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#HotDocs14: Fourth Batch of Reviews

April 27, 2014

By John Corrado

Hot Docs Poster

You know the drill.  As we wrap up the successful first weekend of Hot Docs, below is my fourth set of capsule reviews, coming off another long but worthwhile day at the festival.

Yesterday I shared my thoughts on Four Letters Apart – Children in the Age of ADHD, The Basement Satellite, The Homestretch, The Notorious Mr. Bout, Doc of the Dead and I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story.  My latest set includes two films that premiered as Big Ideas presentations, as well as two contrasting films that feature main subjects with autism.

Please come back tomorrow and every day throughout the final week of the festival for more capsule reviews, and you can continue following along on Twitter for immediate thoughts on what I’ve been seeing.  You can get more information on Hot Docs and purchase tickets right here.  Enjoy!

Mission Blue: Dr. Sylvia Earle is an oceanographer who has advanced the field of underwater exploration, devoting her career to promoting the need to protect our oceans, touring around and talking about the devastating impact of shark finning and overfishing.  Her life story is told in Mission Blue, which also serves as an introductory overview of the points that are covered in her presentations.  Although the underwater cinematography is gorgeous and speaks for itself, the film is structured in an episodic way that feels very conventional.  But Dr. Sylvia Earle makes for an inspiring subject and the messages of Mission Blue are vitally important.

Friday, April 25th – 6:30 PM @ Bloor Hot Docs Cinema (Scotiabank Big Ideas)
Saturday, April 26th – 11:00 AM @ TIFF Bell Lightbox 1
Saturday, May 3rd – 11:00 AM @ TIFF Bell Lightbox 1

To Be Takei: First gaining fame as Sulu on Star Trek, George Takei has found a dedicated and enduring fanbase over the years.  Still making money signing autographs at conventions and being recognized for his voice, the iconic and eminently likeable actor also does inspiring work as an activist, which provides the heart of To Be Takei.  This includes working on a musical that raises awareness of the many Japanese-Americans who were wrongly sent to internment camps during World War II, based on his own childhood experiences.  Directors Jennifer Kroot and Bill Weber also show us his charming private life with husband Brad, leading to his work as an outspoken gay rights advocate after officially coming out in 2005.  With some priceless scenes that show the homosexual overtones of Star Trek, To Be Takei is an incredibly entertaining and also touching film that plays as a true crowdpleaser.

Saturday, April 26th – 6:00 PM @ Bloor Hot Docs Cinema (Scotiabank Big Ideas)
Sunday, April 27th – 1:00 PM @ Bloor Hot Docs Cinema

The Creator of the Jungle: Garrell has spent his life building elaborate wooden towers and mazes in a forest near a small village in Catalonia, fancying himself as a real life Tarzan.  But whenever the noisy human civilization that he tries to avoid gets too close to his world, often in the form of cruel vandals, he burns down the structures so that he can start fresh.  Comprised of home movies that were shot by his teenaged friend Aleix, which have been seamlessly edited together with poetic narration by Jordi Morató, The Creator of the Jungle is an offbeat festival find that deserves an audience.  This is a compellingly strange portrait of an eccentric artist, that is both fascinating and haunting.

Saturday, April 26th – 9:00 PM @ ROM Theatre
Sunday, April 27th – 3:30 PM @ TIFF Bell Lightbox 3
Saturday, May 3rd – 3:15 PM @ Scotiabank Theatre

The Special Need: Enea is a young man in Italy who has autism, but he dreams of meeting a beautiful girl, just like anyone else.  His buddies Carlo and Alex treat him like any other guy, casually hanging out and playfully teasing him, and they are also determined to help him finally get laid, even if that means finding a prostitute or going to a brothel.  Directed by his longtime friend Carlo Zoratti, Enea’s story is told with great sensitivity in The Special Need, a beautifully shot and perfectly structured narrative documentary that often raises smiles and is also very touching.  From the hilarious opening, to the quietly moving final scene that is captured through a stunning steady shot, this is one of the best films about autism that I have ever seen.

Sunday, April 27th – 6:30 PM @ Scotiabank Theatre
Monday, April 28th – 1:00 PM @ ROM Theatre
Sunday, May 4th – 9:00 PM @ Isabel Bader Theatre

A Different Kind of Boy: Alexander is a young man with autism living in Denmark.  He has just moved into his own place and is getting used to being independent, when his older brother Sebastian decides to take him to Barcelona in an attempt to bond, a trip that Alexander seems largely disinterested in.  It’s not a spoiler to say that nothing really happens in A Different Kind of Boy.  We see Alexander meticulously arranging things, watching TV and eating.  There are even extended sequences of him picking his nose with a rolled up tissue, something that he does frequently throughout the 54 minute running time, leading up to one of the most random final scenes in recent memory.  Although certainly an honest look into this young man’s world, A Different Kind of Boy lacks any sense of narrative focus, to the point of feeling hopelessly mundane.

Monday, April 28th – 7:30 PM @ Scotiabank Theatre
Wednesday, April 30th – 5:00 PM @ TIFF Bell Lightbox 4
Friday, May 2nd – 2:00 PM @ ROM Theatre

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