Home News Archive CDN Films at Hot Docs – Day 5

CDN Films at Hot Docs – Day 5


(May 1, 2017 – Toronto, ON) May 1st at Hot Docs starts at 10AM with the France-Republic of Congo co-production Mama Colonel screening at the the TIFF Bell Lightbox. Also at that same venue in different cinemas, Canadian movies start when Manic screens at 10:15 and Mermaids starts at 10:30.

Manic is an intimate look inside director Kalina Bertin’s family. Trying to understand her sibling’s bipolar disorder she also looks at the mysterious life of her father (pictured) who was alternatively a cult leader and scam artist before he was murdered. This 84-minute feature documentary screens with the Canadian 7-minute short Hotel Moon from director Derek Howard. This is your second chance to catch Manic, its final screening will be on Saturday at 8:00PM also at the Lightbox.

It’s the 3rd of 4 screenings of Mermaids. It’s a light romp with some deeper moments about our curiosity with the myths and realities of life as a mermaid. The archival footage from a Florida theme park is worth the price of entry alone. The cast of characters who all become modern day mermaids is fascinating and the “chapters” in the film are separated with very short mermaid myths which gives everything some historical perspective. Worth catching. If you miss it today it screens again Friday, May 5th.

The Road Forward from Director Marie Clements gets its 2nd of 3 screenings today at the Scotia on Richmond Street in downtown Toronto. Clements takes the idea of documentary in a refreshing new direction in that this is a musical, in the traditional form of all musicals, that knits together documentary elements about Indigenous artists, activists and musicians while at the same time laying down the history of Canada’s first Indigenous newspaper, The Native Voice, the history of the Native Brotherhood of British Columbia, and the Constitution Express, which 50 years later, few alive today remember. Another plank in the platform of documentary expression is its ability to teach without preaching. The Road Forward achieves this ideal brilliantly. Today’s screening is at 12:45PM.

At 1:00PM at the Isabel Bader Theatre on Charles street near the corner of University, A Better Man gets its 2nd of 3 screenings. This touching and sometimes disturbing documentary is a very tough look at a very tough issue. The issue is domestic violence and what makes this a compelling piece of filmmaking is the fact the abused and the abuser are brought together to examine what their life together was like a couple of decades ago. More compelling still is the fact the co-director, Attiya Khan, is the woman who was the young girlfriend taking the beatings. This is an emotionally powerful film and there are scenes that will slap you almost as hard as she must have been. Why the abuser would show up for this very public outing is contained in the film’s title. It’s final run will be on May 6th.

At 2:30 at the Scotia there will be a back-to-back screening of two Maya Gallus films. Gallus is enjoying a retrospective of her work in the Hot Docs Focus On program. Today will be the only screening of the award-winning docs Elizabeth Smart: On the Side of the Angels, followed by The Mystery of Mazo de la Roche, which was released in 2011. Elizabeth Smart was originally released in 1991 and is a portrait of the Canadian poet and author who is perhaps best known for By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept.

When we think of Canadian women authors these days names like Atwood, Laurence, Munro probably leap to mind. Go back far enough and you will be surprised by the life of author Mazo de la Roche who turned out a total of 16 novels usually referred to as the Jalna Series of The Whiteoak Chronicles. The stories span 100 years (1854-1954) in the fictional Whiteoak family. 

Maya Gallus is an exceptional filmmaker and this is a rare opportunity to see two of her best films at the same time for one price.

Hot Docs, My Enemy My Brother, image,
Production still from the documentary My Enemy, My Brother.

My Enemy, My Brother contains all the elements of a grand Shakespearian drama. It’s about how two men who once met on the battlefield during the Iran-Iraq war meet again years later in Vancouver. One of them sets out on a quest to find a long lost child left behind so many years ago. The story of these two men, once enemies and now as close as brothers is remarkable filmmaking and Ann Shin has created a compelling story worthy of your attention and support. This is its first screening. My Enemy, My Brother screens at the Scotia at 4:00PM. Its final screen will be on Saturday, May 6th.

At 4:30 at the TIFF BellLightbox, Motel gets its 2nd screening. Director Jesse McCracken sets this doc in Niagara Falls, known as the Honeymoon Capital of the World. But this isn’t about newlyweds, it’s about the structure itself. A small hotel is converted into affordable housing. Motel screens with he 18 minute short, Babe, I Hate to Go from Director Andrew Moir.

Hot Docs, Unarmed Verses,
Production still from the documentary Unarmed Verses.

Charles Officer’s new film, Unarmed Verses has its World Premiere tonight at 6:30 at the Isabel Bader. The camera ranges over a number of young, talented people living in community housing that’s about to be torn down to make way for a new high rise project that will be their future home. We get to meet some off the residents and we get to learn just how talented they are. One 12-year-old, wise beyond her years as the saying goes, has a remarkable talent for expression. When an opportunity arises to record the verses the various participants have created, the pressure is on to perform and for some, coupled with the trauma of a forced relocation, that pressure is too much. If you miss this evening’s screening, Unarmed Verses will run again tomorrow at the Scotia and its last screening will be on Saturday at the TIFF Bell Lightbox.

The last Canadian film on today’s Hot Docs schedule has the poetic title A Moon of Nickel and Ice. Director François Jacob’s 110 minute feature documentary is set in the major Russian mining centre if Norilsk in the Siberian arctic. It’s an eye-opening portrait of different generations: weary miners and restless teenagers. In this desolate landscape where the wind never seems too stop and the industrial pollution seems to increase on a daily basis, the teenagers want nothing more than to escape a way of life that is not only anchored in the past, but offers no future for their young lives. A Moon of Nickel and Ice has its North American Premiere tonight at 8:45 at the Tiff Bell Lightbox.

Click here for the complete lineup of films at the 2017 Hot Docs Canadian and International Documentary Festival.