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Hot Docs 2013: Five Capsule Reviews, including “We Cause Scenes”

April 26, 2013

By John C.

Hot Docs 2013 PosterWelcome to my second set of capsule reviews for the 20th edition of Hot Docs, which started last night with the world premiere of the incredibly entertaining documentary The Manor.  Yesterday I published my thoughts on five standouts of the festival, including the opening night selection along with Pussy Riot – A Punk Prayer, Tiny: A Story About Living Small, Muscle Shoals and I Will Be Murdered.

Below are my reviews of four films that all have their first screenings later today and one that premieres on Saturday.  My next set of capsule reviews will be coming tomorrow, with even more set to be published throughout the weekend.  It’s going to be busy, but it’s already been worth it.  As always, you can get more information on the festival and purchase tickets right here.  Enjoy!

Last Woman Standing:  For seven years, Arian Fontin and Mary Spencer have competed side by side in different weight categories on Canada’s national boxing team, becoming close friends as they both worked towards an Olympic dream.  But only one of them could make it to the 2012 games in London, putting a strain on their friendship and leading to several matches that are made all the more exciting if you don’t remember the results of the fairly recent history.  Directed with a strong sense of narrative storytelling by Lorraine Price and Juliet Lammers, Last Woman Standing is a good sports documentary with a powerful message about friendship in the face of athleticism and competition.  This is a very accessible film that will be particularly enjoyed by Olympic fans.

Friday, April 26th – 6:30 PM @ TIFF Bell Lightbox 3

Sunday, April 28th – 12:30 PM @ Bloor Hot Docs Cinema

Friday, May 3rd – 1:30 PM @ TIFF Bell Lightbox 2

The Life and Crimes of Doris Payne:  Although on the surface the 81-year-old Doris Payne seems like a sweet elderly woman with attitude to spare, she has made a career out of being a notorious jewel thief, taking diamond rings from high end shops.  Growing up poor with an abusive father, she believes that her thievery is payback for the racism she used to endure, showing absolutely no remorse for the $2 million of product she has ripped off over the years.  Directed by Matthew Pond and Kirk Marcolina, The Life and Crimes of Doris Payne follows her as she tells stories of daring escapes and stands trial for her final job, with an annoyingly ruthless lawyer by her side.  But the title subject is interesting enough to overcome the more manipulative scenes and the overly glossy reenactments that plague the film.  As it stands, this is a pretty good documentary about a woman who is described as both the hero and villain of her own story, that is worth checking out before the upcoming biopic starring Halle Berry.

Friday, April 26th – 7:00 PM @ Scotiabank Theatre

Sunday, April 28th – 4:00 PM @ The ROM Theatre

Wednesday, May 1st – 1:30 PM @ Scotiabank Theatre

Chimeras:  Wang Guangyi is a Chinese contemporary artist who has gained acclaim throughout his career, and Liu Gang is a young photographer just starting to receive recognition.  Directed by Mike Matilla, Chimeras follow them in the studio and at art shows, both protesting the rise of Western influences in their own ways, leading to an interesting discussion and dissection of the one child policy in the last act.  Although audiences already interested in the subject might get the most out of certain parts of the film, Chimeras offers a well made look at Chinese modern art and how it is shaping their traditionalist culture, with the ongoing struggles between Eastern and Western influences.

Friday, April 26th – 9:00 PM @ TIFF Bell Lightbox 3

Sunday, April 28th – 1:30 PM @ Scotiabank Theatre

Thursday, May 2nd – 4:30 PM @ TIFF Bell Lightbox 4

We Cause Scenes:  The first public prank that Charlie Todd ever pulled came when he pretended to be Ben Folds in a local New York City bar.  This moment of impulsivity led to many more and the start of Improv Everywhere, a performance art collective and comedy troupe made up of himself and his college friends.  The idea was to present surprise performances, gaining notoriety for such infamous pranks as riding the subway in their underwear and staging a fake U2 concert, giving people something to talk about and a reason to smile.  The group really took off with the rise of YouTube and social media, but not without a few interesting pitfalls along the way.  Directed by Matt Adams, We Cause Scenes is an incredibly entertaining and often very funny crowdpleaser, with an uplifting message about reminding adults to have fun.  The film is guaranteed to make you smile, and I think that’s the whole point.  Leave time afterwards to go on YouTube and check out all of the classic Improv Everywhere videos.

Friday, April 26th – 9:30 PM @ The Royal Cinema

Sunday, April 28th – 2:00 PM @ Isabel Bader Theatre

Saturday, May 4th – 5:30 PM @ Hart House Theatre

Fight Like Soldiers Die Like Children:  When Romeo Dallaire was a Commander for the United Nations back in 1993, he was sent to Rwanda, becoming a first hand witness to the horrible genocide that took the lives of over 800,000 people.  After his retirement, he dedicated his life to becoming a prominent human rights advocate, openly speaking out against the ongoing use of child soldiers in many third world countries.  Although a lot of the facts in Fight Like Soldiers Die Like Children have already been presented in other ways, Romeo Dallaire is a fascinating subject and this is a well made film that does a good job of showing the truth in a straight forward and urgent way.  The animated interludes that retell a heartbreaking story bring something unique to the film, making this is an interesting and thought provoking documentary about the shocking social injustice that is the use of child soldiers.

Saturday, April 27th – 5:00 PM @ Bloor Cinema

Monday, April 29 – 2:00 PM @ Hart House Theatre

Sunday, May 5th – 5:30 PM @ TIFF Bell Lightbox 2

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