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Hot Docs At Home Review: They Call Me Dr. Miami

May 14, 2020

By John Corrado

★★★½ (out of 4)

With this year’s edition of Hot Docs cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a selection of festival films are being given broadcast premieres every Thursday night from April 16th to May 28th on CBC, documentary Channel, and the CBC Gem streaming app, as part of the Hot Docs At Home series.

Operating out of an office building in Miami, Florida, Michael Salzhauer is a plastic surgeon who has gained a following more akin to that of of a rock star. He is so popular, in fact, that his moniker “Dr. Miami” has become shorthand for plastic surgery in rap songs and on social media.

Barred from showing nudity on Instagram, Salzhauer has gained a massive following on Snapchat, building a social media empire from the ground up by sharing short videos from the operating room and explaining the process behind the cosmetic surgeries. He specializes in boob jobs and Brazilian butt lifts, an unpleasant sounding procedure that involves taking fat from the stomach and injecting it into the buttocks, which can prove deadly if done wrong.

But Salzhauer’s outlandish, rap-influenced public persona couldn’t be more different than the life he has away from the office. In his private life, Salzhaur is an Orthodox Jew who honours the Sabbath, raising an observant family of five kids alongside his wife. Salzhauer is the larger than life subject of director Jean-Simon Chartier’s documentary They Call Me Dr. Miami, and it’s this duality that makes him so interesting. The result is a film that offers both tits and ass and readings from the Torah, which is a sentence that I never thought I would write, but turns out to be a winning mix.

This is an entertaining and surprisingly thoughtful look at plastic surgery and religious faith, and trying to balance a life rooted in tradition with the demands of an increasingly vain and image-focused modern society that puts a greater focus on what our bodies look like rather than what’s inside. The film raises intriguing ethical questions about Salzhauer’s practise of doing social media posts from the operating room and showing the surgeries online, as well as how the surgeries themselves are changing how many people, particularly young women, are viewing their bodies.

But from Salzhauer’s perspective, he is doing a good thing by allowing women to have the bodies they have always wanted. In some of the film’s most interesting moments, we hear sharp insights about body image from his wife and teenaged daughter, who is off the plastic surgery bandwagon that her father is on. There is some graphic surgery footage here that is hard to watch. But at a fast-paced 77 minutes long, They Call Me Dr. Miami is a highly entertaining plastic surgery doc that becomes a fascinating look at a man who exists at the cross-section between religious tradition and modern secularity.

They Call Me Dr. Miami premieres tonight at 8 PM EDT on CBC TV and on the CBC Gem app, and at 9 PM EDT on documentary Channel. The next Hot Docs At Home screening is Influence, premiering on May 21st.

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