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#HotDocs14: Second Batch of Reviews

April 25, 2014

By John Corrado

Hot Docs Poster

The 21st edition of Hot Docs officially kicked off last night in Toronto, and the nonfiction film festival will be going strong until May 4th.  This is my second set of capsule reviews, with lots more to come over the next ten days.

Yesterday I shared my thoughts on five standouts, including the opening night selection The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz, along with The Overnighters, Harmontown, Kung Fu Elliot and An Honest Liar.  Below are my thoughts on six more films that I had the privilege of screening in advance, four of them premiering this evening, arranged in order of when they first screen at the festival.

Please come back tomorrow and throughout the rest of the festival for more capsule reviews, and you can follow on Twitter for brief thoughts on the films that I’m seeing.  You can get more information on Hot Docs and purchase tickets right here.  Enjoy!

The Joe Show: The first time we see the title subject of The Joe Show, infamous Sheriff Joe Arpaio who has built his image around being tough, he is warbling the words of “My Way.”  The film starts almost like a satire of the Arizona lawman, who forced prisoners to wear pink underwear while parading them between jails, offering interviews with him and his loyal media director Lisa Allen, who obliviously speak directly to the camera.  But this is all about giving them enough rope to do themselves in.  Things become increasingly more disturbing as the horrible living conditions and abuse of the inmates are revealed, and shocking corruption comes to the surface from within his Maricopa County office.  As the results of his sleazy reelection campaign are put under the critical lens of director Randy Murray, The Joe Show becomes an angry film, and righteously so.  This is a compelling and well researched look at this terrifying public figure that media fascination helped create.

Friday, April 25th – 6:30 PM @ TIFF Bell Lightbox 2
Saturday, April 26th – 11:00 AM @ Isabel Bader Theatre
Thursday, May 1st – 6:30 PM @ ROM Theatre

Love Me: Having trouble finding women in real life, a group of middle aged men have turned to the world of international dating, spending thousands of dollars to be connected with single Ukrainian women through A Foreign Affair.  The website organizes pricey email correspondence and expensive trips to the Ukraine, prices these men are willing to overlook for the chance of finding true love.  But they are also overlooking the chance of financial fraud and the potential of being used.  Director Jonathon Narducci intimately follows six of these men who often bare their emotions to the camera, some of them having had previous relationships end in heartbreak, and others who just don’t want to be alone anymore.  Some of the women value family and genuinely want to get married, but others are inevitably seduced by the lure of money and travel.  Just like any relationship, some of the unions work out, while others go horribly sour.  Not only is Love Me an honest and revealing look at “mail order brides,” it’s also a touching film about the reasons we yearn for personal connections in the first place.

Friday, April 25th – 9:30 PM @ Scotiabank Theatre 4
Saturday, April 26th – 1:00 PM @ Scotiabank Theatre
Friday, May 2nd – 7:00 PM @ Fox Theatre

Divide in Concord: Jean Hill has devoted her senior years to trying to ban the sale of single serve plastic water bottles in the small town of Concord, Massachusetts.  She is determined to raise awareness of the environmental concern that they pose, many of them ending up in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, with the chemicals from the plastic leaching into the water.  But she is facing disturbing opposition from the bottled water industry, and self entitled residents who are even trying to make this into a civil rights issue.  Director Kris Kaczor follows her as she prepares for the third town hall meeting to try and pass the bill, and the last act of Divide in Concord is suspenseful for those who don’t know the outcome of the public vote.  Although the 82 minute running time stretches a bit when focusing on the rich history of the town, the messages of the film deserve to be heard.  As someone who has never liked bottled water, Divide in Concord does a good job of continuing the conversation surrounding the issue, and Jean Hill makes for a likeable and inspiring subject.

Saturday, April 26th – 9:30 PM @ Scotiabank Theatre
Monday, April 28th – 1:30 PM @ TIFF Bell Lightbox 2
Saturday, May 3rd – 11:00 AM @ Isabel Bader Theatre

Alfred and Jakobine: After first meeting in Japan, Alfred and Jakobine spent years travelling the world together in an old London taxicab that they bought on their honeymoon in Morocco.  But then he abandoned her, before deciding to fix up the car taxi forty years later, embarking on a road trip with his estranged son to finally reunite with her.  The story takes a little time to find its focus, and the bulk of the journey feels rushed at a slight 73 minutes, never delving as deep into the complex characters as I would have liked.  But Alfred and Jakobine is still a pretty good little film that offers a heartfelt look at these lost lovers, with an undeniably touching conclusion.

Friday, April 25th – 9:45 PM @ TIFF Bell Lightbox 1
Sunday, April 27th – 1:30 PM @ Isabel Bader Theatre
Sunday, May 4th – 9:15 PM @ Hart House Theatre

Tough Love: Patrick is a recovering addict, trying to regain full custody of his young daughter.  Hannah is struggling with extreme poverty while raising her two small kids, expecting a third child with her new husband.  Both of these parents are caught up in court cases through Child Protection Services, and their completely unconnected stories are shared in Tough Love.  Although the approach is often conventional and the film offers nothing overly revelatory, it’s impossible not too feel sympathy for these families.  As an honest exposé of the foster care system, Tough Love tugs at heartstrings and works just fine.

Saturday, April 26th – 9:00 PM @ Scotiabank Theatre
Monday, April 28th – 1:00 PM @ Scotiabank Theatre

The Sheik: Starting his career as an Olympic wrestler in Iran, Khosrow Vaziri gained fame in America as the Iron Sheik, the legendary adversary to Hulk Hogan that racist fans loved to hate.  Director Igal Hecht gains surprisingly intimate access to this pop culture icon, showing his struggles with addiction and how Jian Magen, the son of a childhood friend, has helped resurrect the infamous persona of the Iron Sheik through social media.  What follows is an interesting look at fame, and how someone can become famous through a made up personality.  His story is a personal and emotional one that took place behind the scenes of the wrestling world where pretty much everything else is fake, and The Sheik is an entertaining film that is especially worthwhile for fans of the title subject.

Saturday, April 26th – 9:15 PM @ Bloor Hot Docs Cinema
Sunday, April 27th – 4:30 PM @ TIFF Bell Lightbox 1
Saturday, May 3rd – 6:30 PM @ Bloor Hot Docs Cinema

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