Posts Tagged ‘documentary’ – select review

HotDocs Festival 2014 Toronto –

a Smash Hit on our way to the Great Smashup.

Dozens of cutting edge documentaries from cutting edge directors, many of which looked into the many hearts of darkness in our world, but few of which had answers. I’ll just give a brief comment on each as to why I felt this way.  I won’t try to duplicate more expert /comprehensive reviews – my concern is that the public is being fed a consistently singular message in many guises and that this message is dangerous to our future wellbeing.

I enjoyed 10 of this year’s crop despite developing an overarching feeling that they stuck pretty much to prevailing orthodoxy, at least among Toronto’s theater crowd.

The Trap: What Happened to our Dream of Freedom, 2002,  Adam Curtis

The most impressive, thorough and hard hitting of my selection by far . Three one hour segments – its a marathon. Mind bending too. This trilogy will find great resonance with the tin foil hat crowd and to my mind adroitly plumbs the messages we have been getting from our elites in the last century. Curtis follows thinkers as they bifurcate the concept of liberty into two camps: Positive and Negative Liberty.  The positive type is what  most revolution promise:  specific solutions such as Communism, Fascism, etc which all degrade into tyranny.  Negative Liberty is the ideal of being free to just do what you want (within reasonable limits).  Negative because of there is no specific prescription for society. Each person pursues  selfish fulfillment. He provides much support for these competing visions of liberty but having outlined the dangers of Positive Liberty and the limitations of Negative liberty, he blithely suggests we need Positive Liberty with some vague modifications. As if. So it looks like he is all for continuing a cognitive dissonance dialogue until such time as his masters, the globalists and the Georgia Guidestones deign to give us an answer. Probably just after WW3.

The Beijing Ants, Ryuji Otsuka.
This shaky doc was the polar opposite of The Trap, with little message to recommend it. Nonetheless, I enjoyed it even as many folks walked out. Well, that’s because I’ve a secret yen for China and was interested in finding out the pitfalls of renting an apartment in case I get there some day!  Quite different than here so it’s a good how-to, imo. Orthodoxy was preserved by the many shots of dense pollution over Beijing. Ok, so pick Kunming or some smaller city in the outlying provinces unless you have business in the capital.

Evaporating Borders, Iva Radivojavec.
Compelling and complaining but failed to explore the reason WHY mass migrations are so tolerated/ encouraged. Natch. They don’t want us to know. But we know, don’t we?!

The Writer With no Hands, William Westaway.
Chilling but confusing conjecture on the disappearance of Hollywood screenwriter Gary DeVore. Much evidence seemed to point to CIA/ military involvement, at least circumstantially, but nothing conclusive.  Should we worry or not? Being an inveterate worrier, I’d say we should, if only to shine a light, especially given the evidence of military assistance to ‘suitable’ projects.  Why do we tolerate this interference?

Ukraine is not a Brothel, Kitty Green.
Ooh lala, now that’s an unexpected offering from a dyed in the wool feminist! Who’da thunk. Lots of bare boobs, perhaps to the point of gratuitousness. Other than that though, the message is about what you’d expect from a feminist – women good (albeit duped) dupe-man bad, religion bad. Arch villain Victor given short shrift despite his prodigious contribution to the possibly legitimate Femen movement.  BTW they should stick to women’s issues, not politics, imo . No exploration of whether feminism is sustainable, so the irony is fitting.  See more below under last movies.

Ai WeiWei, The Fake Case, Andreas Johnson
Please pardon my fascination with China, again thoroughly enjoyable. One comes away with a clear sense of the struggle between an artistic but eccentric individual (designed the Bird’s Nest Stadium) and a state struggling to advance their society while coping with many different nationalities and languages, never mind stubborn individuals. Look at the problems Canada has coping with one distinct Quebec. We in Canada should not feel smug, especially when John Doe of the G20 debacle was incarcerated 250 days longer (without trial) than Ai Weiwei. So if we are to fix the many problems in Canada, which is worse, a dangerously misguided police force or an insurmountable media-fed zombi-ism combined with an efficient police that demanded over 1 million files from our internet ISPs in the last year?

Four Letters Apart – Children in the Age of ADHD.
Touching and vital study of an experimental (but expensive) program that attempted with much success to treat the whole child instead of just the symptoms of acting out. Not a dry eye left the theater. However, those who like myself decry the use of Ritalin will be disappointed, since the pre-existing medical regime for each child was maintained on or off as before.

The Songs of Rice, Uruphong Raksasad
A cinematicly confusing collage of images from several south Asian nations. Too disconnected, poorly shot to figure out, especially for western city slickers. Tended to reinforce existing Waspy notions of what these countries are like, so let me challenge Canadians to watch the wild and wonderous / thunderous gunpowder propelled ‘helicopter’ fireworks and reflect on how our sanctimonious city school fathers wouldn’t even allow old fashioned (inexpensive) playgrounds to stay in our schools. Wow, what a rite of passage for those young folk. Puts us to shame if you ask me.

The Malagasy Way, Nantenaina Lova.
This film examines the intersection of culture and exploitation with recycling as a possible answer to the environmental and employment conundrum. These last two directors looked from their point of view but can a sophisticated audience do anything but look down our long noses at the antiquated practices we saw?   (even if honestly ingenious).  Recycling is such a politically correct solution but our high-mechanized high-overhead probably unsustainable solutions make no room for the low tech possibilities depicted- except by shipping boatloads to Asia and then complain when children desolder circuits and clean plastic bags. Thus we continue to bury too much in landfills.

In retrospect, the greater challenge for modern Canadians is to reflect on the Malagasy traditions as represented by proverbs, several of which were given.  ie A family that stands together is a rock, a family in discord washes away like sand.  Canadians by contrast have almost totally destroyed such wisdom, if we even had any in the first place.  Our only equivalent would be our religions and institutions and our laws to some degree.  Proverbs are easily remembered and passed through generations by Malagasy orators.  Are we deliberately taking down our wisdom through movements like Femen  with their anti-religious/tradition message?   Much as I admire them, LOL.

Everyday Rebellion, T. Arash et al.

Last doc i caught and perhaps the most powerful.  Or maybe it was the cumulative effect.  Explores efficacy and methods of non-violent protest in various nations, attempting to prove it more effective than the violent kind, especially under brutal dictatorships (Syria, Iran).  I had wondered if it would be an honest film or just made to pacify restive populations.  Why would a fellow like Bush Jr. want democracy anyway?  Is it because they manufacture consent so easily?  The excellent quality (cinematics & organization) suggests asking where they got the juice from – the ‘system’? I’ll have to leave this to the better informed.  Cognitive dissonance.

Regardless, I felt overwhelmed by the discipline & evolved methodology combined with courage of those involved (Occupy, Femen). A few Femens appeared after the show (recruiting?) – wow, these women are not sluts.  These  are special people, so courageous, so beautiful, so honourable, so vital.  The person I talked to heard/considered my criticisms/ suggestions, a rare event as most people cannot actually listen to another perspective from an ordinary person.

I’ve decided my role is to write but researchers who study this stuff (and who claim effectiveness mentioned above), say the primary engine is ‘street work’ combined with parallel political efforts.

I was amazed to learn that…. arrg, seniors moment!! Will edit later.


I wish I had been able to see all the docs , though I also wish that subtitles could be arranged for better visibility and less eye shifting for the curmudgeon. The presence of 700 volunteers was also impressive, if a little unsettling – these young people need paying jobs to support their studies for heavens sake – but that’s a potential HotDocs topic for another day.