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Hot Docs 2012: Five Capsule Reviews, including “Radioman”

May 3, 2012

By John C.

When the 19th annual Hot Docs Film Festival opened last Thursday,  I shared my recommendations for Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, Finding North, The Queen of Versailles, Indie Game: The Movie and Detropia.  On Tuesday, I published capsule reviews of Big Easy Express, Ping Pong, Ballroom Dancer, The Frog Princes and Only the Young.

Today we are just about to enter the final weekend for the festival and below are my thoughts on five more films that I’ve had the chance to see, some of which have at least one more screening coming up.  I hope you all find something to see over the next several days.  Please get more information on the festival and purchase tickets right here.  Enjoy!

Her Master’s Voice:  I’ve always found a lot of ventriloquist dummies more creepy than appealing, and the thinly veiled vanity project Her Master’s Voice is a twisted little documentary that is strictly for those already interested in the subject.  When British comedian Nina Conti’s mentor and lover Ken Campbell died, he left her his entire collection of ventriloquist dummies.  Overwhelmed by the responsibility, Nina takes a road trip to Kentucky with the always talking Monkey on her hand, determined to donate some of the characters to a museum for dummies that have literally lost their voices.  Many scenes take place at a motel where she has increasingly off kilter interactions with the dolls.  There are a couple of amusing moments between Nina and Monkey, but the thankfully short running time of just over an hour wore out its welcome rather quickly and left me more unsettled than entertained.

Sunday, April 29th – 7:00 PM @ Cumberland 2

Tuesday, May 1st – 11:00 AM @ The ROM Theatre

Friday, May 4th – 1:30 PM @ Cumberland 2

Radioman:  A love letter to the world of making movies, Radioman is the story of the title eccentric who literally spends his days hanging out on numerous New York film sets, enjoying the company of famous actors and delighting in free food and small parts.  Director Mary Kerr follows the formerly homeless man so named for the boombox that he wears around his neck, giving the audience a look at his perseverance to create a name for himself amongst Hollywood’s elite, many of whom he addresses by first name.  Perfectly illustrating the immense joy that he gets from hanging out on film sets, this is an incredibly entertaining and emotionally engaging documentary filled with cameos with everyone from George Clooney to Meryl Streep.  If you love movies as much as I do, then Radioman is a must see.

Monday, April 30th – 9:00 PM @ Bloor Hot Docs Cinema

Wednesday, May 2nd – 11:45 PM @ Bloor Hot Docs Cinema

Saturday, May 5th – 4:15 PM @ Cumberland 3

Chasing Ice:  Equal parts adventure film and document of the devastating effects of climate change, director Jeff Orlowski’s Chasing Ice follows National Geographic photographer James Balog on his expeditions to the Arctic, capturing stunning time lapse photography of the melting glaciers.  Exhibiting his photography to spread awareness of climate change, the photojournalist is a true adventurer and activist, pushing his own personal limits and that of his dedicated crew to document unseen footage of the changing planet.  Ending with Scarlett Johansson singing the beautiful original song “Before My Time” over the closing credits, Chasing Ice is a visually stunning call to action filled with breathtaking images that will stick with you long after leaving the theatre.

Wednesday, May 2nd – 3:00 PM @ TIFF Bell Lightbox 1

Thursday, May 3rd – 7:30 PM @ TIFF Bell Lightbox 2

Scarlet Road:  Rachel Wotton is a proud sex worker in Australia, focusing as much time as she can on the largely overlooked population of adults with disabilities who crave a sex life that they normally wouldn’t be able to have.  Director Catherine Scott not only shows us Rachel’s life, but also adults with severe physical disabilities who have to save up what little cash they have in order to fund their next session of what they consider physical therapy.  There are no big revelatory plot points in the simple narrative of this documentary, which sheds light on the topic through lengthy personal interviews that don’t always make for compelling drama and feel better suited to TV.  But moments where we see how important these physical encounters are to those with disabilities are sometimes touching (pardon the pun) and leave us with a lot to think about, regardless of where you stand on the prostitution debate.

Wednesday, May 2nd – 7:00 PM @ The ROM Theatre

Friday, May 4th – 6:30 PM @ Cumberland 3

Sunday, May 6th – 9:00 PM @ The ROM Theatre

China Heavyweight:  Back in 1966, boxing was banned in China for being “too violent and too American.”  But now the sport is widely respected, and director Yung Chang observantly follows a coach who scours local villages and schools for poor students to be trained for competitions, finding teenagers and young adults who aspire to make it big.  Although China Heavyweight is a little slow moving and has no interviews to further develop the subjects as characters, the boxing sequences are admirably filmed and provide some tension.  Especially for those interested in the culture or sport of the film, this is a well made and heartfelt look at how an activity that used to be banned has quickly become a fierce competition both physical and emotional.

Wednesday, May 2nd – 9:00 PM @ Bloor Hot Docs Cinema

Thursday, May 3rd – 2:00 PM @ TIFF Bell Lightbox 2

Friday, May 4th – 9:30 PM @ Fox Theatre

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