Archive for the 'Documentary Love' Category

The Way We Get By Documentary

Friday, May 15th, 2009

Oh. My.

The tears. So many tears. It was unanimous amongst the french fry toting debaters at the Hot Docs round table that The Way We Get By was a sob-fest.

The film is touching and heartbreaking and inspiring. It follows three self-appointed airport greeters who welcome soldiers returning from Iraq. It is a sensitive portrait of how people find a sense of purpose and belonging after they have outlived society’s perception of usefulness. It is about loneliness and finding purpose and connection and love.

One of the greeters, Joan, was at the screening we attended. I was desperate to say hello and shake her hand. The Sweetie, having seen me in action when overwhelmed with emotion and on the verge of gushing, cautioned me before I approached. “Don’t scare her okay? She’s an old woman, try to keep it together. And let me say a few words to her first in case you completely fall apart and we have to leave quickly.” I was fine while The Sweetie spoke and told her how pleased he was to meet her and how much he enjoyed the movie. I was fine while our friends also expressed their gratitude and admiration. I was fine until I grasped her hand and started bawling and babbling something about “such an honour, sob sob sob, such an inspiration, sob sob sob, oh such a movie , sob sob sob,” until The Sweetie gently pulled me away.

In case you missed it the first time around, get some tissues ready and enjoy the trailer again.

Hot Docs Roundtable

Friday, May 15th, 2009

This week I congregated with my fellow documentary nerds at the Victory Cafe on Markham Street. It has become a post Hot Docs tradition where we compare our favourite documentaries from the festival and make a case for our top choices. There were clashes and emphatic nods of agreement over beer and tasty fries (latest diet proclamations thwarted for the sake of documentary debates). It is amazing that so often someone else’s favourite is a film that didn’t even show up on my documentary radar. So many great movies, so little time.

Because I cannot fully say good-bye to Hot Docs and I am still basking in documentary afterglow, I will do a quick recap of my top pics from this year’s Hot Docs festival. I will then resume my humdrum life that is painfully ordinary compared to what I have witnessed on the screen over the past ten days…

Hot Docs Marathon

Thursday, May 7th, 2009


Three movies today. I am armed with lentil bulgur salad for protein, brownies and lots of kleenex. I suspect I will be seeing a heart breaker today considering I was in tears just from watching the trailer.

The Way We Get By Trailer:

Happy Hot Docs!

Wednesday, May 6th, 2009


Oh joy and bliss! Hot Docs, North America’s largest documentary film festival is here! Spring has finally arrived, the trees are budding, Torontonians are gradually emerging from their winter cocoons blinking their eyes in the sun and it is documentary season again!

Documentaries are always capable of provoking strong emotions. Often the films I expect to love infuriate me and those I had originally dismissed move me the most.

A couple of years ago there was a Hot Docs spotlight on Eastern Europe and I was excited to take my mom and her best friend to see a Latvian documentary. Unfortunately it was the worst documentary I have ever seen, featuring endless scenes of potato peeling and squalor. Horrible. I began to hear deep and progressively more aggravated sighs from my mom and her friend. Suddenly in a wild clatter of canes, my mom and her friend stomped out of the theatre. Climbing over tsking patrons, I followed sheepishly to hear my mom’s friend yelling at the poor Hot Docs volunteers, “I’m Latvian and I have never been so insulted in my life! This is not how Latvians live. They dropped a potato on the floor and didn’t clean it. We are a clean people! We would never do that!” My poor mom and her friend were upset for weeks, convinced that the film was a Communist plot to show Latvia suffering since gaining freedom from Soviet occupation.

On the other hand, Anvil was one of my favourite documentaries last year and I had almost overlooked it. A film about a washed up Canadian heavy metal band did not sound particularly intriguing. By the end of the movie, however, I was humbled and in tears, cheering with the rest of the audience, giddy like a teenage groupie.

At this year’s festival I have fifteen movies lined up over eleven glorious days. I will be sustaining myself on popcorn, hot tamales and inspiration and expect to be delightfully exhausted by the end.

Trouble the Water

Thursday, October 30th, 2008

Okay, forget what I said about being a documentary snob . This film should be required viewing for every person. Trouble the Water is a film about hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. It is utterly heartbreaking and frustrating, but it is also an incredible story of resilience, survival and dignity.

Check out the film’s trailer and Kimberly Rivers Roberts ( Black Kold Madina’s ) webpage (you will fall in love with her during the movie, promise).

Doc Soup

Thursday, October 30th, 2008

If there is any way that autumn in Toronto can be somewhat redeemed, it is the start of Doc Soup. Once a month, from October till April, a documentary is shown at the Bloor Cinema. A subscription to Doc Soup which includes admission to all monthly movies, plus ten passes to the Hot Docs festival is a mere $140 (plus GST). That works out to less than $8.00 per movie which is a great deal and guaranteed to satisfy more than any formulaic Hollywood movie ever could.

I have been a documentary nerd forever. It started with Wild Kingdom nature shows I’d watch with my grandmother as a kid. I’d always be waiting for a grisly kill, terrified and thrilled as a sickly gazelle was separated from the pack by a deadly lioness. I’d hyperventilate when some poor unsuspecting zebra would take a drink in the crocodile infested watering hole. From then on it has been a lifetime of gobbling up documentaries. They have fascinated me, shocked me and broken my heart.

Doc Soup and Hot Docs has grown rapidly over the years. I am glad more people are turning on to the power of documentaries. I can’t help it though, I start getting resentful whenever something becomes a scene. I guard my geekiness jealously and much prefer being a documentary nerd over a documentary hipster. Perhaps I am being unfair and judgmental. I never said I was a generous documentary lover. Nor do I claim that my love of documentaries spills over to a benevolent love of people. Luckily my doc love overrides my hatred of scenesters. That and the fact that the Bloor Cinema makes amazing fresh popcorn and layers the butter midway through the bag so that every kernel is saturated. I am forced to dig deep and continue to embrace Doc Soup and find some generosity in my small elitist heart.