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Hot Docs Reviews: The Heat: A Kitchen (R)evolution, Take Light, The Artist and the Pervert, The Accountant of Auschwitz, Chef Flynn, Anote’s Ark

April 26, 2018

By John Corrado

The 25th edition of the Hot Docs Film Festival kicks off tonight and will be running until May 6th in Toronto.  This is the first set of many reviews that I will be posting throughout the festival, and more information on tickets and showtimes can be found through the links in the film titles.  Enjoy!

The Heat: A Kitchen (R)evolution – ★★½ (out of 4) The latest from Toronto filmmaker Maya Gallus, The Heat: A Kitchen (R)evolution focuses on a selection of female chefs in Toronto, New York, London and France who are fighting for equal representation in the restaurant business.  The chefs talk about their experiences as women in what is still largely seen as a male-dominated industry, the intense working environment that exists in a kitchen, and the “fratboy culture” that often permeates it and can lead to abuses of power.

The great irony that men get the majority of attention in the world of celebrity chefs, despite the fact that many of these guys learned how to cook by watching their mothers prepare food in the kitchen, is also brought up.  But the film is short at just over 70 minutes, so its focus feels somewhat limited.  While The Heat: A Kitchen (R)evolution does have some interesting things to say about what it’s like to be a female chef, and how their experiences both do and don’t differ from their male counterparts, the film feels more like an overview of the subject and doesn’t focus enough on any one of these stories to leave more of an impact.  It’s not quite a full meal, but is still fairly satisfying as an appetizer. (Opening Night Film)

Thursday, April 26th – 9:30 PM at Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema
Saturday, April 28th – 1:15 PM at TIFF Bell Lightbox 1
Sunday, May 6th – 3:30 PM at Isabel Bader Theatre

Take Light – ★★★ (out of 4) Nigeria is facing an energy crisis that is keeping many of the African nation’s citizens in the dark.  Due to corrupt governments not properly allocating funds for the energy sector and looking to privatize, overloaded power grids that don’t efficiently utilize natural resources, and militant attacks on the gas pipelines, over half of the population doesn’t have access to reliable sources of power.  Director Shasha Nakhai offers an on the ground look at the energy crisis in Take Light, with much of the film following the workers from the country’s largest energy company as they go door to door, facing much animosity as they check metres and make sure the customers pay up, doing what is considering the “most hated job” in Nigeria.  The film also provides an engaging introduction to the electricians who are trying to improve the system, and those who view alternative energy sources like wind and solar as the only real options for the future.  This is an interesting look at a population that has been deprived of their right to power, both figuratively and literally.

Friday, April 27th – 6:45 PM at Hart House Theatre
Tuesday, May 1st – 3:15 PM at Scotiabank Theatre 3
Thursday, May 3rd – 6:30 PM at Scotiabank Theatre 3

The Artist and the Pervert – ★★½ (out of 4) Georg Friedrich Haas is an acclaimed Austrian composer who descended from Nazi parents, and Mollena Lee Williams is an African-American kink educator who promotes open sexuality and BDSM.  When the two of them fell in love, they developed a bizarre and boundary pushing “master-slave” relationship, with him playing the role of plantation owner, and her taking the part of his collared property.  Despite the fact that he considers himself a feminist and she openly talks about feeling empowered by their role-play, Georg and Mollena are also faced with intense public scrutiny for their odd relationship, especially after being profiled by the New York Times.  While The Artist and the Pervert does raise some interesting points about how it is really nobody else’s business what is done in the bedroom between two consenting adults – even if it might seem unconventional to everyone else – the film also feels somewhat pretentious.  Directors Beatrice Behn and René Gebhardt do deserve some credit for offering a balanced look at this unique relationship, but Georg in particular is a hard subject to fully embrace, and I was left feeling a bit like a voyeur into their lives, especially during the uncomfortably long spanking scenes.

Friday, April 27th – 8:30 PM at Scotiabank Theatre 3
Sunday, April 29th – 11:45 AM at Hart House Theatre
Friday, May 4th – 6:30 PM at Hart House Theatre

Chef Flynn – ★★★ (out of 4) Flynn McGarry started cooking at a very young age, and when he was 11 years old, turned his family’s living room into a restaurant, with the help of his mother and friends.  At first, he would cook meals for family and friends who were invited over, but after gaining attention for his prodigious culinary talents, he started serving up elaborate $160 a plate tasting menus for more and more people, gaining the attention of prestigious chefs who invite him to shadow in their kitchens.  But as Flynn starts to receive increasing fame and media attention as a teenager, he also faces backlash from some of his critics, who insist that he doesn’t really have the experience at such a young age to call himself a true chef.  Because his mother is a filmmaker, who often has her camera trained on her son, Flynn’s life and meteoric ascent into the culinary world has been documented from a young age, and director Cameron Yates uses this footage to help assemble a highly enjoyable glimpse into the life of this young talent.  While Chef Flynn is a glossy portrait of him to be sure, the film also raises some interesting questions about the challenges of finding fame at a young age, while offering a breezy and entertaining look at both prodigious talent and the promising next generation of the fine dining scene.

Saturday, April 28th – 6:45 PM at Isabel Bader Theatre
Sunday, April 29th – 10:45 AM at TIFF Bell Lightbox 1
Saturday, May 5th – 1:15 PM at Isabel Bader Theatre

The Accountant of Auschwitz – ★★★½ (out of 4) Focusing on the 2015 trial of Oskar Gröning, a former SS guard who served as a bookkeeper at Auschwitz and was put on trial in Germany at 94 years of age for his involvement in the Holocaust, The Accountant of Auschwitz is a fascinating and multilayered film.  Facing charges for the murder of 300,000 Jewish people, Gröning’s trial attracted widespread media attention, as Holocaust survivors were brought in to testify against him, and others argued that there was no reason to prosecute such an old man, especially so long after the fact.  But despite the fact that Gröning never personally killed anyone, he was still complicit in the extermination at Auschwitz, tasked with going through and registering the possessions left behind by the prisoners and becoming a first-hand witness to the mass killing going on around him.

The trial also served as a way to silence the erroneous claims of Holocaust deniers, who nevertheless protested outside of the courthouse, with Gröning not only confirming the atrocities that took place at the concentration camps, but also openly admitting to his involvement in them.  Through interviews with historians, Holocaust survivors, and also Benjamin Ferencz who served as the lead prosecutor during the Nuremberg trials, director Matthew Shoychet has delivered a complex and thought provoking exploration of whether the statute of limitations should apply to war crimes.  Not only is this an interesting look at the challenges and moral implications behind trying to charge somebody for their involvement in crimes decades after the fact, but it’s also a sobering exploration of how the majority of the people responsible for one of the most horrific events in human history were never actually punished for it.

Sunday, April 29th – 5:45 PM at TIFF Bell Lightbox 2
Monday, April 30th – 3:45 PM at TIFF Bell Lightbox 1
Friday, May 4th – 9:00 PM at Scotiabank Theatre 13

Anote’s Ark – ★★★ (out of 4) Kiribati is an island in the Central Pacific that scientists are predicting will be entirely underwater by the end of the century, leaving its entire population displaced, thanks to rising sea levels caused by manmade climate change.  Directed by Matthieu Rytz, Anote’s Ark mainly focuses on former president Anote Tong, who is taking the necessary steps to try and ensure the future of his people.  The film also follows a young mother named Sermary who moves to New Zealand hoping for more stability and a better life for her kids, in what is likely just the start of a mass immigration movement from the island.  Boasting some beautiful cinematography, the film provides an interesting glimpse into what life is like for the people of this small island nation, who live far away from the rest of the world, but are also facing the brunt of the environmental crises that are plaguing our planet.

Tuesday, May 1st – 6:30 PM at Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema (Scotiabank Big Ideas)
Wednesday, May 2nd – 10:15 AM at TIFF Bell Lightbox 2
Friday, May 4th – 1:00 PM at TIFF Bell Lightbox 1

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