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Hot Docs 2013: Five Capsule Reviews, including “Mistaken for Strangers”

May 5, 2013

By John C.

Hot Docs 2013 PosterWe are now at the final day of Hot Docs.  The festival has been going strong since April 25th, and I’ve seen a lot of great films over the past eleven days.  The other day I shared my thoughts on 12 O’Clock Boys, Blood Relative, Blackfish, The Crash Reel and Quality Balls – The David Steinberg Story.

Below are my reviews of five more films that I caught up with over the weekend, bringing my total count up to forty.  Please come back tomorrow for my complete wrap up of the festival, including a look back on everything that I reviewed.  Enjoy!

Spring & Arnaud:  When Spring Hurlbut first met Arnaud Maggs, she was 22 and he was 47.  But their difference in age was the only thing the two artists didn’t have in common, and as a couple they became inseparable.  He uses his photography to show the differences between things that appear the same, and her work is based around a fascination with the way people leave their mark on the world, studying both infancy and mortality.  Forty years after they first met, the two are soul mates connected through art, but we just know that she will be the one left to remember him.  Directed by Katherine Knight and Marcia Connolly, Spring & Arnaud is a haunting and achingly sad film about the small ways that we are all remembered after we die.  As we reach the unforgettable final few scenes of the film, it becomes clear that this beautiful portrait is just one of the many ways that the title couple will continue to live on.

Monday, April 29th – 6:30 PM @ TIFF Bell Lightbox 2

Wednesday, May 1st – 4:00 PM @ TIFF Bell Lightbox 3

Saturday, May 4th – 2:00 PM @ TIFF Bell Lightbox 2

Alphée of the Stars:  From her personality, Alphée is just like any other five year old.  She has an adorable imagination and clearly loves spending time with her family, who all adore this special little girl.  The fact that she has an extremely rare genetic disorder that causes developmental delays and muscular difficulties hasn’t held her back, prompting her family to take a vacation from Quebec and go to a small town in Switzerland where she can come into her own.  Directed by her father Hugo Latulippe, with beautiful cinematography and poetic voiceover, Alphée of the Stars is a sweet film about a father’s love for his daughter who has a disability.

Tuesday, April 30th – 6:30 PM @ TIFF Bell Lightbox 3

Wednesday, May 1st – 1:30 PM @ Isabel Bader Theatre

Saturday, May 4th – 3:30 PM @ The ROM Theatre

Shooting Bigfoot:  Morgan Matthews grew up believing in Bigfoot, but when he became a filmmaker, the stories were just chalked up to childhood fantasy and he became one of the many skeptics.  Following a rag tag group of eccentric hunters and trackers, Shooting Bigfoot takes us on their latest mission to try and prove the legend as real, heading out on an expedition in the woods that might just prove to be their most successful yet.  The film gives us fascinating insight into the mindset of these individuals, even though the ending feels a bit cheap and it’s ethically questionable if the director actually knew what was going on.  But regardless of how you feel about what ultimately happens, Shooting Bigfoot is most interesting when viewed as a fairly entertaining study of how much people are willing to believe when something is presented in the form a documentary, and the subjects are fascinatingly unique.

Tuesday, April 30th – 8:29 PM @ TIFF Bell Lightbox 2

Wednesday, May 1st – 11:59 PM @ Bloor Hot Docs Cinema

Friday, May 3rd – 9:30 PM @ The Royal Cinema

Unclaimed:  When Tom Faunce served in Vietnam over forty years ago, he lived by the mantra of “no man left behind.”  After returning from the war, he devoted his life to helping others and lived by the words of “no man left unloved.”  But when he went back to do missionary work in Vietnam, he heard the story of an elderly man named John Hartley Robertson, claiming to be an American solider forgotten by his country and left behind after the war.  Driven by his faith, Tom did everything he could to prove the identity of this mysterious man, and help him return to the family that long believed he was killed in battle.  Directed by Michael Jorgensen, Unclaimed is a powerful and moving look at how far someone would go to help a stranger reclaim their rightful identity.

Tuesday, April 30th – 9:00 PM @ TIFF Bell Lightbox 3

Thursday, May 2nd – 3:30 PM @ The ROM Theatre

Saturday, May 4th – 1:00 PM @ The ROM Theatre

Mistaken for Strangers:  When Matt Berninger was going on tour with his critically acclaimed indie rock band The National, he invited his younger brother Tom along as a roadie.  Bringing a camera with him to capture all of the action, Tom comes prepared for a wild ride, but ends up realizing just how little he has achieved in comparison to his older brother.  Determined to make a documentary about the band to prove that he can actually see something through to the end, the result is Mistaken for Strangers, a deeply personal film about self discovery and a behind the scenes look at The National.  Essential for fans of the band and a true crowdpleaser that is pretty much universally relatable, this is a wildly entertaining concert documentary with a very touching story about two brothers reconnecting.

Tuesday, April 30th – 9:15 PM @ The Royal Cinema

Thursday, May 2nd – 11:59 PM @ Bloor Hot Docs Cinema

Sunday, May 5th – 4:00 PM @ Bloor Hot Docs Cinema

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