>HOT DOCS CANADIAN INTERNATIONAL DOCUMENTARY FILM FESTIVAL at the Royal (608 College), Bloor (506 Bloor West) and the Uptown (764 Yonge). Admission: full screening pass $50, opening night $10, single film $7, free admission for stu/srs at daytime screenings. 416-203-9027. www.hotdocs.ca. Rating: NNNN
hot docs, the festival dedicated
strictly to documentaries, always introduces me to compelling and often very fucked up people who go on to live inside my head for a long time.
It's a particularly strong lineup this year, the fest's eighth, with a split focus on sex -- lots of sex -- and top-notch Nordic films.
Only a few of these documentaries will make their way to the big screen, and some will air on TV later in the year.
Most are one-time offerings that won't be seen in Toronto ever again, so they're worth catching now.
This year the festival has dropped most of the Canadian short docs that have already aired on TV on programs like The Nature Of Things and Life & Times and has gone with an eclectic program of more than 70 films, panel discussions and fundraising seminars for visiting filmmakers.The festival kicks off with Chris Hegedus and Jehane Noujaim's prophetic Startup.com (Monday, April 30, 7 pm, Uptown). Hegedus, who, with her legendary filmmaking partner D.A. Pennebaker, gave us The War Room, spent two years following the rise and fall of an Internet company formed by childhood friends Kaleil Isaza Tuzman and Thomas Herman.
The ambitious Kaleil and more laid-back Thomas pitch potential investors, raise millions of dollars and hire hundreds of people, only to see the whole thing fall apart. It's a fascinating look at the speed at which dot-com companies took off and burned out, and a cautionary tale for friends who think going into business together might be fun.The talk of Hot Docs is Joe and Harry Gantz's very explicit Sex With Strangers (Saturday, May 5, 9:15 pm, Bloor), which focuses on three American swinger couples. At first it seems that the men and women are equally thrilled with their sexual openness, but by the film's halfway mark it's plain that the stereotype holds and the women can't handle the emotional pain associated with freestyle sex.
It's Jerry Springer-meets-porn, with the couples openly performing for the camera, and while it's sleazy viewing, it's also fascinating to hear the participants express their feelings with such precision.The National Film Board pokes its camera into the porn industry with Give Me Your Soul... (Sunday, May 6, 4:35 pm, Bloor), which focuses on various players (agents, starlets and porn advocates) who keep the multi-million-dollar Hollywood porn community ticking. Not as hard-hitting as other docs on this subject, like The Girl Next Door, but still engrossing.Marc Singer's Dark Days (Friday, May 4, 9:15 pm, Bloor) is a revelation. In the Amtrack tunnels threading beneath New York City, a community of homeless people have set up ramshackle huts. Singer at one point lost his home and joined this community of amazing characters.
The wide-ranging Nordic program is full of gems. One of them is Woodmouse -- Life On The Run (Sunday, May 6, 11 am, Royal), which tracks Icelandic woodmouse Oskar as he moves across his meadow, meets mate Helga and starts a family. It may sound like a trite kids' film, but watching little Oskar try to avoid his enemies is riveting.
My Mother Had Fourteen Children (Friday, May 4, 7 pm, Royal), by Lars-Lennart Forsberg, is entirely made up of still photos from his family archive. The now aged Forsberg and his brothers and sisters recall growing up in a family so large that some of the kids barely touched or talked to their parents, and come to terms with the complicated person they called Mama.Fans of Lars von Trier's Dancer In The Dark won't want to miss von Trier's 100 Eyes (Friday, May 4, 11:30 pm, Bloor), which takes a behind-the-scenes look at the making of that film. Director Katia Forbert Petersen interviews von Trier, who admits to having trouble directing women. Star Björk walked off the set, leaving him and his crew time to muse about the nature of their art.