Thursday, 29 April 2010

Hot Docs Day 1

Tonight is the big opening night for Hot Docs bringing two sure to be crowd pleasing experiences with Babies and Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage. I'm saving my strength for the remaining 10 days of the festival where I'm hoping to catch about 30 films. I had the opportunity to sneak in a few films that I couldn't quite fit in my actual schedule, but still I knew I had to see. Here are some highlights from those films. Amazing how a common theme in these films is not only thinking outside the box but also a great combination of awareness of 'the system' and creative ways to work with, without or around it. I like that kind of thinking.

Be sure to also check out my reviews of selections from the NFB films at the festival this year and come back for daily coverage here at Movie Moxie throughout the festival.

Above: Disco and Atomic War

Disco and Atomic War
Dir: Jaak Kilmi

I knew in an instant that I would have to see Disco and Atomic War. Not just because 'disco' was in the title (although, that could easily be enough), but the fact that is set in Estonia and is about highjacking TV signals from Finland during the cold war, I mean who could resist? The Baltic connection is what pulled it from curious to a must-see, being Latvian myself but living in Canada my whole life, I'm always very curious of any films from that region. I'll admit I wish had seen this one with an audience because there is a lovely and dry sense of humour when it comes to portraying the predicament of hijacking Finnish TV signals in Estonia, because we deal with a lot of funky pop culture as well as the beauty of trends that sprout up like weeds regardless of their contraband connection. From Dallas to disco, pop culture is an undeniable treat that people want to and will do their best to acquire. It gracefully blends earnest re-enactments with fantastic archival footage with a homegrown tone that has an understated mischievous tone that keeps you wondering, and smiling, throughout.

Disco and Atomic War plays at Hot Docs on:
Friday April 30, 2010 at 9:15pm at the ROM and Saturday May 1, 2010 at 2pm at Cumberland 2

Above: The Peddler

The Peddler
Dir: Eduardo de la Serna, Lucas Marcheggiano, Adriana Yurcovich

This film is the first time heard the terms Handicrafted films. Images of macrame instantly came to mind but only the craftiness of that spirit needs apply, the knots can be left at home. The Peddler shows us one of many journeys with Daniel Burmeister who travels from village to village in Argentina making films in the villages in exchange for room and board. Using locals as the actors, he brings a wonderful enthusiasm to the process of creating the films in and with the town. People light up when they are asked to be included in the film, and even though there are bumps on the road along the way, everyone has a good time being involved. It's a refreshing an open-style film making format that brings so much more out to play than a strict bottom line. Warm & inviting, it brings a wonderful sense of joy from everyone involved.

The Peddler plays at Hot Docs on:
Monday May 3, 2010 at 6:45pm at Innis and Wednesday May 5, 2010 at 1:15pm at Cumberland 2

Above: A Different Path

A Different Path
Dir: Monteith McCollum

I could have sworn this one was Canadian. But, no it's from USA and follows stories from Seattle seniors, Toronto cyclists, to a New Yorker all who have a common goal travelling freedom. Whether it's literally trying to get from A to B in the shortest time, or wanting to empower pedestrians, it all stems from the overwhelming car-focused culture of North American, mostly but not exclusively urban centres. I'm a big fan of power of the pedestrian, and loved seeing the Toronto footage, but that just makes it extra special experience but it's a powerful message and it's inspiriting to see people working towards taking the pavement back. It's told very organically as opposed to a straight-up talking head doc, and is very open to the challenges that you can face in this scenario. I loved the spirit of the film and how it wasn't about purely thinking out of the box, which is really important, but it's also very aware of the box in the room and that you have to deal with that box as a box. It might not be your box, but it's there. This made A Different Path a very refreshing documentary to see, it also used a storytelling style that has a very textural quality to it, incorporating different tones and techniques. In effect, it's walking it's own walk by shaking up the way we see things while at the same time showing us people who are shaking up things themselves. I loved that, not only does it give a creative quality to the film and is visually interesting, but the film resonates with integrity because it brings the same message in multiple formats. Very inspiring.

A Different Path plays at Hot Docs on:
Friday May 7 , 2010 at 7:15pm at Innis and Sunday May 9, 2010 at 6:30pm at Cumberland 3

Above: Citizen Architect: Samuel Mockbee and the Spirit of the Rural Studio

Citizen Architect: Samuel Mockbee and the Spirit of the Rural Studio
Dir: Sam Wainwright Douglas

Renegade architects. Yes, renegade architects. That is the focus of Citizen Architect: Samuel Mockbee and the Spirit of the Rural Studio which shares the vision of the late Samuel Mockbee who founded the Rural Studio, which has a program that works to create housing for people in need and often makes it the shelters through recycled materials and innovative techniques. It's a beautiful portrait and vision that we see continues to carried on through the school. It also looks at architecture from different perspectives from interviews, and reveals that not everyone has the same vision and showcases different elitisms within the field and within housing in general. Housing is one of the few things that in general, everyone needs to have and it has a serious impact on people - it's amazing to see the different points of view from dwellers to builders on what they think and more interestingly can be who knows what's best. Very informative and inspiring.

Citizen Architect: Samuel Mockbee and the Spirit of the Rural Studio plays at Hot Docs on:
Saturday May 1, 2010 at 7:15pm at Innis and Tuesday May 4, 2010 at 2pm at the ROM

For more information check the festival schedule or purchase tickets at the online box office.

Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival runs from April 29 - May 9, 2010 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

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