Hot Docs 2014: The Possibilities are Endless (Dork Shelf)
Originally published at Dork ShelfAfter suffering a hemorrhagic stroke, Scottish singer-songwriter Edwyn Collins ended up slipping into a coma. After waking, it was discovered quite quickly he had suffered acute aphasia, a condition that affects the brain and leads to problems using language. Other than yes and no, the only other phrases Edwyn could use were the name of his wife ‘Grace Maxwell’ and the titular ‘The Possibilities are Endless’. The film employs lush cinematography and sound design to attempt an encompassing and sensory exploration of Collins’ recovering mind through this time while also showing us where he has progressed to today.
Directors Edward Lovelace and James Hall use interviews with Collins and his wife Grace Maxwell as the narration over moving abstract imagery in the film’s first half and recovered footage of Edwyn in the latter half to guide the film. The technique works quite well as, with the film mirroring Edwyn’s own recovery and progression. The film also uses re-enactments of the couple’s courtship and life together to help illustrate what’s truly an epic love story. (more…)
Hot Docs 2014: Love Me (Dork Shelf)
Originally published at Dork ShelfLove Me examines the Ukrainian mail-order bride business (which has gotten even more lucrative in the past decade) and the single men willing to risk their money to find companionship. The film follows 6 men of varying backgrounds and motivations and examines their relationship to the industry and the women they meet. The men take trips to the Ukraine where they encounter bombshells who cut straight to the point: they each want a man serious about marriage.
The 6 guys picked as the subjects for Love Me are very strategically placed to show the whole spectrum of outcomes of Internet dating, with some successful, some taken for a ride, and one in particular that’s to be a bit of a creep, yet he blames the women for not being interested. (more…)
Hot Docs 2014: An Honest Liar (Dork Shelf)
Originally Published at Dork ShelfJames “The Amazing” Randi is an 85-year-old magician who has been at the forefront of a movement to debunk frauds and phonies for decades. After dedicating his life to the magical arts from a very early age, Randi became a sensation mainly due to his impeccable skills as an escape artist. Randi has always referred to himself as being a “liar, cheat and charlatan.” But when the leading crusader against false propaganda is found to have been holding a secret for the past 26 years, will Randi be able to remain an honest liar?
Featuring appearances from other famous magicians, mentalists and skeptics like Penn and Teller, Banachek and Adam Savage from Mythbusters, An Honest Liar is an excellent time capsule looking at the past couple of decades of magic and deception while also proving to be a very effective character study of Randi himself. The film is buoyed by a considerable amount of archival footage that’s edited and culled together in impressive fashion. The film’s pacing is excellent and keeps the audience immersed throughout the entire running time. (more…)
Hot Docs 2014: Domino Effect (Dork Shelf)
Originally Published at Dork Shelf
Abkhazia is a mainly unrecognized state on the Black Sea that has claimed independence from Georgia. What used to be a frolicking beach getaway for lucky Soviets now sits in post-Communist ruin. But for Abkhazian Sports Minister Rafael everything appears to be turning around. His new young wife, Russian opera singer Natasha, gives up her home and custody of her daughter to take a chance on a new life in the country. But when the fiercely traditional locals don’t take to Natasha at all, and aren’t afraid to show it, their relationship starts to crack like the old buildings that surround them.
Domino Effect features a very static camera that doesn’t get involved with the proceedings for most of the film, something that sadly adds to its fiercely methodical pacing, making it feel much longer than its 75 minute run time. Rafael seems oblivious to the observations and conclusions of his wife, stuck in old world customs that show the vast chasm of difference between the couple. Natasha does have an epic encounter in a kitchen with a local woman after a traditional custom not being observed comes crashing down hard on her. (more…)
Hot Docs 2014: Before the Last Curtain Falls (Dork Shelf)
Originally Published at Dork Shelf
When the Belgian stage production Gardenia opened in 2010 it was a massive success: playing over 200 shows in 25 countries. The show is as much a performance art piece as it is cabaret, starring older gay and trans performers. The film follows the cast through their final performance and beyond, as they attempt to adapt and reintegrate themselves back into regular society after their final heart wrenching performance at home in Ghent.
Director Thomas Wallner has shot a gorgeous documentary (the performance pieces look outstanding), but the film seems to lack forward momentum throughout. The focus is more on performance than storytelling. These performers have led interesting lives, so the filmmakers’ choice to show us the troupe as a whole outside of the show instead of focusing on some of their stories dilutes the overall impact and leads to a very superficial account. (more…)
Hot Docs 2014: The Basement Satellite (Dork Shelf)
Originally Published at Dork Shelf
South Korean artist Hojun Song is determined to build the first civilian launched satellite. To accomplish this Hojun establishes the his own organization to fund the program. Sadly though, the only fundraising effort he undertakes is an ill-fated attempt to sell 10,000 T-Shirts with minimal advertising. The inexperienced Song then spends five years testing, tweaking, drawing up diagrams and soldering circuit boards trying to make his dream a reality.
While our protagonist is a fascinating character, driven and determined to build this satellite despite having no idea what he is doing, this a dense film. It follows the everyday carrying on of the project in all its banality, with brief interludes to talk about the botched fundraiser. The days continue to tick away until he needs to deliver the satellite (sometimes literally on screen) and he and his rag tag crew continue to crack under the pressure to deliver.
Of course nothing gets done ahead of time and he’s left scrambling to accomplish anything at all. It’s the full court press of this frantic construction in the third act, the very last days before the deadline that works best. But at an almost 2 hour run time, it’s a taxing journey just to get there.
Till Next Time
Movie Junkie TO
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‘Blackfish’ will fascinate TIFF Bell Lightbox audiences starting this weekend
Starting this week at the TIFF Bell Lightbox is the documentary that caused quite the splash at this year’s Hot Docs film festival, “Blackfish”. When director Gabriela Cowperthwaite began investigating the death of a trainer who was dragged to her death during a “Dine with Shamu” show at SeaWorld, she soon found the initial story gave way to a far more shocking and further-reaching situation that plumbed the depths of a billion-dollar industry.
Directed by Gabriela Cowperthwaite
A killer whale linked to three trainer deaths over two decades, Tilikum is the backbone of the story presented in Blackfish. However, Cowperthwaite discovered it wasn’t just this particular whale; there have been multiple cases of Orca attacks on trainers in parks around the world, although never in the wild. Featuring testimonies from experts and trainers, and with never-before-seen footage, (more…)
Alex Winter uploads his thoughts on ‘Downloaded’ (Interview)
Alex Winter uploads his thoughts on ‘Downloaded’
With his new documentary “Downloaded” having it’s Hot Docs debut tonight, Alex Winter has finally graduated from being Bill from “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure” into a seriously talented documentarian with a sharp eye for story and humor. The film is a rousing crowd pleaser and one of the most sought after tickets from this year’s fest. I got to sit down with Mr. Winter for a brief Q&A about the film.
Movie Junkie TO (MJ) -Thanks for taking some timeout to speak with me today Alex. I got to see the film the other day and I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed the film. I was working in a music store when the Napster thing exploded so I had a very personal relationship to what I was seeing. What was your introduction to the story and how did you get involved in telling this story? (more…)
Napster is dissected in the new Doc ‘Downloaded’
Director: Alex Winter
In 1998, teenage hacker Shawn Fanning cracked the code that enabled peer-to-peer file sharing online. In 1999, he partnered with his friend and fellow teen Sean Parker (later of Facebook fame) to launch a little service known as Napster. The music-sharing website transformed not only the music industry, but technology as a whole. It sparked a revolution and became the touchstone of a new, digital generation. Filmmaker Alex Winter is granted near unlimited access to Fanning and his collaborators, as well as to a roster of famous musicians including (more…)
Hot Docs 2013: Mini Reviews Part 1
The time has finally arrived and Toronto yet again will bask in the documentary glow that the Hot Docs Film Festival radiates every year. This year will mark the 20th edition of the now legendary festival and features a very strong line up, perhaps one of the strongest of all of it’s editions. Here’s reviews of 4 of the festival’s films, with more to come.
The coverage on Examiner for Hot Docs 2103 (more…)
Hot Docs 2013: Dayani Cristal and Muscle Shoals
Hot Docs is upon us again! The 2013 edition marks the 20th edition and it looks to be one of the strongest lineups ever. Here is a couple of the films playing over the 11 days of the festival.
Spend some time in ‘The Waiting Room’ (review)
The Waiting Room
Directed by Peter Nicks
Today (Friday, Jan 18), the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema begins an exclusive run of another of its 2012 festival favorites, The Waiting Room. When the shortlist of documentaries up for nomination for this year’s Academy Awards was released back in early December, director Peter Nicks found his film among the contenders. And even though it did not make the cut the film was in the mix for a reason, the day in the life of a U.S. hospital is an impactful and insightful piece of film making.
The Waiting Room is a riveting day in the life of an Oakland, California, public hospital’s overtaxed emergency room. The purely observational character-driven documentary expertly weaves the stories of several patients, most of them are uninsured, and who come to the inner-city facility because they have nowhere else to go. (more…)
‘Jason Becker’ proves he’s ‘Not Dead Yet’…………..(Film Review)
After a triumphant set of screenings at this year’s Hot Docs Film Festival this past April, Jason Becker: Not Dead Yet makes it return to Toronto screens when it starts Friday Dec 12th at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema. Not Dead Yet is the inspirational story of one man’s fight and struggle to continue making music after a debilitating disease strikes him down at a young age.
Jason Becker: Not Dead Yet
Starring : Jason Becker
Directed by Jesse Vile
Jason Becker was already a gifted musician before he hit his teens. In 1989 when doctors diagnosed the then 19 year old with Lou Gehrig’s disease (aka ALS) he was an international virtuoso about to join David Lee Roth as lead guitarist for Van Halen. He had also released a solo album and a debut album (more…)
Hot Docs Doc Soup dishes out ‘The House I Live In’ for December’s consumption (Review)
This month’s Doc Soup presentation from the venerable Hot Docs programmers is The House I Live In. The award winner from this year’s Sundance Film Festival makes its Toronto premiere with 3 showings at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema, on Wednesday December 5th at 6:30 and 9:15 and Thursday the 6th at 6:45. The House I Live In is a detailed look at the war on drugs in the US, but from the other side of the coin.
The House I Live in
Written by Eugene Jarecki and Christopher St John
Directed by Eugene Jarecki
In America a war is raging, not just overseas but at home as well, costing countless lives, destroying families, and inflicting untold damage on future generations. For (more…)
Written and Directed by Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady
The once bustling city of Detroit is a shadow of its former self. Starting back in 2010 when the economic downturn was in full swing, Detroit went from downturn to depression in a heartbeat. With the closures of local automobile production plants, the heart of Detroit’s manufacturing industry, other key business people started leaving Detroit in droves. Once one of the fastest growing cities in the world, Detroit now ranks among the highest cities in lost population over the last couple of years. While the families have moved on, the younger generation of bloggers and performance artist have now claimed it due to cheaper housing and access.
Detropia starts before the economic buyouts that turned around the auto industry in Detroit. These were the leanest of days, focusing on the few that stayed fighting and trying to rally the…
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The Story Of Film Preview
The Story of Film: An Odyssey
Written and Directed by Mark Cousins
Last year Mark Cousins in conjunction with the BBC brought us a 15 part epic series entitled The Story of Film: An Odyssey. Starting last weekend and continuing through to November The Hot Docs Bloor Cinema is presenting the entire series in 2 part chunks on Sunday nights with replays on Tues nights, only taking a break to present the Toronto After Dark Film Festival in late October. Starting from back at the turn of the 20th century, The Story of Film attempts to present the most complete version of the history of film production put forward. Not content to just focus on the Hollywood scene, Cousins spans the globes for the most influential films and filmmakers of their time and presents their stories in detail.
The first two episodes cover the start of film, from the…
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