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#HotDocs21 Review: Acts of Love

May 6, 2021

By John Corrado

★★★½ (out of 4)

The 2021 Hot Docs Festival is running virtually from April 29th to May 9th, all films are available to stream for audiences across Canada

After leaving his older boyfriend in Mexico City, young filmmaker Isidore Bethel returns to Chicago, where he embarks on a new film project. He starts interviewing men that he meets on dating apps, and writing short films around their stories, getting them to star in these reenactments with him. This is the concept behind Acts of Love, a daring and exciting hybrid documentary that Bethel co-directed with French actor Francis Leplay.

The result is a unique film that defies easy categorization, mixing scripted scenes, intimately captured and at times uncomfortable personal moments, photo montages, and reflective voiceover. As Bethel goes through the process, we are left asking, is this is a profound meditation on love, relationships and hook-up culture, or a self-centred vanity project made only for himself as a way to deal with a breakup? For Bethel’s mother, it’s the latter. In some of the film’s most candid moments, he films conversations with his mother on speaker phone, and she isn’t shy about voicing her disapproval of the project.

Along the way, Bethel asks questions and reaches some greater truths about himself and relationships in general, which we find ourself reflecting on as well. What we are left with is a film that is amorphous yet extremely personal and always engaging, straddling the line between modern art project, experimental documentary, and mumblecore indie film. Bethel’s project both does and doesn’t take shape as it goes along, but the film itself becomes surprisingly moving, building towards an incredible final sequence of images that ends this journey on a deeply resonant note.

Acts of Love is available to watch from April 29th until May 9th. It includes a Q&A. Digital tickets and more information can be found right here.

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