Yesterday marked the kick-off of Hot Docs in Toronto, a film festival entirely dedicated to documentaries. Growing in popularity since it started in 1993, Hot Docs has become the most anticipated film festival in Toronto second only to TIFF. Werner Herzog once described a documentary as “feature film in disguise” and this description holds more true than ever as documentaries have begun to start shift from a niche periphery and more and more into the mainstream. There have been a few attempts to explain the exponential increase of our interest in documentaries. Some wager that reality TV has softened us up to the “look and feel” and pace of documentaries while others think it has something to do with Hollywood’s plot-rehashing tendencies starting to wear thin. Whatever the case is, we are glad that festivals like Hot Docs exist to give us unfettered access to alternative narratives. Looking at the schedule, there’s almost 200 films (some great ones about fashion and music too) to choose from but we’ve chosen to highlight documentaries that are set in Africa or centered around the diaspora.
Here are some films that we hope to catch before the HotDocs festival concludes on May 6th:
1. Meanwhile in Memelodi – Set against the jubilant backdrop of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa which cost their government $3.5 billion, this film zooms in on the life of a shopkeeper and his family struggling to make ends meet in a poor neighbourhood. It is a portrait of hope and perseverance in the face of austerity. Showing: 9:30pm Friday April 27 at Tiff Lightbox, 4pm Saturday April 28 at Cumberland 2
2. Marley – We have seen at least three documentaries on Jamaican reggae legend Bob Marley but this one by Kevin MacDonald (Last King of Scotland, One Day in September) claims to be the definitive one and it has a long list of familiar names as executive producers to prove it. Nevertheless, the promise of unreleased concert footage and intimate interviews from those who knew him best make this Canadian premier of the doc too enticing to pass up on Showing: 3:30pm Thursday May 3 at Isabel Bader Theater, 815pm Saturday May 5 at Bloor Hot Doc Cinema
2. The Ambassador – The youtube trailer for this satirical documentary by Danish director/journalist Mads Brugger has a like to dislike ratio of about 1:15 so naturally I am intrigued as to whether he offended the wrong people or (hopefully) the right ones. A documentary about a European going undercover as a diplomat to unveil the corrupt ways of the power brokers in Africa is sure to be good for a few laughs but we’re curious to see how far it veers out of Borat territory to ask some serious questions Showing: 4:00pm Friday April 27 at Isabel Bader Theater, 4:45pm Friday May 4 at TIFF Lightbox and 9:00pm Saturday May 5 at The Regent
Bonus: The excellent trailer for Tchoupoutiulas , the adventures of three teenage boys as they explore the french quarter in new orleans, certainly has us intrigued as does Brooklyn Castle, a documentary about the struggles of an inner city school’s chess team in the midst of the financial crisis.
If you have seen or end up seeing any of these movies, feel free to post up a comment and let us know what you thought of our suggestions.