Monday, 23 April 2012

Love and Magic at Hot Docs 2012

My Thoughts On...Ballroom Dancer, Breath, Planet of Snail, The Field of Magic, The Queen of Versailles

BALLROOM DANCER.  With it's brooding, volatile male lead, and a tempestuous romance to boot, this film feels more like a fiction feature than a documentary. After being crowned a champion in Latin American Dance, 34 year old Slavik had decided to re-enter the competition ten years later to regain his title. Problem is, his former partner continues to reap success with someone else, while Slavik and his new partner (also his lover) are still learning how to move as one.  A shirtless Slavik is beautiful to watch, but it's his athleticism, his drive, and the way he approaches dance with the same fervor as his martial arts training that brings an unexpected element to this doc.  The dancer as athlete is very much a part of this film, and that should appeal to those who know how difficult it is to prepare the body and mind to be at its best on competition day.  Slavik's dedication to his sport, his demanding coaching of his new partner, Ania, give a dramatic touch to this film that is further enhanced by Magnus Jarlbo's score.  Watching this film I couldn't help wondering who will make the Hollywood bio-pic, and who would star as Slavik. Can Channing Tatum dance? Danish, Russian with English subtitles.
Mon, Apr 30 9:00 PM
Isabel Bader Theatre

Tue, May 1 3:00 PM
TIFF Bell Lightbox 1

Wed, May 2 11:00 AM
Isabel Bader Theatre

 BREATH. This doc introduces us to Francesko, Estonia's only female chimney sweep. While I admired scenes of Francesko walking on roof tops without guide wires and leap-frogging when the going got tough ("Damn it! The leg is so unstable today"), I wasn't very interested in scenes away from her job and her interactions with her clients. I wanted to know more about the differing demands of rural versus urban clientele. How did she deal with the city people who all call her in August wanting things done "yesterday" as opposed to the rural crowd who call her from Spring to Fall? The director's attempt to connect Francesko's work to the spirituality of the breath takes us away from an already interesting subject, and drags us into arenas of social boredom. Estonian with English subtitles.
Sun, Apr 29 6:45 PM
TIFF Bell Lightbox 3

Tue, May 1 1:30 PM
The ROM Theatre

 PLANET OF SNAIL. This love story explores the world of poet Young-Chan and his wife, Soon-Ho. Introduced by a mutual friend, the story of their courtship is filled with humour and passion, emotions that have continued into their marriage. The lanky, Young-Chan and his diminutive wife communicate on a level that is astounding as it is beautiful to observe. Even surrounded by friends, or performing household chores like washing dishes or changing a light bulb, there is an intimacy between these two that is rarely seen in life. Not all of us are as lucky enough to find a partner that suits us so well, as one friend admits to Young-Chan. Young-Chan's poetry abounds in the film, taking us into the world of nature and his observations about life from a deaf-blind perspective. His gentle, insightful verses, match the grace with which Soon-Ho communicates with him using finger braille, and the way in which they love one another. The film runs a bit long at 89 minutes, but that's a minor complaint when weighed against the wondrous relationship of these two people. Korean with English subtitles.
Mon, Apr 30 9:00 PM
TIFF Bell Lightbox 3

Wed, May 2 1:30 PM
The ROM Theatre

Sun, May 6 2:00 PM
TIFF Bell Lightbox 2

 THE FIELD OF MAGIC. Living off the land is given a different twist in this film about a group of people who have chosen to live near a dump. Scavenging through other people's refuse, they use the proceeds of their finds to buy food and staples for their tiny lodges, which are just large enough to house two. An outsider might be very tempted to dismiss or pity these people, but director, Mindaugas Survila's camera reveals a band of settlers who have created a community. Contrary to what the media has written about them, no one has committed suicide, and they are not living in despair. They have learned to cope with such difficulties as pulling water bottles through high snow, but they dance, have holiday parties with their neighbours, weep for estranged relatives, and talk finances just like people living in more socially acceptable places. Survila's film is a revealing, and at times, humourous portrayal of people living their lives on their own terms. Lithuanian, Russian with English subtitles.
Sat, Apr 28 6:15 PM
TIFF Bell Lightbox 4

Mon, Apr 30 1:30 PM
TIFF Bell Lightbox 3

 THE QUEEN OF VERSAILLE. It's almost obscene to go from The Field of Magic to talking about a billionaire and his wife, but that's what happens at Hot Docs, when so many different point of views are offered on screen. The filming of Jackie and David Siegel's story begins with the former beauty queen and her time-share selling husband talking about the new home they are building which is modelled after Versailles. Since they are bursting at the seams in their 26, 000 square foot home, the new house will be bigger than the White House, have 30 bathrooms, a skating rink (it's in Florida!), a grand staircase to beat all staircases and be the largest single-family dwelling in America. David Siegel is building his Versailles "because he can"; Jackie has seven children because she has nannies for them all; however, when the recession hits, and the bank stops lending money, David sinks into a depression as he tries to fund his international time share properties, and Jackie has to learn how to take care of her children with less staff. Peering into the lives of this family is a fascinating look at the rich, and we can't help but laugh ("What's the name of my driver?" Jackie asks the stunned rent-a-car representative), but at the same time, what is revealed is the state in which many Americans were living beyond their means without thought of it ever ending. The Siegels thought they would continue to get presidents elected, and everyone who worked for the Siegals expected that life to continue: Filipino nannies thought they would be able to send money back home; time share buyers thought their credit cards would always be there for vacations, and the Siegels children would surely never have to work. While not broke by many standards, the Siegels are having a hard time adjusting to the reality of the "American dream".
Wed, May 2 7:00 PM
TIFF Bell Lightbox 1

Thu, May 3 9:15 PM
Isabel Bader Theatre

Fri, May 4 8:45 PM
Bloor Hot Docs Cinema

Hot Docs
Canadian International Documentary Festival
April 26 - May 6
Tickets: or  416-637-5150
Box Office: 783 Bathurst Street (south of Bloor)

1 comment:

GG said...

Love the still from Ballroom, I will so be there. I'm shallow. Thanks for the early reviews.

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