Monday, May 05, 2014

HotDocs 2014

For whatever reasons (too many film festivals all in all?) we had never paid much attention to the HotDocs festival but, by chance, somebody asked me for my opinion on what to watch this year and, as I leafed through the program, I though "Hey, I really should be seeing some of this stuff"!  So, exactly on this, our last year here, I came to "discover" HotDocs.  Better late than never, eh?

We watched just 5 documentaries, along with two shorts.  Like I must have mentioned somewhere before, watching this stuff is amazing.  These are windows to other worlds, some far removed, some close to us but invisible to our eyes.  I'm so glad for the coincidence that made me want to go this year!

So, what did we see in the end, amongst dozens and dozens of choices?

To be Takei (2014, USA)

A hilarious and touching documentary about former Star Trek star George Takei, whose secret aim seems to be to talk about serious, important stuff, like the confinement of Japanese-Americans in internment camps after Pearl Harbour or homophobia and equal rights for LGBT people, while at the same time making an incredibly entertaining film.  And quite frankly it delivered.  It delivered far beyond anybody's expectations.  Bravo.

Love Hotel (ラブホテル; 2014, UK/France)

When a society offers so little personal space and makes so many demands on the individual in terms of social expectations and work, Love Hotels provide spaces to play, relax, and get away from it all... except when the government steps in to regulate entertainment to keep attention away from economic problems.

The Beijing Ants (北京蚂蚁; 2014, China)

Social violence and lack of the rule of law make this one terribly stressful documentary about the increasing cost of life in Beijing and a clearly decreasing quality of life.

Children 404 (Дети 404; 2014, Russia)

When people talk about the current LGBT-phobic legislation in Russia, they often forget about the people those laws are supposedly protecting: minors.  This documentary leaves no doubt that those affected, precisely, are LGBT minors, who face violence, being disowned by their parents, and being harassed by their peers, social workers and teachers, with no safe place to go to.   And, on top of that, both directors were there, in a sort of coming-out with their documentary, and one of the main subjects of the film was there too, which made for a very moving moment.

Songs for Alexis (2014, Denmark) and the Pink Helmet Posse (2014, USA)

As much as it is a film about a trans guy who's both dealing with a long-distance relationship and the taking-off of his artistic career - and kudos to the producers for increasing trans visibility with this - the story of this documentary seemed somewhat slow and even ordinary.   Although the object of the documentary was there, along with his mom, and he actually performed a couple of songs for us, which was really cool.  BUT the Pink Helmet Posse, a short that preceded it, wow, that was amazing!  Very short, very to the point:  three girls aged 6-7 who like to paint their nails, who like glitter, who like tutus, and who like to skateboard and who do it with the guys.   A fantastic short about girls and sport.  Loved it.

The Immortalists (2014, USA)

Most of us don't want to die.  Or to get old.  And these two guys this docu is about are putting their all into finding a cure for ageing (and death).  You could always criticize the science behind their efforts and research.  And the unforeseen consequences of having success.  But you can't blame intelligent people for trying to kill ageing, right?  

So, Japanese-American internment camps, questioning of gender and gender roles, lawlessness and cut-throat Chinese capitalism, sex and love in Japan, queer Russian teens and the quest for immortality.  What's NOT to love about this festival!?

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