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Hot Docs 2011: Final Weekend, including 6 capsule reviews

May 6, 2011

By John C.

As we reach the end of an exhausting week, it’s hard to believe that we are already at the final weekend of the 18th annual Hot Docs Film Festival.  Between this past Thursday and Tuesday, I have published capsule reviews of a total of 12 films.  Today we are in the homestretch of the documentary festival, and it’s time for my final set of 6 Hot Docs capsule reviews.

Below are my brief thoughts on 6 films that I’ve had the opportunity to see over the last few days, 3 of which still have another screening coming up.  Students and seniors are able to attend daytime screenings before 6:00 PM for free, so get more information and purchase tickets here.  Please come back on Monday for my complete wrap-up of events, and I hope you all find something to see over the weekend.  Enjoy!

Beauty Day:  A native of St. Catherine’s, Ontario, in the 1990’s Ralph Zavadil was better known under the name Cap’n Video.  Self-producing a cable TV show comprised of his wacky and outrageous stunts, his story is told in director Jay Cheel’s thoughtful and entertaining documentary, Beauty Day.  Zavadil’s stunts were unspeakably stupid, disgusting and even dangerous, but the interviews show him with humility and sincerity in his wish to make people laugh at all costs.  Certain audiences may be put off by his constant shenanigans, but there is a strong human story to be told that manages to go beyond his goofy onscreen persona.

Friday, Apr 29 – 6:45 PM @ Isabel Bader Theatre

Saturday, May 7 – 4:15 PM @ Isabel Bader Theatre

Boy Cheerleaders:  The story of a cheerleading troupe in England called The Dazl Diamonds may not sound like the workings of a worthwhile documentary.  But when that cheerleading team is made up of 8 boys, what we get is a Billy Elliot-inspired glimpse into a world we don’t usually see.  We watch as the boys bond over practises, with their flamboyant coach serving as the father figure they need but many don’t have at home.  Director James Newton’s Boy Cheerleaders will be enjoyed by a wide audience, except for kids too young for the rough language.  At just 59-minutes, this is a lively little film about living your dream and not worrying about social expectations.

Friday, Apr 29 – 9:00 PM @ Cumberland 2

Sunday, May 1 – 4:30 PM @ TIFF Bell Lightbox 3

Sunday, May 8 – 6:45 PM @ Isabel Bader Theatre

Jig:  Following the lives of a diverse group of boys and girls in several different countries who’s lives are consumed by Irish dancing, Jig is an exuberant film about the power and pressure that comes with the world of professional dance.  Director Sue Bourne films the Irish dancing as a sport, documenting these kids training as the weeks lead up to a big competition, and a nice sense of suspense is built up as they wait for their final scores.  Somewhat of a breakout hit at Hot Docs with two sold out shows over the past week, Jig is a crowd pleaser that will be best enjoyed by those who love dance.

Sunday, May 1 – 11:00 AM @ Isabel Bader Theatre

Wednesday, May 4 – 4:15 PM @ Isabel Bader Theatre

Hell and Back Again:  Directed by photojournalist Danfung Dennis, Hell and Back Again offers an admirably intimate view of the physical struggle soldiers face overseas in Afghanistan, and the emotional turmoil they encounter back home.  Following the post-combat life of a wounded soldier, it is impossible for us to believe that any of these people’s lives will return to normal even if they remain physically unharmed.  At times I sensed a distance between scenes that kept the film from flowing with quite as strong a narrative structure, but this is a war movie that compels us with the power of its images and the humanity of suffering.

Tuesday, May 3 – 7:30 PM @ TIFF Bell Lightbox 1

Thursday, May 5 – 4:00 PM @ Isabel Bader Theatre

Despicable Dick & Righteous Richard:  The 68-year-old Richard “Dick” Kuchera has been battling his addictions through 12-step programs for years, but he just can’t seem to graduate from the step where he has to make amends with those he has hurt over the years.  We watch as the boorish and bipolar man tracks down past friends and family members, struggling to give them a sincere apology for his inexcusable behaviour over the years.  Directed by Joshua Neale, Despicable Dick & Righteous Richard is a well made and sometimes hilarious documentary about an interesting subject, however its appeal off the festival circuit might seem limited to those who have more personal connections to the subject matter.

Wednesday, May 4 – 9:45 PM @ Isabel Bader Theatre

Friday, May 6 – 1:45 PM @ Isabel Bader Theatre

Project Nim:  In 1972, chimpanzee Nim Chimpsky was confiscated from his mother at birth, and given to a family in New York so he could be raised as a human.  Being taught communication skills through sign language and wearing adorable little outfits, the cute factor of the experiment couldn’t last as his natural instincts started to kick in.  Director James Marsh’s Project Nim often treats the tragic story of an animal raised as human with the verve of a psychological thriller, as Nim’s complex life grows more so throughout the years.  Equally fascinating to watch are the motivations of the people who’s lives were changed throughout the experiment, this is a film that leaves us with a lot to think about.

Thursday, May 5th – 9:45 PM @ Isabel Bader Theatre

Friday, May 6th – 11:00 AM @ Isabel Bader Theatre

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