2013 Hot Docs Coverage Introduction
While Cannes, TIFF, Sundance and other major film festivals put their focus on a wide range of films, the Hot Docs festival puts the spotlight entirely on documentaries. Now celebrating their 20th year, Hot Docs is screening over 200 titles this year from 43 countries. For me, it was a bit difficult to decide on what to see. Only a few documentaries were familiar to me, like After Tiller and Valentine Road which had festival premieres earlier this year. For the most part I had to rely on my own judgment, picking titles based on nothing more than the official description. Below are some of the documentaries I hope to see throughout the festival.
The Hot Docs festival runs from April 25th to May 5th in Toronto, Ontario. You can check out what’s playing and buy tickets at www.hotdocs.ca
The Machine Which Makes Everything Disappear
Director Tinatin Gurchiani announces a casting call for youth, aged 15 to 23 years, from villages and cities throughout the country of Georgia. Some come for fame, others for a chance to tell their story. As the hopeful subjects stare into the revealing lens of Gurchiani’s camera, extraordinary tales unfold. With turns sorrowful and comedic, this cinematically stunning film reveals truths of war, love, dreams and poverty. Some of the subjects are followed more intimately, and through their eyes we get a glimpse into modern day Georgian youth. Winner of the Directing Award: World Cinema Documentary at Sundance 2013, The Machine Which Makes Everything Disappear explores the unlikely circumstances we’re born into and the paths we choose to travel from there forward.
The seaside town of Oxnard, California, was shattered in 2008 by the shooting death of Lawrence “Larry” King, a 15-year-old biracial, LGBTQ student. The killer? His white, 14-year-old crush, Brandon McInerney. Was this a hate crime—retaliation against unwanted advances—or something more complex, entrenched in the community and society at large? Did flamboyant Larry, who liked to crochet, wear makeup and don heels, push his attacker, an emerging white supremacist, over the edge? It sure made for catchy headlines and drew attention to the plight of LGBTQ teens, as well as the overwhelmed educational and juvenile justice systems. But sensational press coverage only scratched the surface of the real story. Valentine Road delves deeper, to explore the complicated issues of accountability, sympathy and deviance at the heart of a legal defense that posited a murder victim can be the cause of his own murder.
The roles of victim and aggressor are tragically reversed when a young man exacts revenge on his molester. The abuser becomes the abused in this complicated and ambiguous debate between crime and punishment, attempted murder versus rape. Presented using cross-cutting narratives, the young man is put behind bars while his pedophile remains free. But neither man can escape the other. For over 10 years they’ve lived in the same small town, in a tight, messy knot of hatred, fear and emotional chaos. “Maybe you have to feel it to understand it,” the juvenile muses about getting even as he paces his cage. “Life is not fair. Life is evil,” the pedophile states from behind locked doors, fearful of harassment from neighbours and his victim’s looming release date. Neither man regrets his crime, just its consequences. Entangled portrays a brutal grey area of blame, where both and neither is guilty.
Mercy Mercy: A Portrait Of A True Adoption
Easily one of the most important documentaries on inter-country adoption, Mercy Mercy gives a rare look at all participants in the adoption process, including the parents who give their children up. Two loving Ethiopians parents, Sinkenesh and Hussen, have just been diagnosed with HIV and told they have only a year to live. They make the painful decision to give their two youngest children up for adoption, handing them over to a Danish family. In an emotional departure, the Danish family promises to stay in touch and the adoption agency agrees to broker the relationship. What seems like the best decision for the children becomes a series of tragic and painful events for all, unveiling that the well-being of children is not always the main priority in the adoption process. Greed, selfishness, unrealistic expectations and skewed cultural perspectives idealizing one way of life over another collide in this powerful story.
The Life And Crimes Of Doris Payne
How does a poor, single, African-American mother from segregated 1950s America wind up as one of the world’s most notorious jewel thieves? Just ask her. A glamorous 81-year-old, Doris Payne is as unapologetic today about the nearly $2 million in jewels she’s stolen over a 60-year career as she was the day she stole her first carat. With Payne now on trial for the theft of a department store diamond ring, filmmakers Kirk Marcolina and Matthew Pond probe beneath her consummate smile to uncover the secrets of her trade and what drove her to a life of crime. Stylish recreations, an extensive archive and candid interviews reveal how Payne managed to jet-set her way into any Cartier or Tiffany’s from Monte Carlo to Japan and walk out with small fortunes. This sensational portrait exposes a rebel who defies society’s prejudices and pinches her own version of the American Dream while she steals your heart.