Art Threat: A film festival grows up – Hot Docs wrestles with the politics and popularity of documentary

The international film festival is a strange creation. Like documentary, it isn’t any one thing. Instead, it resembles a leaky holding tank, the contents of which constantly seep, form new bodies, expand, transform and otherwise confound precise categorization. It is an organism eschewing stasis: regardless of size, import or cultural capital, the festival must constantly ...

Art Threat: Courage, candour and inspiration – A review of The Interrupters

At the end of Steve James’s new masterpiece documentary three words are employed to thank the film’s characters—those who gave incredible, intimate access to their lives and work—for their “courage, candour and inspiration.” These are indeed fitting words for some of the bravest, most committed and selfless heroes ever to be shown on the screen. ...

Art Threat: The activist-terrorist complex – A Review of Better this World

Frightening, enthralling and important – these are the first words that come to mind when thinking of the documentary Better this World, screening at Hot Docs 2011. The story focuses, very sympathetically, on two Texas activists who set out to protest and disrupt the 2008 Republican National Convention only to end up behind bars under ...

Art Threat: The sordid tale of the Trump golf course – A Review of You’ve Been Trumped

Donald Trump is a profound source of inspiration to so many all over the world. He inspires in us a sense of right and wrong, a sense of justice, and of course a sense of success. As a megalomaniac bully with too much money and nary the wit to match, The Donald embodies the role ...

Art Threat: Forgiving a mass murderer – A review of The Redemption of General Butt Naked

The Redemption of Butt Naked (Eric Strauss and Daniele Anastasion) is a complicated, difficult film. It is not only difficult to watch, in terms of the footage of atrocities committed during Liberia’s sixteen-year civil war, but scenes of victims confronting their oppressor are so thickly layered feelings of anger co-mingle with feelings of anxiety, deep ...

Art Threat: Berlusconi assassinated – A review of Draquila – Italy Trembles

“Where are all the women? Are you all gay? Next time, I’ll bring the showgirls.” Not the string of words one expects from a politician of any ranking, much less one that is the leader of a G8 country. Yet this is precisely what Silvio Berlusconi said, in front of television and film cameras, while ...

Art Threat: A voice of African resistance and exile – Review of Mama Africa

The pre-story of the documentary Mama Africa, currently screening at Hot Docs, is a sad one indeed. Finnish filmmaker Mika Kaurismäki was a life-long fan of singer and activist Miriam Makeba and set out to make the definitive documentary biography of her her life and work. At the Q&A following last night’s sold out screening ...

Art Threat: History reloaded and remixed – A review of The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975

The mixed tape is a cultural phenomenon that, thankfully, refuses to die. From the time of the earliest printed booklets through to the ubiquitous mixing of audio cassette tapes in the 80s to the sampling and remixing of the 90s and 2000s, people have taken existing media and sculpted into their own assemblages. The Black ...

Art Threat: Ad nauseam – Morgan Spurlock cashes in on commercialism

At last night’s Hot Docs opening and Canadian premiere screening of Morgan Spurlock’s POM Wonderful Presents the Greatest Movie Ever Sold the peppy logo-clad filmmaker told the audience his film will have the effect of changing the way we look at advertising, TV, and films. Maybe Spurlock has been hanging out with a different crowd ...

Art Threat: Hot Docs 19 begins – Toronto festival brings another round of quality documentary

It’s that time of year again — when documentary makers, buyers and fans dust off their shoes and head to Toronto to feast on a ten-day diet of non-fiction cinema. Once again, like the 18 years before, the world’s second largest doc festival is delivering its usual panoply of prize-worthy productions, political powder kegs and ...