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Hot Docs 2013: Five Capsule Reviews, including “Blood Brother”

May 1, 2013

By John C.

Hot Docs 2013 PosterWe are now at the halfway point of Hot Docs, with the festival going strong until Sunday.  The line up in general has been really great this year, and on Monday I shared my thoughts on Special Ed, Junior, Menstrual Man, Finding the Funk and Alcan Highway.

Below are my brief reviews on five more films, all of which have more screenings coming up and are worth checking out in their own ways.  My next set of capsule reviews will be coming tomorrow, and you can get more information on the festival and purchase tickets right here.  Enjoy!

Rent a Family Inc.:  Although Ryuichi is a mild mannered family man on the surface, he makes his living as the head of I Want to Cheer You Up, a Japanese company that rents out employees to pose as family members or friends.  The jobs of himself and his employees range from being the plus-one at weddings, to playing the part of parents and spouses.  Their jobs become so complex, that they go from being employees to actors appearing in real life situations.  But Ryuichi keeps the business a secret from his own family, putting a serious strain on his marriage, and sending him into an ongoing depression.  Directed with surprising access by Kaspar Astrup Achröder, Rent a Family Inc. is an interesting social study of a man put at odds with his own family, by posing for others.

Sunday, April 28th – 9:00 PM @ Scotiabank Theatre

Tuesday, April 30th – 1:00 PM @ The ROM Theatre

Sunday, May 5th – 1:00 PM @ Scotiabank Theatre

Blood Brother:  When Rocky Braat first went to India, his vacation took a life changing turn when he visited a centre for women and children suffering from AIDS, and formed an inseparable bond with the kids.  After reevaluating his life in America, Rocky returned to India with his best friend Steve Hoover filming him every step of the way, setting up a home that would allow him to selflessly devote his life to making a difference.  Directed by Steve Hoover, Blood Brother does a good job of making his friend’s story feel universal and relatable.  Even at times when the suffering of the children is hard to watch, the emotional payoff of the film is undeniably worth it.  As we follow this one man on his inspiring journey to help others, Blood Brother becomes a film that is by turns heartwarming and incredibly sad, offering a story of hope along with heartbreak.  Already a hit at Sundance, this documentary is well worth seeing.

Tuesday, April 30th – 6:30 PM @ Bloor Hot Docs Cinema

Wednesday, May 1st – 2:00 PM @ Hart House Theatre

Friday, May 3rd – 9:30 PM @ Isabel Bader Theatre

Brothers Hypnotic:  The eight members of Hypnotic Brass Ensemble are not just brothers in the cultural sense, but also blood relatives who have all inherited their father’s love of music.  Gaining fame performing on the streets of Chicago, we follow the dynamic horn band as they collaborate with Mos Def and add a fusion of hip hop to their refreshing sound.  Directed by Reuben Atlas, Brothers Hypnotic shows the group of siblings at a time when they have to decide whether to keep their act local, or try and make it big.  Although the film is a little simplistic in terms of narrative, it’s worth seeing for the way that it opens our eyes to an excellent musical group.  Because when the music takes centre stage, Brothers Hypnotic strikes a chord.

Wednesday, May 1st – 7:00 PM @ The Royal

Thursday, May 2nd – 9:00 PM @ Burwash Quad

Sunday, May 5th – 9:30 PM @ Bloor Hot Docs Cinema

The Great Hip Hop Hoax:  The story of how two young Scottish guys pretended to be from California and gained notoriety as a rap duo in England makes for a compelling documentary in The Great Hip Hop Hoax.  Growing up in Scotland, Billy and Gavin were best friends who always dreamed of making it big in the music industry, but were dismissed whenever a talent scout would hear their accents.  When they impulsively decided to put on American accents and pose as two young guys from California, they were immediately signed in London, and become an almost overnight sensation in the industry.  Directed by Jeanie Finlay with the film made up of interviews and crude animations, The Great Hip Hop Hoax tells a fascinating story from the music industry, while questioning how long you can keep up a performance before blurring the lines with reality.

Wednesday, May 1st – 9:30 PM @ The Royal Cinema

Friday, May 3rd – 11:45 PM @ Bloor Hot Docs Cinema

Saturday, May 4th – 8:30 PM @ The ROM Theatre

Free the Mind:  The idea behind Free the Mind is championed by the celebrated Dr. Richard Davidson, who has set up a program at the University of Wisconsin, that uses meditation techniques to “cure” the effects of PTSD, mainly in soldiers returning from the war.  Directed by Phie Ambo, the film follows a group of young veterans, along with a boy in preschool who is included in the program for his fear of elevators and diagnosis of ADHD.  Because PTSD is a learned response to certain situations that is brought out by specific triggers, the meditation techniques can prove effective and do provide a coping strategy.  Although it’s debatable as to how well they might work for other neurological differences, something that is never directly addressed in the film.  But regardless of whether or not you agree with all of the subjects, Free the Mind is an interesting discussion piece about how meditation can sometimes work over medication when dealing with the symptoms of PTSD.

Thursday, May 2nd – 6:30 PM @ Bloor Hot Docs Cinema

Friday, May 3rd – 6:00 PM @ The ROM Theatre

Saturday, May 4th – 11:00 AM @ Isabel Bader Theatre

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