Equal parts poignant and emotionally devastating, Steve Hoover follows his best friend Rocky from Pittsburgh to Northern India where he finds peace and comfort volunteering all of his time at a paediatric AIDS orphanage for women and children.
Following one of the most quietly harrowing openings to a documentary, Hoover never obviously goes for the heart and the guts of the viewer. The balance between heavier and more meditative feel good moments is perfect. It’s tough to watch at time, but it’s a true testament to the power that a single individual can have on those most in need and a great portrait of a strong friendship.
Most importantly, Rocky is a thoroughly fascinating subject, full of inner conflict and boundless love for those around him. He’s not a perfect person, and sometimes he makes selfish and misguided mistakes (like possibly getting married just to stay there). It makes him and the film seem infinitely more rewarding. It’s easy to see why it won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance and part of the Hot Docs audience award this year. It will stick with you for a very long time after it ends.
The Prime Ministers: The Pioneers
The history of Israel since World War II gets chronicled in this lengthy, dry, biased, but still informative and somewhat delightfully anecdotal documentary from director Richard Trank.
Predominantly focused on the build-up and aftermath of the Six Days War and told predominantly from the viewpoint of former top Israeli aide Yehuda Avner, the film blends archival footage, talking heads, and celebrity aided recreations of historic confabs (Michael Douglas barely registering as Yitzhak Rabin! Christoph Waltz as Menachem Begin! Sandra Bullock embarrassingly trying to do a Yiddish accent!), the latter of which adds nothing.
There’s a great primer in here about the history of Israel – especially military history – but there’s not much else that couldn’t be better served by a book or a one hour History Channel documentary on the same subject. It’s also unquestionably pro-Israel, which is fine in theory, but there’s something a bit more extreme and one sided here. There are some great insights into early disputes with Egypt and meetings with LBJ to try and buy aircraft after the French declined to help the reborn nation, but this is for hardcore Middle East historians only. And even if it is for them, this story probably won’t be telling them anything they don’t already know.
Director Richard Trank will be participating in a Skype Q&A following the 12pm screening on Sunday, December 15th.
Also at The Bloor this week:
The Japan Foundation and the Consulate General of Japan team up to offer four free screenings of Japanese films December 15th through the 17th. Seven Days of Himawari and Her Puppies (Dec. 15, 3:30pm), Chronicle of My Mother (Dec. 15, 6:30pm), Life Back Then (Dec. 16th, 6:30pm), and Welcome Home, Hayabusa (Dec. 17, 6:30pm) are the films and tickets can be picked up 30 minutes prior to showtime.
Bloor Hot Docs Cinema members will also be treated to a special MEMBERS ONLY screening of AMERICA’S PROMISE on Wednesday, December 18th at 7:30pm. The screening of this Sundance 2013 Special Jury Prize Winner will also be attended by director Michèle Stephenson.