Monday, May 11, 2009

Hot Docs: Sunday, May 10

Reviews of screenings from the 2009 Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival, Toronto, Canada.

Encirclement: Neo-Liberalism Ensnares Democracy (Dir: Richard Brouillette)

A comprehensive and rigourous (read: long) examination of the implications of neoliberal capitalist economics, this 160 minute film is a testament to the Hot Docs audience — I was somewhat surprised to see a nearly full house for something that doesn't promise a thrill ride of excitement.1 A black-and-white talking head documentary, mostly in French, about economic theory running two-and-a-half hours. I enjoyed it. But I was left wondering who the envisioned audience was: I could only think that most people willing to take the plunge were the sort who were already pretty well versed in all of this stuff. Still, however, this was enjoyable. The interview subjects were all engaging2, and all were given time to fully lay out their ideas — no sound-bites here. One long burst in a theatre is probably not the way to watch this — a comfy couch and several breaks would enhance the experience, so worth looking for on television or DVD.

When We Were Boys (Dir: Sarah Goodman)

Nothing better than ending the festival with a good film, which may also be the most "local" of all the local films, taking place mostly at Royal St. George's College, not much more than a stone's throw from The Bloor where it was being screened. A verité portrait of private-school boys in grade 8 and 9, featuring a large supporting cast, but zeroing in on two subjects. A wonderful look at what it means to be a boy, it also serves as an eye-opening look at what life is like for the "privileged" kids, who are told not to merely "settle" for going to McGill and ending up as a doctor or lawyer. But overall, despite laptops and overseas trips, a lot of things about those years are still the same, and the movie was wonderfully evocative of the small gestures, tussles, and verbal sparring that boys go through. Added bonus: a very nice soundtrack with some ace local indie bands, assembled under the supervision of Jim Guthrie. At the start, we're thrown right into it, and it takes a bit for the immersion to move from overwhelming to intimate (and the sound in the theatre certainly left some things muffled and unheard), but this is a very good effort. Do see it.

1 Although I'm guessing that some people came in without double-checking the length of this, as there was a slow stream of people pulling the plug from the ninety-minute mark onwards.

2 Bernard Maris was a particular delight to encounter, and is now on my list for further investigation.

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