Opening day of Hot Docs 2012 has arrived and we are breaking out some of our biggest guns in honour of the International Documentary Festival’s kickoff with looks at a lot of titles that have already had screenings go rush, including Indie Game: The Movie, We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists, Detropia, Finding Truelove, The World Before Her, and Bones Brigade: An Autobiography. Also up for review this time around: the sure to be talked about Sexy Baby, the partially animated Mom and Me, the low-key workforce staffing film The Job, and a look at a madman musician in Beware of Mr. Baker.
If you see one of the showtimes for a movie highlighted, it means we are have a contest to give tickets away for that particular showing! For more information or for a full list of titles in our giveaway, head here! And don’t forget to check out our first, second, and third batches of reviews, too!
NOTE: Films marked as being Rush Only were rush as of press time. Please check before you head out. For more up to date information, a full list of films, showtimes, venues, and ticketing information, please visit hotdocs.ca.
Indie Game: The Movie
Directors: James Swirsky, Lisanne Pajot
Program: Special Presentations
Recommended?: Yes. If you have a passion for creating anything you’ll get something out of this film.
This slickly produced Canadian doc isn’t just something for gamers or geeks; anyone who has ever tried to create something will be able to relate to the stories being told. Indie Game: The Movie has the distinction of being first major film of its kind to honestly profile game creation – and all the blood, sweat, and tears expended in the process. The film follows several indie game designers as they struggle to complete their respective games, including Team Meat – the chaps behind the wonderful platformer Super Meat Boy, and Montreal’s Phil Fish – co-creator of the recently released and long in development FEZ.
Indie Game: The Movie has two goals: it has contextualize games and game design for a broad audience, and it has to relay several thematically similar but separate tales centred around game designers effectively. To their credit, co-directors Lisanne Pajot and James Swirsky accomplish both these goals in the course of the film’s 94 minute running time with very few missteps. The direness of one of Fish’s many crises later in the film is probably slightly overplayed and at times the film can feel a little over-produced (underwater cameras in a pool, repetitive epilogue), but these are minor complaints for a film that has a great, untold story to tell and a big heart to boot. (Will Perkins)
Thursday, May 3rd, 9:00pm, Bloor (RUSH ONLY)
Indie Game: The Movie will also screen across Canada at local Cineplex theatres on Thursday, May 3rd at 9pm EST, 8pm CST, 7pm MTN, 6pm PST. For more participating theatres and tickets visit www.cineplex.com/Events.
We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists
Director: Brian Knappenberger
Program: Rise Against
For anyone well versed in internet culture, WikiLeaks, or 4chan, We Are Legion might not hold many revelations or surprises in its look at the roots of online social activism and the rise of Anonymous and Lulzsec, but Knappenberger does a great job of pulling a lot of disparate elements together to create a portrait of an often malleable and misunderstood concept.
From the early days of hacking to the eventual toppling of the Egyptian government, Knappenberger ably shows the distinction between doing something for the lulz and actually making a difference. Multi-faceted and well balanced, the film makes use of some great recent history and insightful talks with those both actively working with Anonymous and those who recently got out. It’s the picture of a group that’s equally sympathetic, loathsome, unorganized, and powerful told with the greatest amount of precision that someone could possibly get.
Tuesday, May 1st, 6:15pm, Bloor (RUSH ONLY)
Saturday, May 5th, 7:00pm, Lightbox 1 (RUSH ONLY)
Directors: Jill Bauer and Ronna Gradus
Program: Special Presentations
Screens With: The Relationship Doctrine of Don Blanquito (7 minutes)
It’s a topic that will come up for us no matter what: how is sex perceived these days, how does it affect the rest of our lives and how can you protect someone from the harm it might inflict but still let them know how strong and independent they are? This documentary follows three women – a teenager named Winnifred, a young teacher named Laura and a stripper turned porn star turned mother named Nichole – and tries to make sense of how they react to the way sex is perceived in the digital age.
Sexy Baby shows a balanced view of these topics while getting you to feel compassionate about its characters. It’s especially compelling to watch Winnifred’s story. You may understand what she’s going through. You think of how you don’t want your future daughter growing up to cater to what’s shown in porn or putting very revealing photos on Facebook. Nichole put it best, stating there’s a difference between “I’m going to show you something” and someone saying “let me see.” (Jessica Lewis)
Tuesday, May 1st, 9:00pm, Bloor
Thursday, May 3rd, 6:45pm, Isabel Bader
Friday, May 4th. 7:00pm, Lightbox 1
Directors: Rachel Grady, Heidi Edwing
Program: Special Presentations
Recommended?: Yes, very strongly
From the opera house and the local tavern to hard working auto plant employees about to be laid off and scavengers looking to make a few dollars out of some scrap metal, Jesus Camp directors Grady and Edwing take a sprawling look at the widespread canvas that is the city of Detroit and just how far the once mighty manufacturing powerhouse has fallen.
While the film seems to largely gloss over the city’s dramatically high crime rate, the deeply personal and well informed stories come together in a adroitly assembled package that makes the viewer feel almost sorry enough for the city to want to visit. It’s pretty gloomy and downtrodden, but not devoid of its share of hope and optimism for the future.
Saturday, May 5th, 5:45pm, Bloor (RUSH ONLY)
Director: Sam Kuhn
Recommended?: Yes, not strongly
Intrigued by the word “Caduceus” on its cover, Clay, Michael and Andrew purchased a yearbook from Chico High’s class of 1990 at a Value Village. Amongst the Zack Morrises and Kelly Kapowskis of the yearbook photos, the three friends became intrigued by one smirking, floppy-haired student: Timothy Truelove. With a Google Checkout purchase and a road trip from Portland to California, they jump on the opportunity to crash the Chico High’s 20th reunion.
Though the premise is solid, Finding Truelove goes through long stretches where it’s
less of a documentary and more like a home video of a road trip. The filmmaking itself is clumsy and immature at best, but the way that these guys genuinely want to befriend the students of Chico High makes Finding Truelove worthwhile. (Sasha James)
Monday, April 30th, 11:30 PM, Bloor
Tueday, May 1st, 9:15 PM, Cumberland 3
Sunday, May 6th, 6:45 PM, Lightbox 4 (RUSH ONLY)
Bones Brigade: An Autobiography
Director: Stacy Peralta
Program: Special Presentations
Recommended: Quite strongly, especially for skateboarding fans, but the film could definitely use a trim
Dogtown and Z-Boys director Peralta takes a more personal look at skateboarding culture by chronicling the days where he and business partner George Powell played mentor to a nearly unbeatable group of upcoming skaters in the 80s that included the likes of sport icons Tony Hawk and Rodney Mullen.
Sometimes self gratifying and easily 20 minutes too long, the autobiography of the title is a bit of a misnomer as it’s more of an oral history told by all of those who lived it and not just the director. It’s still highly entertaining and the personalities involved and their anecdotes keep things lively and quite poignant even when Peralta drags his heels in the editing department.
Tuesday, May 1st, 6:30pm, Lightbox 1
Sunday, May 6th, 4:00pm, Revue (RUSH ONLY)
Mom and Me
Director: Danic Champoux
Program: Canadian Spectrum
Screens With: Of Insects and Men (12 minutes)
Recommended?: Only if animated re-enactments of Quebec’s storied history with biker gangs appeal to you.
Don’t let the heartwarming title fool you. Mom and Me is a partly-animated documentary about the rise and fall of feared gang leader Maurice “Mom” Boucher and a kid who idolized the violent kingpin. Told mostly through the eyes of the director as a young boy, filmmaker Champoux parallels his own troubled upbringing in Sorel, Quebec with that of the notorious Hell’s Angel leader who inhabited his neighbourhood in between prison stints.
Aside from childhood run-ins with the Angels, Champoux’s connection to the gang seems tenuous at best. The doc is a jumble of wonderful (and decidedly X-rated) animated sequences, as well as interviews with many interesting characters (including an astrologist, for some reason) who tell many stories at once. Mom and Me certainly paints an interesting picture of suburban Quebec during the reign of the biker gangs, but it never really comes together. On their own, the stories of Champoux and Boucher would likely be stronger tales. Mixed together though, the doc suffers from a lack of focus that can be both confusing and off-putting at times. (Will Perkins)
Friday, April 27th, 6:30pm, Cumberland 2
Sunday, April 29th, 3:30pm, Lightbox 4
The World Before Her
Director: Nisha Pahuja
Program: Canadian Spectrum
Recommended?: Strongly. One of the festival’s most powerful films
In India where westernized influences are often running afoul of religious ideals and traditions, Pahuja looks at two different, but equally compelling ends of the spectrum as she profiles both women preparing for the highly competitive Miss India pageant and other that are sent off to a Hindu Fundamentalists camps for combat training and to learn to be subservient.
The contrast between the two worlds leads to some genuine tension and intelligent conversation. The women in the pageant are smart, sympathetic, and at times, somewhat inspirational. On the other side, the depiction of religious extremism comes across as bone chilling as it sounds. A great movie could be made from any single part of the story, but Pahuja assembles the pieces in a powerful and well paced fashion.
Wednesday, May 2nd, 7:00pm, Isabel Bader (RUSH ONLY)
Saturday, May 5th, 9:30pm, Lightbox 1
Sunday, May 6th, 11:00am, Isabel Bader
Beware of Mr. Baker
Director: Jay Bulger
Recommended?: Yes, and not just because I fear the film’s subject punching me in the face.
Journalist Bulger revisits the subject of the Rolling Stone piece that made his career in this on-point, tightly crafted look at one of the most gifted and bat shit insane musicians in rock history.
More of a jazz drummer than the hard rocker he was made out to be, Ginger Baker oversaw the formation of the short lived by highly influential Cream and dozens of other equally short lived band. Bulger interviews the chronically pissed off and belligerent Baker from his South African estate about everything from his childhood and his musical influences to his travels across the Sahara and his drug addiction.
Baker is an equally magnetic and polarizing figure, and Bulger hits all the high notes with very little filler and some key insights from rock royalty that knew him best or were influenced by him.
Friday, April 27th, 6:15pm, Bloor
Saturday, April, 28th, 1:45pm, Isabel Bader
Saturday, May 5th, 1:00pm, Lightbox 2
Director: Didier Cros
Program: World Showcase
Recommended?: No. It’s an interesting, but ultimately missed opportunity that drags.
An unnecessary and painfully overlong attempt to demystify television job interview based reality shows like The Apprentice and Top Chef, Cros takes a look at a group of potential candidates of various ages and skill levels interviewing with a consulting firm for a poor paying entry level insurance sales position.
None of the candidates are ever allowed to be anything more than an name on an application sheet, as Cros predominantly focuses on the mindnumbing banality of lengthy recruiting tasks. Even the one-on-one interviews never rise about shit talking and “every man and woman for themselves” mentality. If the point was to show how boring it is to apply for even the most marginal of professional positions, mission accomplished, but there’s barely twenty minutes of good material here, not 94.
Friday, April 27th, 9:00pm, Cumberland 2
Sunday, April 29th, 1:30pm, Cumberland 2
Sunday, May 6th, 1:15pm, Cumberland 3