Sunday 17 May 2009

Hot Docs 2009 - Wrap Up

The 16th annual Hot Docs Film Festival ended last weekend and press reports were released stating it had been the most successful yet. Pshaw...I didn't need any announcements to tell me that. At the halfway point of the festival when pretty much every screening felt like it was completely packed, you knew things were going well.

I still want to review a few more films in full, but now that the fest has ended (I haven't seen a documentary in a week - I'm kinda feeling strung out...) I figure I should throw together some final thoughts about the fest.

While I was considering what to include below, I got tagged by my friend James at Toronto Screen Shots with a specific Hot Docs meme started at Indiepix Blog. I wasn't really doing any of the industry events other than screenings, so I can't quite answer all the questions, but I'll include a few of them in my random comments about the fest.

Random Thoughts

  • Favourite film - "Best Worst Movie". Most cathartic laughter I've had in some time.

  • Most inspiring film - "The Cove". I actually predicted this would win the Audience Award right after its screening and lo and behold it did (Hey Trista! Back me up here!). Big standing ovations will give you that feeling.

  • Overall Best film - "Love At The Twilight Motel". The characters, the surprises, the humour, the cinematography and the shared search for love all wrapped up in this beautiful film. Even a little redemption.

  • Great double features - I just happened to precede each of the films above with somewhat similarly themed movies (in order: "Zombie Girl: The Movie", "Big River Man", "Invisible City") which made for three separate great double features.

  • Recurring theme #1 - Absent fathers: "Invisible City", "Love At The Twilight Motel", "When We Were Boys".

  • Film that Tugged at My Heartstrings the Most (meme question #1) - "A Good Man" had two moments that easily helped put this at the top of the list in this category: Rachel flashing back to the day of her stroke and then later her 15 year old son Kieron putting his head down and crying in sympathy for his Mom.

  • Strangest Cinematic Moment (meme question #2) - "Big River Man" pretty much has the top 10 for this category. Sort of like what you would get if Werner Herzog directed "Hearts Of Darkness" and edited it with Tony Scott's help while they were both on acid. But weirder. The moment that jumps out at me is after the completion of the trip in Belem when the Big River Man's son brings his Dad's final speech into the ambulance to read it to him. I'm still not quite sure what I saw there.

  • Recurring theme #2 - Get involved: "The Cove", "The Yes Men Fix The World", "Let's Make Money".

  • Overall High Point (meme question #4) - Being at the Bloor Cinema for my second showing of "Best Worst Movie".

  • Most beautiful images - "Love At The Twilight Motel" comes close even though it is essentially seven separate interviews spliced together. "Objectified" continues to show Gary Huswit's love of design. But "Act Of God" has to win out with the stunning footage of lightning spread throughout the film - worth the price of admission and of a DVD too.

  • Recurring theme #3 - Really crappy governments: "Burma VJ: Reporting From A Closed Country", "The Red Chapel", "Audition".

  • Moment that brought bile into your mouth - "The Cove" certainly provided many of them, but it was likely the moment in "Let's Make Money" when the investment banker in Hong Kong states that there's no reason why he should worry about ethics of the companies he invests in - that's their problem. He just has to care whether they will make money. Jackass.

  • Most disappointing film - "When We Were Boys" probably suffered because I had just seen the superior "Invisible City" the day before, but it just didn't seem to invest the time required to really see how these two boys were growing up and growing apart. It felt like they forced the story they wanted through the editing.

  • Documentaries can be sexy too award - "Love In India" delves into the 64 arts of sex and the story of Krishna and his lover Radha. It also has some really, really, really good looking women in it.

  • Best additional effects - "Another Perfect World" adds to its story of virtual worlds and those who inhabit them by tossing in occasional virtual aspects into the real life interviews - I especially liked the cat who kept showing up.

Festival Awards

A more detailed list of awards can be found here. Announcement of Audience award winner here along with Top Ten.

Hot Docs Audience Award

Best Canadian Feature Documentary

Special Jury Prize - Canadian Feature

Best International Feature Documentary

Special Jury Prize - International Feature

Best Mid-Length Documentary

Best Short Documentary

documentary’s Don Haig Award
Brett Gaylor
Tracey Deer

The Lindalee Tracey Award
Laura Bari
Will Inrig

HBO Documentary Films Emerging Artist Award
Chung-ryoul Lee

Hot Docs Outstanding Achievement Award
Presented to Alanis Obomsawin by the Hot Docs Board of Directors


Unknown said...
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Unknown said...

Totally agree with you about 'A Good Man'-heart-tugging all the way. We interviewed director Safina Uberoi (and some other fantastic female Hot Docs filmmakers) here:

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Bob Turnbull said...

Hi Haley,

That's a fine interview with Safina...I do like how she does leave a number of open questions. At my screening, an audience member pointed out that they weren't really sure whether Chris was making up his translations of Rachel's eye movements. It's certainly left to debate.

Trista DeVries said...

Well this has taken me forever, but I'm definitely backing up Bob here. He totally called it on the Audience Award, but I gotta say, it's a movie about murdering dolphins... it wasn't going to lose. Maybe hold off on calling Bob king of the psychic predictions.

I wish I'd seen some more, although I was totaled from what I did see, which was definitely enough. I loved almost everything and had an awesome time - DESPITE almost choking to death at Best Worst Movie because I was laughing so hard.

Bob Turnbull said...

Thanks for the validation Trista. OK, so it doesn't quite prove my awesome psychic powers, but if I keep working at it I could be as big a fraud as Sylvia Browne.

Sorry, got off track there...Your laboured breathing during Best Worst Movie was definitely a high point of the fest. B-)