City Idol

   30 April 2007, early morning

City Idol was an excellent movie. It captures all the excitement that surrounded the City Idol event perfectly. Watching the movie you really feel like you are racing along with the contestants and organizers as they try to shake things up. I was thoroughly impressed with this film; Shima and Riadh liked it a lot as well. It was a great way to end this years HotDocs festival for myself. I think it might have been my favourite film of the bunch that I saw. After watching City Idol I am all the more depressed with the municipal political system. It is depressing that such an articulate, thoughtful, and charismatic young man like Desmond Cole couldn’t win his riding. Of course, he had to compete against Helen Kennedy and Adam Vaughn; that was a tough race to be a part of. Still, its a shame people are always willing to vote in more of the same. Cole still seems active politically and in his neighbourhood, which is great news. The movie is certainly worth watching if only to see Cole’s monologue about police harassment midway through the film. During my screening the audience started clapping after he was done. It was fucking brilliant.

City Idol was the last film I saw at Hotdocs 2007. BlogTO quite liked the film as well.

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3 Times Divorced

   30 April 2007, terribly early in the morning

3 Times Divorced was a depressing little film about a Palestinian woman’s trouble getting custody of her children back from her abusive husband. This is complicated by the fact she’s from Gaza originally, so she isn’t a full Israeli citizen, and that she’s a women trying to deal with a deeply enshrined patriarchy in the Sharia court. It’s a film full of frustration. The production is a bit sloppy, but the footage is interesting, so I suppose that balances out. On the whole, it sort of felt like another, “look how backwards these Muslims are,” sort of film. I don’t think it covered any exciting new ground in this regard. Still, on the whole it’s a good film.

3 Times Divorced was the 6th screening I attended at HotDocs.

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Forever

   30 April 2007, terribly early in the morning

I think I would have enjoyed Forever more if I wasn’t so exhausted. The film is a series of interviews that take place at the PerĂ©-Lachaise cemetery in Paris, which has no shortage of celebrity graves. In terms of cinematography it was great, but on the whole I just wasn’t in the mood for this film. Compared to the other documentaries I watched thus far, it certainly is one of the ones I liked the least.

Forever was the 5th screening I attended at HodDocs.

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Circus School

   30 April 2007, terribly early in the morning

There are scenes in the film Circus School of children doing standing back flips, again and again and again. All you hear is this constant thud, thud, thud, and all you see are the grimaces on the kids faces as they are doing them. It’s kind of painful to watch. These little scenes struck me as being microcosms of the movie as a whole, which was incredibly intense. Shot almost entirely in a school for acrobats in China, the story follows the trails and tribulations of a small group of children trying to learn their tricks and make it as acrobats. The film really was excellent. My heart was beating so fast during the first half of the movie while you’re watching the trapeze artists practice and then compete. The second half of the film leaves you wondering how broken these children will be once they are done with the school. They are worked so incredibly hard. It is amazing what the kids accomplish mind you, but I’m not sure the costs are worth it. In the QA we learned the film makers didn’t think so, but this doesn’t come across in the film. There is almost no narration, no blatant editorializing. It’s just scene after scene of kids working hard to become acrobats. You need to watch this movie.

After this film, we went to watch Forever. BlogTO did the same thing. Circus School was the 4th screening I attended at HotDocs.

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Last Call at the Gladstone

   22 April 2007, early evening

I watched Last Call at the Gladstone tonight with Shima. (I mentioned the film a few days back.) The film follows the lives of the residents and staff at the Gladstone, as it makes its way from flop house to boutique hotel. The film takes place over 5 years, and it’s really amazing watching the transformation. The arts community is up in arms now about how they are going to be displaced by all the yuppies moving into Queen West, but these same people seem to forget that their presence has had an equally destabilizing influence on the neighbourhood as well. Of course, I don’t think you can make the argument Queen West was a health neighbourhood in the 80s or 90s. I would argue the changes have been for the better — for the most part — but the city should be more active in ensuring that people aren’t completely displaced. The movie is really well put together. It tells a complete story about gentrification, from start to finish. It’s at times quite powerful. I’ve been really impressed with all the movies I’ve seen at Hotdocs thus far, and this film is no exception. The filmmakers should be proud of what they have put together.

This was the 3rd screening I attended at Hotdocs 2007. The film was shown with To Costco and Ikea Without a Car, which was a cute little short.

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Enemies of Happiness and XH-PG

   22 April 2007, early evening

I went to watch Enemies of Happiness with Rishi. We met at the cinema, which was pretty packed. Hotdocs seems to be more popular than ever. Prior to the screening of Enemies of Hapiness was a screening for the short film XH-PG, a movie about the protests in Mexico following the last election. It was a series of interviews, and reasonably interesting, though I didn’t think it was anything spectacular. Enemies of Happiness followed, and I was quite impressed with the film. The film makers followed Malalai Joya as she campaigns for a seat in Afghanistan’s parliament. It was a very interesting movie, showcasing the troubles she went through to run as an outspoken female candidate in a fairly sexist society. Compared to The Devil Came no Horseback, this film was certainly more hopeful, though that isn’t saying much. It’s a good movie, well worth checking out.

The official Enemies of Happiness web site. This was the second screening I attended at Hotdocs 2007.

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The Devil Came on Horseback

   21 April 2007, mid-morning

I’m a big fan of the Hotdocs film festival that takes place in the spring here in Toronto. As in previous years, I bought myself a festival pass, and plan to watch a crap load of films over the next week or so. The first film I saw for the festival, The Devil Came on Horseback was an incredibly depressing look at what is going on in Sudan. (I suppose it’d be tricky to make a happy go-lucky film about Sudan.) The movie follows ex-Marine Captain Steidle as he tries to raise awareness about the situation in Darfur. Steidle was on the ground as things there started to escalate, and witnessed first hand all the wanton death and destruction reigned down by the Janjaweed. He was in Darfur as a monitor with the African Union, and took countless photos of the things he saw. I don’t think I’ve ever see that many dead bodies in a single film. I honestly have no idea how he can sleep at night, having seen first hand all the things he has seen. It must be incredibly hard. The Devil Came on Horseback is excellent. It’s a very powerful film. I think everyone needs to watch it.

The official The Devil Came on Horseback web site. This was the first movie I saw at Hotdocs 2007.

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