Hot Docs 2014

Art and Craft

Hot Docs 2014: Arts and Crafts

Director: Jennifer Grausman, Sam Cullman, and Mark Becker

Program: Nightvision

Run Time: 89 minutes

Mark Landis is a fraud. One of the world’s most prolific and successful art forgers, he’s spent much of his adult life replicating famous works of art and donating them under various aliases to museums and art galleries around the United States. Fuelled by a mischievous desire to dupe those around him, and an urge to push himself to mimic some of the greatest artists in history, he’s garnered the attention of various institutions, and angered many in his wake. Watched by the FBI, he’s not considered a felon as he’s never exchanged his pieces for profit. In spite of this legality, Matt Leninger has become increasingly infuriated by and obsessed with Landis. Following his donations, he’s lost his job in the process of tracking him down, and informing his “victims” of his fraudulence.

Rendered very much in the vein of Catch Me If You Can, Art and Craft calls attention not only to Landis and Leninger’s obsessive tendencies, their compulsion for perfection and their desire for fulfillment, but also the nature of mental illness. In subtle ways, this is as much about Landis’ possible brokenness as a human being as it is about the moral conundrum of his donating fraudulent works of art to major institutions. In fact, I’d argue it’s barely about the issue of his fraudulence at all.

This is very much a portrait of a strangely damaged man. Jennifer Grausman and Sam Cullman have allowed us to enter the mind of an incredibly capable individual who feels compelled to recreate masterpieces instead of creating his own. Sharply intuitive and keenly intelligent, Landis is no fool, in spite of his limitations. The film, as a result, is as colourfully eccentric as its protagonist. This is the story about a damaged man with an unconventional hobby. Unfortunately, the film doesn’t delve into the real issues surrounding Landis’ prolific forgeries, and it runs a bit too long. The time spent listening to Landis repeating himself would have been better served outlining the ethical and academic conundrums Landis has surfaced with his work.


Wednesday, April 30th at 11:59pm at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema

Saturday, May 3th at 4:00pm at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema

Sunday, May 4th at 11:00am at the Revue Cinema


Mad As Hell

Hot Docs 2014: Mad As Hell

Director: Andrew Napier

Program: Next

Run Time: 80 minutes

Mad As Hell tells the story of Cenk Uygur, host of The Young Turks, now the world’s most popular online news show. The film traces Uygur’s life from when he first came to the United States at the age of eight, to attending Law School, all the way to the creation of what would become his legacy. In 1997 he created a public access show called The Young Turk. Without a viable place to both pontificate freely and find people to listen to him, he turned to Public Access Television. Steadily, he developed a following, and now The Young Turks – plural – has grown plentifully. This is just the beginning of Uygur’s story.

It is precisely for this reason that, unfortunately, Mad As Hell fails. Uygur admittedly thinks he knows best. No one is arguing that point. He has very progressive views on government, and is unabashed about the necessity to have someone in the public sphere not in the pocket of a major network or influenced by a specific government party. But in the end, this is just the beginning of his career. The film serves more as yet another soap box from which Uygur can assert his dominance over contemporary media. Whether or not he has a message worth listening to, this film, essentially a biopic, is vain and unjustified. Mad As Hell is woefully self serving to a fault, and winds up shooting The Young Turks in the foot.


Friday, May 2nd at 4:00pm at Scotiabank Theatre 3



Red Lines

Hot Docs 2014: Red Lines

Director: Andrea Kalin and Oliver Lukacs

Program: World Showcase

Run Time: 98 minutes

Focusing on the ongoing strife in Syria, Red Lines follows two unlikely allies as they attempt to help people from the inside. Razan Shalab al-Sham is a University student, and daughter to one of the wealthiest families in Syria. Mouaz Moustafa was born and raised in Damascus, Syria, and moved to the United States as a teenager. Together they’ve created the Syrian Emergency Task Force, and coordinated a covert network to smuggle medical supplies, weapons, and journalists into Syria. They’ve also coordinated with Mouaz’s contacts in Washington to garner unparalleled intel into some of the highest hands in U.S. government. They are attempting to create one fully democratic village in Syria, to plant the seed of freedom and allow it to grow. They find that their vision is much harder to realize than they’d anticipated.

It’s important that you go into this film with as much information as possible. The reason being that it fails to form any coherent trajectory of events. Mouaz and Razan’s plans, as well as the gravity of the Syrian conflict, fails to be appropriately or effectively represented. Picking at various worthwhile topics – women’s liberation, education, having contacts in Washington – directors Andrea Kalin and Oliver Lukacs fail to reconcile their point and articulate any clear message, let alone an impactful one. As a result, the use of imagery of dead children becomes offensive, feeling like a blatant and disrespectful manipulation tactic to compensate for the film’s failure. Red Lines does no justice to the people of Syria, to the hard work of Mouaz and Razan, or to the dream of the Syrian Emergency Task Force. Documentary of such weighty subject matter is charged with the very important task of raising awareness. The ball has been dropped here, and it is inexcusable.


Friday, May 2nd at 7:00pm at the ROM Theatre



Advanced Style

Hot Docs 2014: Advanced Style

Director: Lina Plioplyte

Program: Next

Run Time: 72 minutes

Inspired by some of the strongest entries from fashion photographer Ari Seth Cohen’s blog of the same name, director Lina Plioplyte has brought Advanced Style to the big screen. The film focuses on seven outstanding older women, all with their own unique and remarkable sense of style, living in Manhattan. Ranging in age from 62 to 95, these women share their wisdom on style, life, and relationships – romantic and platonic – while dressed to the nines.

The film is as chic as its octogenarian subjects, presenting a truly anarchic view of fashion to the masses. This goes beyond trend: this is style. Beyond the film’s obvious love of all things fabulous, both Cohen and Plioplyte have managed to capture some remarkably wise words to live by. These wonderful women are the definition of self-confidence. Besides the cracks and creaks that come with age, they feel alive and impenetrable. Their fashion is their armour. They are living proof that age is just a number, and that your frame of mind defines you. The body may age, bend and break, but the spirit will remain as youthful, vivacious and alive as ever. Lovely, warm, and infectious, Advanced Style is uplifting and full of an uninhibited joy for life.


Thursday, May 1st at 1:00pm at Isabel Bader Theatre

Saturday, May 3rd at 1:30pm at the Regent Theatre

Sunday, May 4th at 1:30pm at Isabel Bader Theatre