The Absence of Mr. or Mrs. B

   14 May 2010, early morning

The last film I watched at Hot Docs was The Absence of Mr. or Mrs. B. The film is a look at the lives of an infertile couple while they try to have a baby though IVF. Apparently in Iran infertility is the leading cause for divorce, after addiction. (Think about that for a second.) It was a strange movie. The couple were constantly joking about divorce, their disdain for one another, and the failure of their relationship. The husband would constantly talk about his womanizing. It was bleak and depressing, but not really presented in that way. There were a couple scenes that were pretty heart breaking, but they end up being mixed up with everything else in a way that makes them seem out of place. It also felt like the filmmakers were a bit too involved in the lives of the people the were filming. After you watch the film, you can sort of understand why. The movie could have been better; It was interesting nevertheless.

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Iraq in Fragments

   11 May 2010, early morning

Iraq in Fragments was presented at Hot Docs as part of their ‘best of’ series. The film is split into three parts: the first is a look at a young boys life in Baghdad; the second is a look at an imam affiliated with Sadr and the Mahdi army; the third is a look at the lives of some Kurds up North. I have no idea how the film maker ended up shooting half the stuff that ended up in the film. The middle portion of the film is at times totally mental. The film was shot before the first set of elections in Iraq. For the most part it’s pretty bleak. I don’t think i’ve ever been so impressed with how a film is cut together. The editing is absolutely stunning. This is definitely something people should see.

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Freetime Machos

   10 May 2010, early morning

Freetime Machos is a quirky documentary about a Finnish amateur rugby team. What the team lacks in skill they make up for in camaraderie. The film starts at the beginning of a new rugby season. The team has to finish in one of the top 4 spots or they will have to join a new (lamer) league. The movie looks at the relationships of the players, how they deal with one another, and how the deal with the problems in their lives. The film is funny 90% of the time, and then there are moments here and there which are kind of sweet or touching. It’s a fun movie to watch.

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Aisheen: Still Alive in Gaza

    6 May 2010, early morning

After B1 we walked over to Isabel Bader to watch Aisheen: Still Alive in Gaza. The film is a look at the lives of the people in Gaza following their most recent war with Israel, and the sanctions that came with Hamas coming to power. The movie opens with the manager of a playground taking a child around a haunted house that was bombed by the Israeli army. From there we move from one story to the next, meeting people whose lives are broken, stuck in limbo, or both. The film is a series of monologues and conversations. The boredom and frustration is palatable. There is an undercurrent of anger that flares up on occasion. The spectre of Hamas seems to hang over everything. The film is a bit slow, but I think this helps tell the story: life in Gaza looks to be slow. The screening was packed. I think films about the Middle East attract a large audience here in Toronto. Aisheen was a well thought out film. The Q&A that followed was surprisingly good, for a change.

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B1 and Geral

    5 May 2010, terribly early in the morning

B1 has to be one of the best documentaries i’ve ever seen. The film is a look at the life of Antonio TenĂ³rio da Silva, a blind Brazillian Judo champion. The film follows him as he prepares to compete in the Beijing Paralympics. The title of the film comes from the way competitors are classified: a B1 fighter is completely blind. TenĂ³rio is an inspiring figure. His first olympics were in 1996, and he won gold. He also won gold in 2000 and 2004. Beijing was his 4th attempt at a gold medal, competing at the age of 37. To train he fights competitors who can see, who are nearly half his age, because they pose more of a challenge for him. The dedication he puts into his training is incredible. The film is also a facinating look at the Paralympics, and the camaraderie of the competitors. All the Judo competitors seem to be very friendly with one another. The film is shot really well. You are right up there with the competitors during fights. More impressive is the sound. You really hear ever slam to the mat. The screening of B1 we saw wasn’t sold out. I have no idea how a film about a Blind judoka doesn’t sell out. Do yourself a favour and try and catch the second screening.

The film screened with Geral, a short movie about Macana stadium in Rio de Janeiro. It’s a look at the energetic and passionate fans that come and cheer on their team. The film is all drums and cheering and noise. It’s really well done, and compliments B1 perfectly.

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    4 May 2010, early morning

My second screening at Hot Docs was Candy Man: The David Klein Story. David Klein is the man who created and marketed Jelly Belly jellybeans. Klein is eventually forced out of the company he started by his partners, and is written out of any corporate history of the product. The film is compelling because Klein is compelling. He’s a very charismatic and funny figure. His whole attitude towards life is refreshing and positive. The film is well produced and put together. The history of the Jelly Belly is surprisingly interesting. The film is basically a feel good movie. One of the producers was Klein’s son, so it can also be seen as an ode to his Dad.

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We Are & The Devil Operation

    3 May 2010, early morning

It will take more than a broken leg to keep me away from HotDocs. My favourite film festival in Toronto started this past Thursday. Shima, Riadh, and I attended our first screening on Friday; we watched The Devil Operation, which was screening with We Are.

The first film was a short by Kevin Papatie. Each scene begins with the narrator whispering a tie between the Natives and nature; for example, “We are the air.” In contrast to this narration, a young Native boy was filmed in front of corresponding scenes of decay: a factory polluting the air, clear cut trees, a broken home, etc. I think it’s hard to make a 3-minute long film that manages to make a point; this film certainly does.

The second film was the one we were all interested in seeing. The Devil Operation is a look at the conflict between Peruvian farmers and a foreign mining company. The film’s main protagonist is Father Marco Arana. At the start of the film he is mediating a dispute between the locals and the mining company, ultimately securing a win for the locals. As the film proceeds we learn about the costs he (and others) have to pay for defending a mountain from foreign interests. The film is a good overview of what’s going on in Peru with respect to mining and the gold industry. It’s always inspiring watching these stories about people doing important human rights work in countries where doing so puts you in very real danger. The director, Stephanie Boyd, has lived in Peru for 13 odd years now, and has made several films about the country. I enjoyed the film, but thought it might have been too sprawling. Boyd covers several stories, all related to mining, but not quite related to each other. I don’t know if something more focused would have worked better. Regardless, I think the film is well worth watching.

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