Tuesday, 14 May 2013

My Hot Docs 2013 Faves: Thanks Hot Docs programmers!

Now that Hot Docs Canadian International Film Festival is over, people have been asking how many films I saw and what were my favourites. Well, here is is folks: a list of the films I saw (arranged alphabetically) with photos and descriptions of my Top 5 Favourites. A few films might have been a wee bit longer than need be, but I can say honestly that enjoyed ALL of the films I saw. I don't think this has ever happened before! Thanks Hot Docs programmers!

Read on, and don't forget to share your faves by posting a comment. Please note that by favourites, I do mean exactly that. Sometimes the films that impact you are not the ones that check all the "best picture" buttons.

1) 15 Reasons to Live
D: Alan Zweig 83 minutes | Canada | English | World Premiere | Rating: PG

2) Aatsinki: The Story of Arctic Cowboys
D: Jessica Oreck | 85 minutes | Finland USA | (Subtitled) Finnish | International Premiere | Rating: 14A

Brothers Aarne and Lasse Aatsinki are cowboys of the Arctic, quiet but good-natured, daring but humble, rugged but gentle and exceptionally knowledgeable when it comes to their little slice of wilderness. Together with their wives and children, the brothers live well north of the Arctic Circle in Finnish Lapland, where they are the leaders of a collective of traditional reindeer herders who manage the last group of wild reindeer in all of Finland. - Hot Docs

My Thoughts: A noticeable number of people walked out at the beginning of this film because there are scenes of reindeer being culled for slaughter.  If they had only stayed a few minutes more they would have been in awe of the beautiful scene pictured above, as well as the fact that every part of the reindeer is used for consumption, for clothing, for tools, and even eating vessels. They also missed the way in which the Aasinki brothers relate to each other and their families. Scenes of the brothers with their children are precious ones familiar to anyone who has children in their lives. I especially appreciated how one brother engaged his daughters in the family business. The girls are eager participants, one even boasting of reindeer catches as she helps with the tagging of the animals. The director's observational style allows you to sit back and soak in the nuances of the brothers' lives, taking note of the way they have had to adapt the business to survive, be it through machinery or the organized tours they lead for tourists as far away as Spain. Lovely.

3) Alcan Highway
D: Aleksi Salmenperä | 86 minutes | Finland | English Finnish | International Premiere | Rating: 14A
(see my review)

4) Anita
D:Freida Mock | 84 minutes | USA | International Premiere | Rating: PG

5) Ballerina
D: Maja Friis | 50 minutes | Denmark | (Subtitled) Swedish | International Premiere | Rating: G
(watch the trailer)

Inspired by world-famous Swedish ballerina Elsa Marianne von Rosen’s autobiography, filmmaker Maja Friis uses beautifully choreographed contemporary dance scenes to reveal the dancer’s impossible balancing act between consuming human love and an all-encompassing artistic passion. Connecting unique archival material and new recordings of the now 89-year-old legend, the film portrays dance as a lover, a partner, a support and a shadow. - Angie Driscoll

My Thoughts: This is a gorgeous film! Shot in sumptuous black and white by cinematographer, Brian Curt Petersen, and directed and very well-edited by Maja Friis. Friis along with company partner and producer, Mille Haynes, are on a mission to create poetic cinema piece that spotlights engaging subjects. Their portrait of prima ballerina, Elsa Marianne von Rosen, gave me a new way of thinking about the dancer and dance. It is often said that the two cannot be separated, and this is film demonstrates to pull between artistic and human passion in a way I had never seen previously. As someone who knows many artists who are consumed by the fire of their passion, the message of the film was quite familiar, but the combination of theme and cinematic artistry of the film left me with memories and visions that I will not soon forget. Breathtaking in its depiction of the artist's soul.

6) Bà nội
D: Khoa Lê | 85 minutes | Canada | (Subtitled) Vietnamese | North American Premiere | Rating: G
WINNER - Inspirit Foundation Pluralism Prize, Hot Docs 2013

7) Brothers Hypnotic
D: Reuben Atlas | 80 minutes | USA Netherlands | English | International Premiere | Rating: 14A

8) The Circle
D: Bram Conjaerts | 47 minutes | Belgium | (Subtitled) French English | World Premiere | Rating: PG
WINNER - Best Mid-Length Documentary, Hot Docs 2013

9) Da Vinci (short film)
D: Yuri Ancarani 25 minutes | Italy | Canadian Premiere | Rating: 14A

10) Derby & Groma (short film)
D: Kara Blake 17 minutes | Canada | (Subtitled) Spanish | World Premiere | Rating: G
After a collection of photographs of a vaudeville couple in Buenos Aires are found scattered across a street, their story is imaginatively pieced together with archival footage, performance, interviews and animation. Derby & Groma reveals a vibrant cabaret world in Argentina during the 1920s and ‘30s, and attests to the value of cultural artifacts that not only recover a forgotten past but also enliven our imaginations. - Jane Kim

My Thoughts: This film was a fitting complement to Ballerina, but it can stand on its own two feet exceedingly well. I love history and the arts so I connected with this film from the start. Discarded pictures of a caberet duo (whether they were a couple or just partners is unknown), and photos of other such entertainers paint a picture of Argentina's past that made me wonder about Derby and Groma's families and about other cities where the past can be discarded without a thought. How many digital cameras will be lost in the 21st Century, their frozen pictures of people disconnected from their place and significance? I enjoyed the cultural investigation pursued by director, Kara Blake, as she allows memorablia stores, historians and the finder of the Derby and Groma photos to speak to the past and share their speculations of who the two were. The cinematography warmly cherishes the photos used in the documentary, adding a lustre and patina to the mysterious images.

11) Dragon Girls
D: Inigo Westmeier | 90 minutes | Germany | (Subtitled) Chinese | North American Premiere | Rating: PG
WINNER - Best International Feature Documentary Award, Hot Docs 2013

12) Felix Austria!
D: Christine Beebe | 76 minutes | USA Austria | (Subtitled) English German | World Premiere | Rating: PG (see my review)

13) Gangster of Love
D: Nebojsa Slijepcevic | 80 minutes | Croatia Germany Romania | (Subtitled) Croatian German | International Premiere | Rating: PG
(see my review)

14) Good Ol' Freda
D: Ryan White | 86 minutes | USA | English | International Premiere | Rating: PG
(see my review)

15) Hill of Pleasures
D: Maria Ramos | 90 minutes | Netherlands Brazil | (Subtitled) Portuguese | North American Premiere | Rating: 14A

This observational doc, beautifully shot against one of the world’s most stunning views, reveals a community living in the midst of uncertainty at a time of pivotal change. - Hot Docs

My Thoughts: (see my review)

16) In the Shadow of the Sun
D: Harry Freeland | 85 minutes | UK | (Subtitled) Swahilli | Canadian Premiere | Rating: PG

Albinos living in Tanzania fear for their lives. Ostracized for their albinism, the disorder that robs their skin, hair and eyes of pigmentation, they are widely hated, particularly in rural areas where they are labeled “white devils.” Witch doctors spread wild rumours that albino bones and blood can summon riches, spurring strangers and even fellow villagers to savagely hunt them. In the midst of an outbreak of brutal killings, filmmaker Harry Freeland meets two albino men leading very different lives. Teenaged Vedastus is isolated at home with his mother, shunned by friends. Confident Josephat campaigns against anti-albino discrimination, travelling from one community to another to educate and even confront attackers with their deeds. An audience favourite at International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam, this powerful film exposes the injustices of a little known crisis and shines a light on the courageous few whose inexhaustible hope is a beacon for us all. - Myrocia Watamaniuk

My Thoughts: My Number 1 Favourite!  (see my review)

17) The Life and Crimes of Doris Payne
D: Matthew Pond and Kirk Marcolina | 73 minutes | USA | English | World Premiere | Rating: PG
(see my review)

18) Menstrual Man (honourable mention on my list)
D: Amit Virmani | 63 minutes | Singapore India | (Subtitled) Hindi Tamil English | Canadian Premiere | Rating: PG
NUMBER 8 - Audience  Top Ten Favourite, Hot Docs 2013
This film almost made my Top 5 Faves  for its inspirational hero, but lost out to In the Shadow of the Sun.  (see my review)

19) Mistaken for Strangers
D: Tom Berninger | 80 minutes | USA | English | International Premiere | Rating: 14A

20) Muscle Shoals
D: Greg 'Freddy' Camalier | 111 minutes | USA | English | International Premiere | Rating: PG
NUMBER 1 - Audience  Top Ten Favourite, Hot Docs 2013

21) Rent a Family
D: Kaspar Astrup Schröder | 77 minutes | Denmark | (Subtitled) English Japanese | North American Premiere | Rating: PG (see my review)

22) The Women and the Passenger
D: Patricia Correa and Valentina Mac-Pherson | 45 minutes | Chile | (Subtitled) Spanish | North American Premiere | Rating: PG
(see my review)

El Passajero is a motel that rents its uniquely decorated rooms by the hour. With customers coming regularly throughout the day, the chambermaids are quite busy changing sheets, polishing mirrors and cleaning ominous-looking sex chairs—all in a day’s work.
- Heather Haynes
My Thoughts: (see my review)

23) Yellow Sticky Notes | Canadian Anijam (short film)
D: Jeff Chiba Stearns | 8 minutes | Canada | English | Canadian Premiere | Rating: G

Images/Descriptions courtesy of Hot Docs Canadian International Film Festival

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