Hot Docs International Documentary Festival 2014

Hot Docs International Documentary Festival 2014

Doc of the Dead

Hot Docs 2014: Doc of the Dead

Director: Alexandre Philippe

Program: Nightvision

Run Time: 82 minutes

Campy, fun, and tongue in cheek, Alexandre Philippe’s Doc of the Dead surely entertains. Tracing the history of the zombie on and off the silver screen, he takes the audience through a rudimentary education of the genre. Through a series of talking head interviews with the likes of George A Romero, Simon Pegg, Bruce Campbell, Robert Kirkman, Max Brooks, and Sherman Howard, we’re shown how zombies came to be in popular culture, and the lengths to which people have become obsessed. Zombie walks, zombie obstacle courses, zombie weddings (officiated by none other than Campbell himself), shelters, weapons, clothing, toys, shows, comic books, and festivals, the world is screaming for “brains!”

Zombies are so engrained in popular culture at this point, that there seems to be very little we don’t know. For those familiar with the genre, aficionados and horror gurus alike, they’ll find nothing new here. The layman, however, will take great interest in what Doc of the Dead has to offer. Even still, it teaches us very little in the way of new or groundbreaking information. What the film does provide is an unfortunately perfunctory look at the world’s obsession with zombie culture. While that portion of Doc is intriguing, and a little shocking, it’s at best the end third of the film, and we’re left with very little to sink our teeth into. The anecdotes and interviews are entertaining, nonetheless, but many will groan. They’ve been here before, and they recognize that tree. Ultimately, Doc of the Dead does little to whet the appetites of zombie lovers.


Saturday, April 26th at 11:59pm at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema

Sunday, April 27th at 9:30pm at Hart House Theatre

Saturday, May 3rd at 9:45pm at the Royal Cinema


The Nose: Searching for Blamage

Hot Docs 2014: The Nose - Searching for Blamage

Director: Paul Rigter

Program: Next

Run Time: 53 minutes

This feature film debut from actor director Paul Rigter focuses on the eccentric son of a butcher turned perfumer Alessandro Gualtieri, AKA The Nose. We follow Gualtieri on his quest for his latest scent: Blamage. Convinced that the greatest scents in history were happy accidents, he travels the world searching for the best synthesized scents he can find, trying to create a beautiful mistake.

Ultimately, The Nose fails to deliver much of anything compelling, be it scent or story. While not entirely about Gualtieri himself, there’s little focus on the scent being created, or the history of perfuming, for that matter. It feels aimless, and in the end fruitless. Although the piece is interestingly shot, with almost synaesthetic depictions of Gualtieri’s perception of smell,  it’s just not enough to carry the weight of a predominantly pointless film. At 53 minutes long, we’re barely given an hour’s worth of material, and what we are given are random musings on Gualtieri’s process, life, the diversity of smell, and the failings of horrible reproductions of his scents.

Brief interviews with his parents feel aimless. They talk about their son’s divergent path from the family’s tradition of being butchers, and that’s about it. Gualtieri frightens fragrance sellers in Milan while he pontificates about notes of fecal matter in the most expensive fragrance in the world. And while his talents are prominent, and he’s certainly an interesting character, it feels as though we’re never given entry into his world. The film is supposed to be about the creation of a fragrance. A fragrance that never comes to be. And at the same time, we’re shown very little of the man behind The Nose, nothing on the history of perfuming, and we’re left with a relatively underwhelming scent to waft us away.


Saturday, April 26th at 4:30pm at Scotiabank Theatre 4

Sunday, April 27th at 9:45pm at Scotiabank Theatre 7

Saturday, May 3rd at 1:00pm at TIFF Bell Lightbox 3



Divide in Concord

Hot Docs 2014: Divide in Concord

Director: Kris Kaczor

Program: World Showcase

Run Time: 82 minutes

In the land of Henry David Thoreau, on hallowed American ground, an 84-year-old widow leads the charge against the third largest industry in the world. Jean Hill of Concord, Massachusetts, has been working since 2010 to bring about a ban on bottled water. The attack, to be clear, is not on the consumption of water, as some of her opposition would have you believe. Rather, it is a pebble in a brook that seeks to affect the change of the tide. Hill wants to be the catalyst for a larger change in the way we live. The bottled water industry didn’t exist thirty years ago. Today, it dominates the marketplace, and is causing irreparable damage to our planet. Hill, alongside friend and fellow activist Jill Appel, have petitioned for years, and are taking their appeal to the Concord Town Meeting for one last time.

There’s a common misconception that it is the American way and America’s inalienable right to do as they choose. What gets lost in that train of thought is the disjointed concept that that freedom doesn’t come at a cost. It does. None of us are exempt from the impact of our actions. That includes Americans, despite the Constitution, which has given them an “out” that masks itself as legal entitlement.

Director Kris Kaczor has created a gem of a film. Stepping aside, he’s captured valid arguments on both sides of the spectrum, allowing each to speak for themselves. This cause has nothing to do with being American, and with your civil liberties. This has to do with attempting to make an infinitesimal shift in public consciousness. It’s about being a citizen of this planet: a planet we have on loan from our children, and their children, and their children after that. The broadest changes start with the smallest efforts. It’s about making a case to stand firm and start small.


Saturday, April 26th at 9:30pm at Scotiabank Theatre 4

Monday, April 28th at 1:30pm at TIFF Bell Lightbox 2

Saturday, May 3rd at 11:00am at Isabel Bader Theatre



Nelson Mandela: The Myth and Me

Hot Docs 2014: Nelson Mandela - The Myth and Me

Director: Khalo Matabane

Program: Special Presentations

Run Time: 85 minutes

Seen as a God among men, Nelson Mandela has been regarded as saint-like since his release from prison. Even earlier, perhaps. The rest of the world has constructed an image of Mandela swathed in fame and fortune, forgiveness and acceptance. But the people of South Africa – many of them, though perhaps not all – have a drastically different image of this mythical man. Celebrated South African filmmaker Khalo Matabane has rendered an elegant and unflinching mosaic around one of the world’s most celebrated men, calling his praise into question. Reading from his own letter to Mandela interspersed with various talking head interviews from world leaders, dignitaries, authors, and ordinary South Africans, Matabane allows the outside world a fairly rendered, multifaceted perspective of Mandela and his South Africa.

The world has seen Mandela as little else than a man of peace. Serene in his quest for forgiveness and unity, though fierce in his convictions, he’s become a voice of inspiration for many. Matabane suggests, however, that he didn’t deliver on his promises. The people of South Africa are still angry. They still live in squalor, with a huge divide between the rich and the poor. They may be free, but free to do what? Few opportunities are accessible to the very poor, and many South Africans feel that, asides from the abolishment of Apartheid, not much has changed for their circumstances. They are angry, confused and questioning why their leader, their saviour, would favour forgiveness instead of reparations. Why he would overlook the pursuit of justice in favour of inaction.

Matabane paints a conflicting and at times painful portrait of a man that, while beloved and admired, was still entirely fallible. We forget that these mythical men are not omnipotent. They are not Godlike. This stands as the backbone of much of Matabane’s thesis: like coming to terms with the innate humanness of your parents, so too must we come to terms with the fallibility of our leaders. And Mandela, in spite of his years of suffering, or his words of peace and acceptance, is most certainly a flawed human, and a flawed leader. Matabane dares to open up a dialogue surrounding the myth of Mandela, and bears his personal disappointment, and the pain of a nation, in the process.


Saturday, April 26th at 9:30pm at Hart House Theatre

Monday, April 28th at 5:00pm at Scotiabank Theatre 3

Sunday, May 4th at 4:00pm at Isabel Bader Theatre



Ukraine is Not a Brothel

Hot Docs 2014: Ukraine is Not a Brothel

Director: Kitty Green

Program: Special Presentations

Run Time: 80 minutes

Controversial feminist activist organization FEMEN has stirred up a great deal of infamy and notoriety. Originating in Ukraine, they now have groups popping up all over Europe. Bearing their breasts as a form of protests, these women cover their bodies in slogans demonstrating their cause. Their hope is to shift the social consciousness surrounding patriarchy. In a country where its women can earn more by taking their clothes off than by using their brains, the women of FEMEN are trying to shed the image that Ukrainian women are little more than bodies for hire: sexual vessels with no right of their own. But are these women truly feminist activists, or simply the product of a patriarchal society, caught in a hypocritical cycle of self-deprecation? Filmmaker Kitty Green goes behind the scenes of the controversial group in an attempt to reveal the truth about this organization, and the ugliness of patriarchy in the Ukraine.

Without question, this documentary is infuriating. But not how you’d imagine. What starts off as an intimate look at a laughable organization swiftly transitions into an investigation of a fractured society. Green beautifully captures these hypocritical women in action, fighting for what they think they believe in, but caught in a vicious cycle perpetuated by a horribly broken system. Ukraine is Not a Brothel is less about FEMEN itself, and more about the broader issue of feminism in Eastern Europe. Ironically, it speaks to FEMEN’s cause more profoundly than FEMEN’s protests.


Saturday, April 26th at 9:30pm at TIFF Bell Lightbox 1

Monday, April 28th at 1:00pm at Hart House Theatre

Tuesday, April 29th at 12:30pm at TIFF Bell Lightbox 1