Okay, well, my internet access and available time has been rather more limited than I’d envisioned… Right now, I am happily ensconced in a charming room at the Madison Manor Boutique Hotel, listening to the drunks stumble outta the nextdoor bar after last call. This room is probably six times the size of my room at the Castlegate Inn, and more than six times as comfortable. I even have a little balcony with a table and a couple chairs where I would be sitting if a big thunderstorm hadn’t torn through town a few hours ago and put such a dent in our mild temperatures. (In between the two hotel stays, I was lucky to be able to stay with a friend in her beautifully appointed apartment in the eastern part of town. Thanks, Sharon!!)
Here are a few short (and sometimes judgemental) descriptions of some of the films I’ve seen so far at Hot Docs. I’ll put some more up as soon as I can…
Englishman David Sington’s film In the Shadow of the Moon is a series of interviews with the surviving Apollo astronauts who talk about their lunar experiences and their lasting effects on them. It is a pretty harmless film to choose to open the festival. Frankly, there are few I can imagine who would not fall victim to its charms: the NASA space footage is spectacular (especially to these CGI-weary eyes) and the astronauts prove to be insightful and surprisingly humourous. But it is not critical in any way. Not that I would’ve preferred that–this is just an observation. As a matter of fact, I found the film very enjoyable. In the Q&A that followed, Sington pointed out that the situation that existed when the Apollo project was in its heyday seems vaguely familiar: the United States was involved in an unpopular (and what many considered unwinnable) war and anti-administration sentiment in the country was high. And it wasn’t just many of the American people who were pissed about being “over there”, either–people and nations all over the world were feeling likewise disgruntled with the American administration’s foreign policy. Apollo 11 was something that eclipsed (plz forgive me that one) everything else that was going on in the world at that time and allowed Americans to feel proud of their country again. As Sington noted, the current administration doesn’t have anything like that going for it.
And if you’re looking for a Dream Double Bill, how ’bout pairing that one with Rory Kennedy’s Ghosts of Abu Ghraib to end up with both the “good” and “bad” angles on the States? In case you were feeling all sugary after In the Shadow of the Moon, this one should get that sweet taste out of your mouth. His film opens with footage of the Milgrim experiment, in which ordinary people tortured other ordinary people when instructed to do so by an authoritative figure. From there, you can figure where this film is going, although I’m not sure it really succeeds in explaining why those American soldiers tortured those Iraqi prisoners. Honestly, I felt that few of the soldiers interviewed showed anything that looked even remotely like geniune remorse or displayed much willingness to take responsibility for what they’d done. Just a lotta finger pointing up the chain of command to Donald Rumsfeld, who just shrugs his shoulders and looks flummoxed when Senator John McCain asks where the buck stops. It seems like a good beginning, but I think the filmmakers needed to push their interviewees a bit harder.
Let’s All Hate Toronto is a comic look at the national pastime of hating Tronna that commits the unforgivable (by me) crime of being Not Funny. And utterly superficial. I think I understand now why the film was not made available for review before its debut at the festival: I think that’s because they knew the thing is a failure on almost all levels. This thing coulda been hilarious because, hell, it’s true that countless non-Torontonians have a hate on for The Big Smoke. But while the filmmakers did succeed in showing how most anti-Toronto sentiment is emotional rather than rational, they did it while portraying the critics with the same kind of cliché as the critics portrayed Torontonians. Thus, East Coasters were all drunkards and West Coasters were all hippies. The whole thing felt (and looked) poorly executed. A good idea that didn’t get the treatment it deserved.
Billy the Kid is a 15-year-old outsider in smalltown Maine. The kid is articulate, clever, open, utterly brave, and just a bit weird. Unrepentedly so. And he’s an utter delight. The film follows him through an undefined period during those tough mid-teen years, and we see him (and feel for him–you can’t help but genuinely like this kid) deal with the typical horrors of high school life (made worse, of course, by his uniqueness–high school is no place for that!). It played with a Scottish short called The Truth About Tooth, which is a look at real and imagined Tooth Fairies. Very sweet little film.
A mermerizingly beautifully shot short called Liquidman, which is about free diving (deep water diving without air tanks), opened for Yoga Inc., which is a look at the commercialization of yoga. The personal result of having watched this film is that I now feel guilty about being interested in yoga as only a way to help me get physically fit. Especially after having looked down my nose at the idea of chi spilling outta my belly button. My favourite part of Yoga Inc. was when the crowd jeered Saint Stink Sting. And WTF is going on with Bikram Choudhury’s lid?
← Bald + ponytail = atrocious crime against hair.
↑ And topknots are for Hellboy only.
→ originally published 2007-04-24