From April 19-29, Toronto will be the staging ground for an intriguing bounty of documentaries from around the globe. With subject matter including “Addiction and Mental Health” (with Darryl Miller’s Dark One, a no-holds barred study of a morphine-addicted poet), the ever-controversial “Multiculturalism & Race” (notably Jamie Kastner’s Kikes Like Me, where the filmmaker turns the camera on himself to probe just how Jewish—or not!—he is) to “Youth & Youth Issues” (featuring a Girls Rock!, Arne Johnson’s and Shane King’s behind-the-cabin (or should that be Cobain?) look at a Rock ‘n Roll Camp for girls, the notion of “something for everyone” takes on new meaning. At this festival, world premières are the norm, rather than the exception.
Not surprisingly, the topics know no borders or, in one case, gravity. David Sington’s In the Shadow of the Moon will provide the opening-night crowd with a telling probe into the effect of space travel on astronauts who have journeyed to Earth’s only natural satellite. Closer to home, the metamorphosis of a dingy flop house into a trendy hotel and lounge—without entirely alienating the “characters” who begrudgingly witnessed the extreme makeover of their digs—is celebrated in Last Call at the Gladstone Hotel (Derreck Roemer, Neil Graham). And the Rest of Canada’s national pastime is convincingly immortalized as Let’s All Hate Toronto (Albert Nerenberg, Rob Spence) makes its début.
The end of the planet, Mayan style (forecast for December 21, 2012) is delved into by Alice Klein’s Call of the Hummingbird. It’s the ideal complement to the “Made in Brazil” section where highly organized criminal activity (Kiko Goifman’s Acts of Men), confessions from long-suffering rural residents (Eduardo Coutinho’s The End and the Beginning), the popularized myth that Brazil is nothing but one flesh-filled beach (Lucia Murat’s star-filled The Foreign Eye) and a revealing portrait of a servant/historian’s incredible life (João Salles’ Santiago).
Two veteran filmmakers are spotlighted in retrospectives. Niagara Falls native Kevin McMahon has four films being screened during the fest (The Falls, In the Reign of Twilight, Intelligence and McLuhan’s Wake). From the Netherlands is a series of films to celebrate Heddy Honigmann’s Outstanding Achievement Award. Her projects range from a lively portrait of musicians in La Métro de Paris (The Underground Orchestra), the erotic poetry of Carlos Drummond de Andrade (O Amor Natural) through to Crazy—a study of the psychological effects of the horrors of war on Dutch peacekeepers.
Beyond the films and endless parties, Hot Docs offers a series of talks (“What Makes it Political?,” moderated by documentary programmer Thom Powers; “First Person,” moderated by film critic Geoff Pevere and “The Art of the Interview,” where the guest list includes Honigmann and John Zaritsky, cross-reference below). Canada’s National Film Board hosts a half-day “Doc Summit” (will the resolutions be binding?) and a morning coffee klatch—with so many creative minds converging on the festival, these events should stimulate as much as the screenings.
Throughout it all, the crass (John Philp’s Yoga Inc. where yogis battle for copyright of their “moves”), the cruel (Curt Johnson’s Your Mommy Kills Animals—‘nuf said) and the critical (the camera turns on Michael Moore in Debbie Melnyk’s and Rick Caine’s Manufacturing Dissent) as well as dozens of other films serve to forever remind us that truth is still stranger than fiction. JWR