Thursday, 30 April 2015

Hot Docs 15: The 100 Year Show, A Sinner in Mecca, Speed Sisters

There is a hidden gem of a film called The 100 Year Show. It plays with It's Me Hilary: the Man Who Drew Eloise and the teaming of the two short docs is perfect: two artists in their seniors years, one 99 and the other 88 expressing their thoughts about their work. Carmen Herrera, who will be 100 years old on May 15, is a discovery to me, just as she was to the larger art world in the early 2000s. A Latin American woman, whose body of work was finally acknowledged publicly in her 90's, her work should have been known decades ago. As one person in the docs says, she should have been celebrated with other hard-edged painters such as  Frank Stella and Ellesworth Kelly.

It's Me Hilary: the Man Who Drew Eloise delightfully amuse bouche of a doc because its subject Hilary Knight, the illustrator who drew the 6 year-old character created by author Kay Thompson. Both Thompson and Knight are larger than life which is probably why a severing of the ways lead to Knight not being permitted to draw Eloise until after Thompson died. Through questions from actor Lena Dunham, who sports an Eloise tattoo, and direction by Matt Wolf, what emerges from this doc the portrait of an incredibly talented  man who lives in his own illustrated world, where  life is fantasy.

I credit director, Parvez Sharma for taking us along on his personal journey as a gay Muslim man making his pilgrimage to Mecca, but his doc, A Sinner in Mecca, needs to be tightened up.  I was very interested in how a Muslim man negotiates faith and sexuality, and I applaud his courage as a gay man going behind the scenes to document the hajj, (where filming is forbidden); however, too many unnecessary shots slow down the pace of his internal and external voyage of discovery. His is a story that needs to be shared, and I am hoping that beyond Hot Docs the film gets edited so that the personal story is strengthened.

Do not pre-judge! Speed Sisters is not about cuties in cars. Director, Amber Fares, documents the story of Palestinian women involved in the racing circuit. Marah, Noor, Mona, Betty, and Maysoon (team captain) are all fascinating individuals which makes for a interesting look at how they each  juggle social expectations ( like marriage) while expressing their personal reasons for racing cars. For some, its a release from the stress of living in an occupied territory, for others its the speed, and for all it is for the pride of their country and respective home towns. Despite arbitrary rules (there is no official federation), these women show commitment to their sport as they  drift, drive, and extend the boundaries of femininity.

Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival
April 23 - May 3, 2015
For all details about Hot Docs, visit:

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