HOT DOCS April 26-May 5 at the Bloor Cinema (506 Bloor West), Royal Cinema (608 College) and Uptown Theatre (764 Yonge). Admission: all-films pass $60, single ticket $8. See Rep Cinema listings, for complete schedule. 416-538-8282. Rating: NNNNN
The ninth annual Hot Docs screens over 100 documentaries. It's hard to choose a few gems from a festival overflowing with fascinating films, but here are some don't-miss picks.
LIFETIME GUARANTEE: PHRANC'S ADVENTURES IN PLASTICS D: Lisa Udelson w/ Phranc. Saturday (May 4), 7:15 pm. Royal Cinema. Rating: NNNNN
Phranc is a folk-singing lesbian icon who also just happens to be one of America's top-selling Tupperware saleswomen. She's a butch dyke, complete with suit and bow-tie wardrobe and flat-top brush cut, who absolutely loves to sell the plastic containers. What's compelling here is the classy way Phranc manoeuvres in the highly conservative and feminine Tupperware universe, especially when she arrives at the nationwide convention. Great fun.
war photographer D: Christian Frei. Saturday (May 4), 7 pm. Bloor Cinema. Rating: NNNN
Nominated for an oscar, this hard-hitting documentary focuses on acclaimed photographer James Nachtwey, who's captured the horror of war zones in Rwanda, Kosovo and Palestine. This film, in turn, catches Nachtwey in action, along with his calm appraisal of his life's work and his colleagues' appreciation of his ability to compartmentalize his emotions while performing a horrifying but crucial job.
blue vinyl D: Judith Helfand and Daniel B. Gold. Friday (April 26), 7 pm. Uptown Theatre. Rating: NNN
Hot Docs' opening-night film begins as a good-natured look at Hefland trying to convince her parents to replace their newly installed vinyl house siding. But as she investigates vinyl, she discovers how dangerous and toxic the stuff is, and this light movie gets a whole lot weightier. It's a little long, but kudos to Hefland for her five-year struggle to get her parents -- and us -- to see the light.
bad girl D: Marielle Nitoslawska. Tuesday (April 30), 9:30 pm. Royal Cinema. Rating: NNN
pornography has become the hot topic in documentary circles. Bad Girl surpasses most others on the subject because it focuses on women who are entering the industry and why they're doing so. Listening to Catherine Breillat (Romance) discuss her work, and Virginie Despentes and Coralie Trinh Thi (Baise-Moi) defend their films makes even the most ardent opponents of porn re-examine their stance.
mexican love story
tina in mexico D: Brenda Longfellow. Friday (May 3), 7 pm. Bloor. Rating: NNNN
tina modotti was a silent movie star who abandoned her Hollywood career to move with her lover, photographer Edward Weston, to Mexico, where they worked and hung out with Diego Rivera and other artistic and political revolutionaries. Longfellow's access to Modotti's diary and Weston's original photos gives her a close-up view of what these two bohemian souls were experiencing during the devastating revolution that's hardly ever spoken of outside Mexico.