Hot Docs – May 1
(April 30, 2019 – Toronto, ON) There was a brief moment yesterday afternoon when Toronto experienced a minor snow flurry. This season could not end soon enough and as we look forward to a brand new month we all have our fingers crossed for warmer weather and not more flooding. Hot Docs is past its mid-way point and for those of you putting it off, there are as of tomorrow only five days left.
We counted 43 documentaries on the May 1 schedule and about one-quarter of them are Canadian. It is quite possible that we missed a title and if we did please accept our sincere apologies.
The day starts early as it always does at Festival time and the first feature unspools at 10:00 a.m. The first Canadian feature starts just 15 minutes later and it’s a film we missed yesterday. Sorry. Titled The Pickup Game it is one of the Hot Docs selections that falls outside the Canadian Spectrum program (which is why we missed it) and this one is a UK-Canada co-production and yes it is about sex. The nearly 100-minute film is an investigation into the world of seduction. How to meet and bed your next conquest. You may find it a little early in the day for this sort of thing but it’s never too early for scandal and this one is well worth the effort of getting out of bed, since it’s all about getting into bed. Note: This is not a film about how to get people into bed, it’s an investigation about people and companies that provide this sort of thing.
The Pickup Game screens:
Wed. May 1 at 10:15 a.m. at the Tiff Bell Lightbox (TBLB) 2
Sat. May 4 at 3:15 p.m. at the Isabel Bader Theatre
In Shella Record: A Reggae Mystery, the central character is an artist and an otherwise normal, average, everyday sort of guy named Chris Flanagan, who also happens to be a record fanatic. What makes him different is a decades-long obsession to find the woman behind the voice he hears on a 45-rpm record he picks up for a dime. The label says the singer is someone named Shella Record, but no one seems to know the first thing about her. Flanagan’s obsession will take him to a hairdressing studio in Toronto, a fortune teller in L.A., and to one of the legendary recording studios of Jamaica. Flanagan, also happens to be the producer and director of this 87-minute documentary.
Shella Record: A Reggae Mystery screens:
Wed. May 1 at 12:45 p.m. at Scotiabank 4
Fri. May 3 at 3:15 p.m. at Scotiabank 3
Gaza was shot entirely from the perspective of a few citizens who live, or try too exist, on this small strip of territory. All they seem to wish for is a normal life, a productive life, a safe life, yet they are seemingly trapped between the ambitions of Hamas, which has run the territory since 2007, and the Israeli military who retaliates with, some might say, unjustified force to protect its people. There are some two million people who live in Gaza, an area 41 kilometres long and somewhere between 6 and 12 kilometres wide. It is one of the most densely populated places on earth, yet it is cut off from the rest of world, its people unable to travel, unable to escape. Gaza, also part of the Special Presentations program, is directed by Garry Keane and Andrew McConnell.
Wed. May 1 at 1:45 p.m. at the Isabel Bader Theatre
Fri. May 3 at 3:45 p.m. at the Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema.
Spanning four decades, Our Dance of Revolution is the untold history of Toronto’s Black queer community. Produced and directed by lawyer-turned-filmmaker Phillip Pike, on the film’s website it states, in part, “Our Dance of Revolution is a human-scale reckoning of how audacious individuals find themselves by finding others, and how they muster the courage, tenacity, and creativity to prevail against the forces of marginalization.”
Our Dance of Revolution screens:
Wed. May 1 at 2:45 p.m. at Scotiabank 3
Fri. May 3 at 12:00 at the Scotiabank 8
John Cleese was the perfect choice to provide commentary for John Walker’s new film, Assholes: A Theory. The 81-minute film is based on the New York Times bestselling book of the same title by author, Aaron James. Suji Gelerman, a psychotherapist, and Amiée Morrison, a professor in the University of Waterloo’s Literature and Digital Humanities department both provide comments on the psychology and behaviour of assholes. Other key contributors to this documentary include Sherry Lee Benson-Podolchuk, a former RCMP officer who wrote Women Not Wanted, an exposé of RCMP workplace bullying and Robert Hockett, a law professor at Cornell University who consulted for both Occupy Wall Street and the Federal Reserve in the wake of the Great Recession of 2008. John Walker is a multi-award-winning documentarian and all of his work fits easily within the definition of “must see” films.
Assholes: A Theory screens:
Wed. May 1 at 3:45 p.m. at TBLB 1
Sat. May 4 at 12:45 p.m. at the Isabel Bader Theatre.
A Kandahar Away is a bit of a play on the words Come From Away and it should not be judged by its title. Believe it or not there is a Kandahar in Canada. More precisely it is in Saskatchewan and a man who was born in that other Kandahar stakes his family’s future on 8 vacant plots of land in his new home of Canada. The man’s name is Abdul Bari Jamal and the film was made by his daughter Aisha Jamal. Alexander Rogalski writing for Hot Docs sums up this film by saying, “it’s a heartfelt and moving conversation about two nations connected by conflict and how much of our identity is tied to the land we occupy.” The first screening is a World Premiere.
A Kandahar Away screens:
Wed. May 1 at 3:45 p.m. at TBLB 2
Thur. May 2 at 1:00 p.m. at the Isabel Bader
Sat. May 4, 10:15 a.m. at TBLB 2
There Are No Fakes from director Jamie Kastner is another film that looks inside the usually obscure world of art and art sales. This time the story revolves around a specific work by Norval Morrisseau. Also known as Copper Thunderbird, he is arguably the most influential Indigenous artist in Canada and usually referred to as the founder of the “Woodlands style.” The central story revolves around one of his paintings, Spirit Energy of Mother Earth. Owned by Barenaked Ladies musician Kevin Hearn the authenticity of his painting is called into question and he subsequently decides to sue the art dealer. This launches an investigation into the painting’s provenance and the eventual unravelling of an art fraud ring with different factions, all claiming to be the true protectors of the Anishinaabe painter’s legacy. It’s a 114-minute mystery story where culture and commerce collide all deftly handled by the film’s director.
There Are No Fakes screens:
Wed. May 1 at 8:15 p.m. at Scotiabank 1
In addition to the DOCX VR installations at Autodesk in downtown Toronto, please note there are a few other things you might want to consider.
The first is a panel discussion that takes place at 1:45 p.m. tomorrow at the TIFF Bell Lightbox and it is free. Titled My Grierson, it’s an illustrated talk that features executive producer Bill Nemtin reflecting on the lessons he learned from his mentor, John Grierson, who founded the National Film Board of Canada some 80 years ago and whose philosophy on documentary as a tool for social change influences Canadian identity to this day. This special event is only scheduled once and is presented in partnership with the NFB.
There’s also a program of Canadian shorts on tomorrow’s schedule. As we’ve said here so many times, the nice thing about short films is you never have to wait very long if you’re not taken by what’s on the screen in front of you. This collection of shorts screens under the banner Five Feminist Minutes. There are 4 short films and they all run five minutes long. There is more information here about this specific shorts program.
Find more information and tickets online at Hot Docs.