world wunderkind who rose to fame and success at the age of 21. But House of Z is also a cautionary tale of what can happen when PR machines speed too far ahead and reality catches up. As quickly as Zac became famous, he found himself on the receiving end of damaging gossip, bad reviews and dropping sales. The story of House of Z is told by a star-studded cast, including Puff Daddy, Naomi Campbell and Claire Danes. House of Z gets its first of two screenings tonight at 9:30 at the Ted Rogers Bloor Hot Docs Cinema.
Click here for more information about these and all of this films screening at the 24th annual Hot Docs Festival.