"Watching documentaries is like practicing to be human." - Albert Maysles
The above quote greeted each and every 2008 Hot Docs attendee throughout the fest during the pre-show ads projected on the screens. It's quite apt...In the 16 films I saw this year, it felt like I got schooled on mankind's possibilities: from nursery school to elderly care; artistic failures to crowning achievements; scientific curiosity to religious dogma; the destruction of our planet to the creation of geminoids (android twins).
I figure that a wrap-up post should actually happen relatively close to the actual wrap-up of a festival, so with 11 pending reviews to finish off (I'll get to them!), there's no time like the present to sum up my feelings after Sunday's close. Essentially, the festival rocked.
Some random thoughts:
- Favourite film - Are you kidding me? Just one? "The True Meaning Of Pictures" might be up there, but it was part of one of the retrospectives. "All Together Now" was an early favourite as it left me inspired. "Waiting For Hockney" caught me off guard with some really warm and honest emotional moments. But the last day of the festival brought me 3 greatly entertaining films (including two I didn't think I would get to see, but managed because of encore screenings): "S&M: Short and Male", "Nursery University" and "Anvil: The Story Of Anvil".
- Funniest moment - "I can answer that in one, no, two, no, three words...We haven't got good management" ("Anvil: The Story Of Anvil")
- Most cringe inducing moment - The surgery to add height to the young Indian boy in "S&M: Short And Male" and his painful recovery. To all parents: Never, NEVER allow your child to go through with this...
- Most emotional moment - After a major accomplishment, David Pappas talks to his Dad on the phone in "Waiting For Hockney".
- Call To Arms moment - Pretty much the entirety of "The Fallen". Mexican mine workers are barely given a moment's thought by either the mining company or the government - even after 65 of them die in a mine collapse.
- Creepiest moment - The young girl talking to her dad's android equivalent in "Mechanical Love".
- Coolest director at a Q&A - Liz Mermin ("Shot In Bombay").
- Most obvious audience plant question at a Q&A - After screening "The Rise And Fall Of The Grumpy Burger" the first question to the star of the film was --> "Hi, yeah, so you're from London Ontario, eh? Do you know ...?" - the person lists three separate individuals by name - "No? OK, I just thought I would ask."
- Antarctica is a stunning part of the world. So are the Appalachians. And arctic Sweden. And Stonehenge too.
Not quite as prestigious as my own "awards", the festival had its own recognition to give out. The Jury Awards were announced Sunday and "The English Surgeon" came out on top in the Best International Documentary while "Junior" won for Best Canadian Documentary.
The Audience Awards were announced Monday. Here are the Top 10 (of which I only saw 2):
- TAKING ROOT: THE VISION OF WANGARI MAATHAI (D: Lisa Merton, Alan Dater; USA)
- PLANET B-BOY (D: Benson Lee; USA)
- DEAR ZACHARY: A LETTER TO A SON ABOUT HIS FATHER (D: Kurt Kuenne; USA)
- THE ENGLISH SURGEON (D: Geoffrey Smith; UK)
- TRIAGE: DR. JAMES ORBINSKI’S HUMANITARIAN DILEMMA (D: Patrick Reed; Canada)
- ANVIL! THE STORY OF ANVIL (D: Sacha Gervasi; USA)
- THE BEETLE (D: Yishai Orian; Israel)
- DADDY TRAN: A LIFE IN 3-D (D: Siu Ta; Canada)
- STRANDED, I’VE COME FROM A PLANE THAT CRASHED IN THE MOUNTAINS (D: Gonzalo Arijon; France)
- ALL TOGETHER NOW (D: Adrian Wills; Canada)
And thanks to every single Hot Doc volunteer who were never less than helpful and always seemed to actually enjoy being there.