JWR Articles: Preview - Hot Docs (Director of Programming: Sean Farnel) - April 23, 2009

Hot Docs

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Grand array of electrifying flicks

The 16th edition of Hot Docs will jam in 171 films from 39 countries over its eleven-day run (April 30-May 10). With so many fascinating features, shorts and seminars scheduled, taking in everything is near impossible. JWR has singled out the following items (one from each day) as especially worthy of consideration when planning your visit to Canada’s largest documentary fest.

Those who have been struck by lightning—literally or figuratively—won’t want to miss Act of God (Canada: Jennifer Baichwal). Beyond the spectacular shots of nature showing off, there is much to ponder: the odds of coming away renewed and refreshed are high.

A retrospective look back to the ‘60s can be found in Nobody Waved Goodbye (Canada, Don Owen) where the Canadian reply to Rebel Without a Cause (cross-reference below) delves deep into delinquency even as it raised the bar for home-grown filmmaking.

The painting (Rembrandt’s The Night Watch) within the film is the conceit behind Rembrandt’s J’accuse (Netherlands, Peter Greenaway). This art appreciation à la whodunit is filled with laughs, conspiracy theories while creatively interpreting history.

Let’s Make Money (Austria, Erwin Wagenhofer) is required viewing for those who have lost their jobs in this great recession or those who knowingly created the perfect economic/commercial storm to demonstrate the decidedly dark side of unbridled globalization and corporate greed.

Leading off the Made in Korea section is Action Boys (South Korea, Jung Byung-Gil). It’s a behind-the-scenes look at basic training for the future stars of the ever-popular Korean action films. Dentists and orthopaedic surgeons will salivate at every failed stunt.

Those tired of Viagra commercials will want to see Orgasm Inc. (U.S., Liz Canner). Co-presented by the Female Eye Film Festival, the mysteries of female sexual dysfunction are laid bare with the pharmaceutical giants lurking under the sheets ready to prescribe their cures.

Over-fishing of our besieged oceans comes beautifully under the lens in The End of the Line (U.K., Rupert Murray). Not surprisingly, this exposé of the looting of the sea is being co-presented by Planet in Focus (cross-reference below).

The systemic oppression of those living on the margins is thoroughly examined by one of the world’s most gifted filmmakers in El Olvido (Netherlands, Heddy Honigmann). Slum life in Lima, Peru has no population-grabbing game-show to divert the world’s attention from the politics of brutality.

The apparent resurrection of the ivory-billed woodpecker is the curious subject matter for Ghost Bird (U.S., Scott Crocker). If true, it’s great news for the species but has the potential of becoming a convenient rationalization for unconcerned hunters preying on others currently presumed to be near extinction.

Rooms-by-the-hour is no joke for this unabashed look at Miami’s busiest hostelry, The Starlite Motel (Canada, Alison Rose). Those curious about the intimate details of a hooker’s trade or those wanting to, er, compare notes, will want to enrol for this primer on illicit, yet frequently marriage-saving, sex.

Poetry in Motion (Canada, Ron Mann, 1982, featuring such notables as Michael Ondaatje, John Cage, William Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg) offers much food for thought about language as two-dozen poets perform their art. Showing as well in this career retrospective (more of his work comes earlier in the festival) are Mann’s Echoes Without Saying (1983), Twist (1989—yes, Chubby Checker’s) and newly restored Marsha Resnick’s Bad Boys (1985).

Whether looking back to ground-breaking work or catching some of the 36 world première’s, the 2009 line-up offers filmgoers a unique opportunity to learn, love and laugh. JWR

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Director of Programming - Sean Farnel
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