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Hot Docs 2013: Five Capsule Reviews, including “Special Ed”

April 29, 2013

By John C.

Hot Docs 2013 PosterThe first weekend of Hot Docs has come to a close, and with it brought numerous great films that premiered across Toronto.  Yesterday I published my thoughts on Terms and Conditions May Apply, When I Walk, Valentine Road, Downloaded and Maidentrip.

Today I’m sharing my thoughts on five more films playing at the festival, the first one premiering tonight, and the rest of them starting their runs later in the week.  My next set of capsule reviews will be coming on Wednesday, and you can get more information on the festival and purchase tickets right here.  Enjoy!

Special Ed:  When Ed Ackerman decided to give politics a try, he took the signs of the other candidates to construct a small house out of the materials and make a statement about the valuable resources that go into advertising.  This is just one of many memorably amusing moments in Special Ed, a very entertaining portrait of a local eccentric in Winnipeg, who has plenty of ideas that often go unfinished.  He is struggling to wrap up work on the rundown houses that he bought as an investment for a short film, but in order to finish construction he must first fight the authorities for a building permit, which is where his political dreams come in.  There is a delightfully humorous feel to Special Ed, but when things take a heartbreaking turn late in the film, director John Paskievich shoots it with great sensitivity.  This is an excellent portrait of an interesting man who truly is something special.

Monday, April 29th – 6:00 PM @ TIFF Bell Lightbox 3

Tuesday, April 30th – 10:30 AM @ The ROM Theatre

Saturday, May 4th – 9:15 PM @ Innis Town Hall

Junior:  When 23-year-old boxer Jean-Piere “Junior” Bauwens became an international champion in Belgium, his victory brought him one step closer to being able to support his six younger siblings, four of them on the autism spectrum.  Although Junior starts off as a mildly affecting slice of life drama, things take a strange turn partway through, a tragic real life plot development that isn’t really supported by the surprisingly brief 54 minute running time.  Although the stakes are high for the title character to win the fights, the film is too light on details and doesn’t actually flesh out enough of the more intriguing elements for it to fully work as a piece of filmmaking.

Tuesday, May 2nd – 6:00 PM @ The ROM Theatre

Friday, May 3rd – 1:00 PM @ The ROM Theatre

Sunday, May 5th – 4:00 PM @ TIFF Bell LightBox 3

Menstrual Man:  When Arunachalam Muruganantham realized that the majority of women in India don’t have access to sanitary pads, he found an ingenious solution to the problem.  Despite being thought of as a pervert in his community, he built a small factory using manually operated machines that would employ local women and produce menstrual pads for the struggling communities.  Not only was he giving the women of India access to proper hygiene, he was also breaking down barriers and giving them a reliable source of income.  Directed by Amit Virmani, Menstrual Man uses great humour to shed light on an important cultural issue, and what one seemingly uneducated man is doing to make a big difference.  At just over an hour, this is an incredibly entertaining film that is made all the better for its serious treatment of the subjects.

Tuesday, April 30th – 6:30 PM @ Scotiabank Theatre

Wednesday, May 1st – 10:30 AM @ The ROM Theatre

Friday, May 3rd – 9:00 PM @ TIFF Bell Lightbox 2

Finding the Funk:  Narrated and hosted with great enthusiasm by Questlove of The Roots, Finding the Funk takes us through the history and meaning behind the musical genre known as funk.  We hear from such legends as George Clinton, Bootsy Collins and a surprisingly aged Sly Stone, sharing stories about the rise of a musical style that started with James Brown and arguably never went away, as the songs live on through hip hop sampling.  Although the film could have benefitted from a few more samples of the actual songs, Finding the Funk is an informative and easily enjoyable introduction to and journey though an important time and genre in music history.

Tuesday, April 30th – 7:00 PM @ The Royal Cinema

Thursday, May 2nd – 4:30 PM @ Isabel Bader Theatre

Saturday, May 4th – 1:30 PM @ Bloor Hot Docs Cinema

Alcan Highway:  Lonely in his native Finland, Hese bought a broken down truck that was stranded in Alaska, with a dream to turn it into a mobile home.  Getting help from his buddies and unintentionally hurting a few feelings with his inability to make decisions, he finally gets the truck up and running, embarking on a journey to find a new home on Vancouver Island.  Although Alcan Highway is a little slow moving and there are a few too many conversations about finding specific parts for the truck, the laid back pace fits the unique characters.  The film picks up once they take to the road, and there is an appealingly rustic feel to Alcan Highway, allowing it to play as an enjoyable travelogue that reminds us the importance of trying to live a simpler life and just enjoy the trip.

Wednesday, May 1st – 9:00 PM @ TIFF Bell Lightbox 3

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

Sunday, May 5th – 6:30 PM @ TIFF Bell Lightbox 3

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