Monday, March 24, 2014
Hot Docs is North America's largest documentary film festival, with this year's fest receiving 2,400 submissions that has been narrowed down to the 197 titles from 43 countries set to screen at 10 different venues across Toronto next month. Here's what I'll be seeing at the 21st edition of the festival (film summaries, some of which I've edited, are taken from Hot Docs' website):
Vessel - Under grave threat from hostile governments and violent protestors, Dutch physician Rebecca Gomperts and her crew navigate treacherous waters to offer safe abortions to women around the world. Exploiting maritime legal loopholes, their Dutch ship floats in international waters 12 miles off the coast of countries where their services are desperately needed. Vessel is a galvanizing look at people who take the fight for reproductive rights to where it’s needed most.
The Notorious Mr. Bout - Immortalized by Nicolas Cage in the action-thriller Lord of War, Viktor Bout claims he’s just a businessman. True, he built his empire selling weapons to some of the world’s most violent regimes, but as this amazingly intimate exposé reveals, the infamous arms dealer is more of an amateur filmmaker than a cold-hearted opportunist. Award-winning filmmakers Tony Gerber (Full Battle Rattle) and Maxim Pozdorovkin (Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer) chip away at the Bout mythology, as this revealing portrait navigates the muddy waters of profit and personal responsibility.
Alfred & Jakobine - In the summer of 1955, Alfred and Jakobine were crazy for adventure and each other. Jakobine was certain they’d last forever, but without warning, Alfred left, breaking her heart. 40 years later, their son Niels takes up their story when Alfred decides to head across America to see Jakobine one more time. Thoroughly engaging, Alfred And Jakobine is a beautifully crafted love letter to four decades of heartache, two unforgettable characters and one extraordinary past.
Whitey: United States of America v. James J.Bulger - Oscar-nominated director Joe Berlinger (best known for the Paradise Lost trilogy and Metallica: Some Kind of Monster) strips away the myths surrounding Boston ex-mobster and FBI informant James “Whitey” Bulger, getting past his mystique as the Robin Hood of South Boston. With this past summer’s explosive trial as a backdrop, Berlinger uses his unprecedented access to FBI agents, Massachusetts state police, victims, lawyers, gangsters, journalists, and federal prosecutors to uncover shocking new allegations about Whitey’s criminal empire.
Come Worry With Us! - Violinist Jessica Moss and singer/guitarist Efrim Menuck, founding member of the Montreal post-rock group Godspeed You! Black Emperor, had it all figured out...or at least some of it. Partners in love and art, they were making music and a modest living touring their band, Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra, but when their son Ezra is born, everything changes. In the age of the digital download, constant touring is synonymous with economic survival. But is the road a place for a toddler? Jessica and Efrim bring Ezra on tour and the film follows the band from tour bus to concert venue as they try to juggle making music at night with a charming bundle of energy tearing up and down the aisles of the bus at dawn. This dynamic, sometimes funny film asks if parents who work in the arts - specifically mothers - can have it all.
Nelson Mandela: The Myth & Me - Winner of the Special Jury Prize at the prestigious International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam in November, celebrated South African filmmaker Khalo Matabane’s latest film takes an unflinching look at the most celebrated individual of our time. Matabane’s mosaic framework is anchored by his personal letter to Mandela, interwoven throughout the film and presented alongside spectacular imagery and interviews with world leaders, intellectuals, and ordinary South Africans. The conflicting sentiments range wildly from idolatry and veneration to disappointment and critical re-evaluation of some of Mandela’s landmark decisions. These divergent points of view are mirrored by the filmmaker as he reflects on Mandela’s post-sainthood legacy, the process of forgiveness and reconciliation, and the elusive promise of freedom, justice, and a better life for all South Africans.