Monday, May 13, 2013

Documentaries are to Canada...

... what Jazz is to America. At least that's what a slide flashed us before each documentary I recently saw at Toronto's Hot Docs (that's hot documentaries) film festival.

I'm a film buff — always have been. I've always meant to get more involved with TIFF in September, but have been overwhelmed by the line-ups and options. Hot Docs seemed much more manageable to me, and still had the high quality and cache. This year was the twentieth anniversary of Hot Docs, and the selections were outstanding.

Initially Belinda and I booked a ten ticket package, thinking five films each would be plenty. What with trying to coordinate what we wanted to see, without taking time off work, our personal commitments and being able to coordinate the locations of the films so that we weren't necessarily running across downtown, at first seemed daunting. We easily managed to coordinate the five selections, locations, and times. Success.

Expedition to the End of the World at TIFF's Lightbox was our first film, with a Q & A by the director and producer post show. What a beautifully shot documentary, with a quirky cadre of stars set on top of a gorgeous soundtrack that went from Mozart to techno rock. I've noticed that since their appearance in Toronto, they are hitting Europe by storm and winning awards. Kudos to them.

Sunday had three docs scheduled, all showing back to back at the ROM — how convenient. We saw, The Only Son, The Life and Crimes of Doris Payne and Terms and Conditions on Sunday afternoon.

The Only Son took me back to my lovely memories of Nepal and the people I encountered there. The Life and Crimes of Doris Payne was a surprisingly interesting look at a seventy-something jewel thief and her matter of fact attitude. Terms and Conditions made me think about what I was saying and doing on the internet and showed me how big brother IS watching. It was a full day. After each film we were asked to rate them. How could I not give these movies a good rating. I mean, in each case, I wasn't bored, there was a captivating story, well thought out, I was entertained, amused and made to think.

Wednesday after work, Belinda and I took the red rocket downtown to watch our last film, In God we Trust, the Bernie Madoff story, as told by his personal assistant,  Eleanor Squillar. Wow. This film pointed out the excess and craziness of Madoff's story. Needless to say, a post screening Q & A with the directors and Eleanor made for a lively discussion.

Q & A post screening of In God we Trust
But, there were more films I still wanted to see. I also went to see Muscle Shoals at the Bloor Cinema. I don't think there wasn't one person smiling when they left that screening. Throughout the film I saw heads bobbing, toes tapping and heard people questioning what Keith Richards was saying. It was pure fun and delight as the story of Muscle Shoals Alabama was told. I would love to have the soundtrack to that film. I probably have a lot of it as I scour my music collection, but to have it all in one take, would be great. This film ultimately won the viewers choice award at the end of the festival.

Hot Docs is over, but Belinda and I are still hitting the docs we missed, which are still playing at the Bloor Cinema. On Friday we saw The Manor. The Manor is a strip joint on the edge of Guelph Ontario, but plays a supporting role to the main players, the Cohen family and their family dynamics. Is any family normal, whatever that is? But this family was willing to show the raw underbelly that made them tick. 

Yes, we have one more doc slated, Scatter my Ashes at Bergdorf's. Hot Docs here I come.

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