After missing talhotblond tonight, I decided to post as closely to today's events as possible, rather than a full day later. So many things happen at Hot Docs that I'm already finding it tough to remember all the details of everything I've experienced. And it's only been 4 days of festival goodness!
The Delegate Badge
Firstly, THE DELEGATE BADGE IS AWESOME. Since I'm trying to fit in as many films as humanely possible (adding a bike to the equation make this a bit easier to do), I really am trying my best to get to the screenings somewhat in advance, thinking I would need to secure a place in the box office line, then the ticket holders line, and failing all of that, the....shudder...rush line. I've been going to TIFF more than Hot Docs, and I'm all too familiar with the rush line.
But Hot Docs has a totally different atmosphere than TIFF--dare I say more fun and easygoing? There's more this push to see films that you're interested in, rather than being the first one to see the next hot flick (which is the theme at TIFF). Not that there's anything wrong with that. Seeing a big film at Hot Docs means also being privy to a Q&A (normally) with the director and possibly some crew and subjects. With TIFF it's the same thing. However, I realized after watching Linda Linda Linda, a Japanese film at TIFF, that watching those great but lesser known films can really be rewarding. I loved that film and tried finding it afterwards, with no luck. I'm really thankful I got to see it.
This morning we had the welcome and brunch as part of Hot Docs' DOC U program. It was great meeting everyone and hearing about their fascinating backgrounds. Dan is our awesome coordinator and Jeremy Gans is our mentor--both being with us every step of the way this week. If the amazing brunch at Langolino is any indication, this week is going to be tremendous.
Made in India
I originally had no intention of seeing this film, but after seeing it hyped on blogto.com, I decided to go for it. And I'm so glad I did. Made in India was such a great film that covered both sides of the stories so well and, I think, fairly. The American couple was even there at the screening, and I (like at Life With Murder), applaud their courage to come to Hot Docs and stand before this audience. It makes me think about an audience's reaction to a film--whether or not it changes with the knowledge of the subject being present (also the difference in that fact being revealed before or after the screening), and whether or not the audience becomes more cautious (especially at the Q&A) in reflecting how they truly feel on controversial issues. I think people held back at the Life With Murder Q&A, although I left at the beginning, since we were told before the screening that the family was there. With Made in India, the Q&A was great because it actually ended up turning towards the filmmaking process as well as the issues around and within the film.
Okay, it's only Day 4, so this might be an early conclusion, but I'm finding the short films to be wonderful. I don't think Hot Docs would curate any awful short films of course, but perhaps ones I wouldn't necessarily enjoy. Often I'll go see a film and it's paired with a short that I wasn't planning to really see, which is nice because it opens me up to something new and unexpected. That was the case with the Hemingway short. I had no interest in seeing it, but I'm glad I did.
But Basin was the one short I wanted to see, and I'm kinda jealous---filmmaker David Geiss is saying many of the things I want to see in my own film, but he does it so beautifully and concisely (and in half, no, a quarter of the time). The film opens with beautiful landscape aerial shots of an area in Alberta, full of nature, and then quickly blends the development in, with the oil sands, and then nature, and back and so forth. Read the description for a more accurate synopsis, but what I liked about this film was that it was highlighting so many issues without really saying a word. The only human voice is a Cree drummer, which speaks words in itself. Probably best said by programmer Alex Rogalski, "The beauty of the images in this wordless documentary are hauntingly contrasted by the ominous soundscape."
Land, and Q&A's gone wrong but quickly righted
There were definitely tons of the filmmaker's fans in the audience tonight, as many cheered when Land's filmmaker Julian Pinder took the stage. My friend Nicole recommended this film to me as it takes place in Nicaragua, where she stayed for many months, and would, as she said, put into perspective her experience there.
I'm admittedly not very good with reviewing films. I think most films are awesome, unless they're boring, but I chalk that up to me just not being engaged with the film itself in the way someone else might be. That being said, I thought this film was well done. Shot in kind of a verite, almost sometimes sloppy, kind of way with many subjects on both sides of the condo/resort development debate. I liked how the filmmaker let the subjects tell their stories and allow the viewer some freedom in deciding what side they were on. There was an obvious slant, but I think in all the film definitely sparked discussion on the issues pertaining to development itself, in any country, but also what's going on in Nicaragua in particular.
In line I was discussing how I've been lucky so far at Hot Docs to escape those ridiculously pretentious Q&A's. Oddly enough, this film's Q&A became one of those awfully pretentious ones. Drat! But I commend the moderator/programmer for brilliantly leading the Q&A out of a potential crash and burn, hilariously summing up one person's long-winded question to a short blip of one. Then when one man started off saying, "I just want to bring some perspective to this...." (to which I gave the 'ol Liz Lemon eye roll), she rightfully cut him off and politely said, "I'm sorry sir, if you don't have a question then we're going to give someone who does the opportunity to ask it."
I'm all for discussion, but a Q&A for me is not the same thing as a salon. And it's not really there for you to puff yourself up and reveal the many wonderful connections you have with the film and the issues surrounding it. There's giving your question some context, which is totally fine, but I feel like when there's such a short time the audience has with the filmmaker, he or she might just appreciate if you asked a question, gee I don't know, about the film? Or about the filmmaking process? Or about how they view the issues surrounding the film, or perhaps even what other issues they see being raised?
Q&A's have quickly become my favourite part of the screening, but also the most dreaded. Well, tonight it looks like I'll be getting some sleep as tomorrow will be even busier!