It’s that time of year again — when documentary makers, buyers and fans dust off their shoes and head to Toronto to feast on a ten-day diet of non-fiction cinema. Once again, like the 18 years before, the world’s second largest doc festival is delivering its usual panoply of prize-worthy productions, political powder kegs and populist programming. That’s a lot of Ps to be sure. I’ll be seeing as much political fare as humanly possible over the course of the festival, and will keep Art Threat readers on the up and up on the best titles to seek out.
There are two exciting aspects of this year’s edition of Hot Docs to report right away. The opening night film is decidedly punchier than last year’s pampers commercial Babies with none other than documentary’s darling himself, Morgan Spurlock, in attendance to introduce POM Wonderful Presents the Greatest Film Ever Sold (if he makes it that is – at last tweet he was stuck at Newark airport). Also, Coca-Cola will NOT be this year’s environmental film showcase sponsor (unlike last year) — news that doc filmmakers, human rights advocates and environmentalists will surely appreciate. Now some political films that I won’t be missing:
You’ve Been Trumped — Asshole bully Donald Trump wants to build a giant luxury golf course in Scotland but meets head on with local resistance. Filmmaker Anthony Baxter was even arrested making this “down and dirty development exposé.”
Draquila – Italy Trembles (part of the fabulous showcase on Italy) — A look at authoritarianism in Italy as a town is rebuilt following a brutal 2009 earthquake. This one was boycotted at Cannes by Italy’s minister of culture – that alone makes me first in line to see it in Toronto.
The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 — From the Hot Docs site: “From 1967 to 1975, Swedish journalists travelled to the United States to document the black power movement in America. For over 30 years, their 16mm tapes sat undiscovered in a basement in Sweden. Now, director Göran Hugo Olsson compiles their work into a powerful documentary that chronicles the movement’s strength and evolution with never-before-seen footage of leaders such as Stokely Carmichael, Bobby Seale, Huey P. Newton, Angela Davis and Eldridge Cleaver. Woven into the film are insightful commentaries from modern day artists and activists — Harry Belafonte, Sonia Sanchez, Talib Kweli, Erykah Badu, John Forte and Professor Robin D. G. Kelley — telling stories of how the heroes of the black power movement inspired and touched their lives. Features a stunning soundtrack by The Roots, Michael Jackson and Erykah Badu.”
Becoming Chaz — This doc follows one person’s gender reassignment experience from female to male. Oh, and the character happens to be the lovechild of celebrity singers Sonny and Cher.
The Guantanamo Trap — From the Hot Docs site: “Taxi to the Dark Side and Standard Operating Procedure hallmark a growing catalogue of documentaries emerging from the War on Terror. The Guantanamo Trap is a vital addition, highlighting four interconnected biographies that reveal the impact of gross injustice. Murat Kurnaz, a German of Turkish heritage, spent five years at the US military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He was released in 2006 without trial, after suffering years of torture. In the same year, Matthew Diaz, Judge Advocate for the US Navy, was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment after releasing the names of detainees. His colleague, Diane Beaver, gained notoriety as the author of a legal document better known as “the torture memo”. Tying these characters together is Gonzalo Boye, a Spanish lawyer driven to hold power to account. This provocative study of humanity and democracy, and how easily they’re corrupted under pressure, is a testament to the times.”
Battle for Brooklyn — Another documentary chronicling the greedy appetite of global corporations, BFB follows one person’s resistance to gentrification over the span of seven long, tiring years.
Wiebo’s War — Big Oil calls Reverend Wiebo Ludwig a terrorist for sabotaging oil infrastructure in Alberta. Others call him a hero and eco-activist. This film looks at the famous Trickle Creek case and reveals the duplicity involved when governments look out for corporate interests ahead of citizens’.
Image at top from Draquila: Italy Trembles.