The Guelph Festival of Moving Media has sent me to the Hot Docs Festival for four days this year to identify some films that we might want to screen at our own festival, and though I am only two days into my trip, I have seen some really wonderful films.
Most of my viewing has been in the Doc Shop, where industry representatives can access most of the films on demand through computer terminals. The viewing experience is not quite the same as the theatre, of course, but it is much more convenient that running around Toronto from theatre to theatre , and it enables me to see films that are not actually playing while I am here. Of those that I have been able to see in theatre, I particularly enjoyed the festival’s opening night doc, Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, about Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei. Weiwei’s story alone would probably carry the film, because of the issues it involves, particularly those of censorship and activism in modern China, but Weiwei’s art and personality add a depth and a humour and an intimacy that make the film stand apart from the others that I have seen so far. Though the choice of which films come to GFOMM is certainly not mine, I will recommend this one very highly to those who are making the selections.
There are several other films that I will recommend also: Smoke Traders, which explores the role of cigarette trade in Canadian native communities; Crayons of Askalan, a partly acted, partly animated, partly documented look at an imprisoned Palestinian artist, though this one may be a bit experimental for our audience; One Day After Peace, the story of an Israeli woman pursuing reconciliation in the wake of her son’s death by a Palestinian sniper, which includes some absolutely astonishing scenes, like a former South African minister coming to wash the feet of a woman whose son his orders had killed; Planet of Snail, a really lovely portrayal of the relationship between a deaf/blind poet and his physically disabled wife, which includes a great scene of him changing a complicated lightbulb that she cannot reach and he cannot see; Breath, the life of a female chimney sweep in Estonia; Mom and Me, a partly animated look at the Hell’s Angels turf wars in Quebec; Canned Dreams, an almost surreal portrayal of how a can of ravioli is made; and Brooker’s Place, in which a filmmaker returns to a documentary that his father made during the civil rights movement that may have resulted in a man’s death. I think any and all of these would make great editions to our festival, and hopefully we will be able to bring at least some of them in this year.