Hard to believe we are now at the last days of Hot Docs. As always, it has been an excellent festival thus far. In case you need more reasons to catch a documentary or two, here are five of my faves at this year’s festival.
Saturday, May 6th
Unarmed Verses (Rush Tickets Only)
Dir. Charles Officer
TIFF Bell Lightbox 1, 3:15pm
A poignant film about life, community and finding one’s voice through the eyes of a very observant 12-year old girl.
Winner of the Best Canadian Feature Documentary Award. Absolutely one of my favourites at this year’s festival. Read and hear more about the film here.
Birth of a Family (Rush Tickets Only)
Dir. Tasha Hubbard
Innis Town Hall, 6pm
A close look at four siblings meeting for the first time after been separated during the Sixties Coop. The four siblings were part of the 20,000 Indigenous children taken from their families between 1955 and 1985, to be either adopted into white families or to live in foster care. Hubbard allows us a very intimate look as siblings try to piece together their shared history, while also trying to build a family connection. Definitely not to be missed.
Dir. Florian Habicht
Revue Cinema, 9pm
Beth and Andy Watson are the co-founders and owners of Spookers, a family-run scare park that is one of the most popular attractions in New Zealand. Habicht shows us behind-the-scenes action of this intriguing place while also showing us the emotional effects of preying on people’s fears. The location, Kingseat, a former psychiatric hospital adds to the eerie aspects of the film to some degree. I appreciated hearing from a former patient at the institute, talking about how this attraction can further stigmatize people with mental health issues. Yet it was also good to hear from the attraction’s performers reflect on their reasons for working there, the implications of their work, and how this work gives their lives meaning.
Sunday, May 7th
Two teenaged Honduran siblings, Rocío and Ale, living in Mexico undocumented must decide how to provide and take care of their younger siblings. Without work papers, job prospects are minimal for Ale. The film gives us a glimpse at how these young people have to give up on their hopes and dreams in order to face the harsh realities of adulthood. Do they stay together as a unit, or does Ale cross the border to try to find better opportunities to help his siblings? Ortiz clearly build close rapport with Rocío and Ale, and the end product is a moving and much needed documentary. The films is about family, the impact immigration has on children, and the lengths to which they must go to survive every day. The film is the Winner of the Best International Feature Documentary Award at this year’s festival.
Most of John and Amanda Leyden’s lives have been closely tied to Headfort, the only boarding schooling in Ireland for children aged 7 to 12. It’s where the couple met, where they now teach their young pupils. This lovely film exposes us to John and Amanda’s daily thoughts and routines; as well as to the students and their experiences at Headfort. Ní Chianáin and Rane give us a glimpse at a year in the life of those at Headfort, and the Leydens’ positive influence on its students and staff. Never focusing on just one or two students, we get a good view of the bond that develops between teachers and students while inspiring a new generation. I particularly enjoyed the quiet moments between John and Amanda. As well, the moments we see the kids rock out with John in the art studio are some of the most moving and funniest. One of the most charming films at this year’s festival.
If interested in more Hot Docs titles, box office, and venue information, go to hotdocs.ca.