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article imageReview: Hot Docs finds happiness in less than 60 minutes Special

By Sarah Gopaul     May 9, 2016 in Entertainment
In these polar opposite Hot Docs selections, “The Pursuit of Happiness” can be summed up for its subjects in less than an hour.
Happiness comes in many shapes and sizes, as do documentaries. Although the average movie is between 90 and 120 minutes long, a film is considered feature-length at more than 40 minutes. While there aren’t many fictional narratives that hover around this runtime, documentary filmmakers are seemingly more comfortable not padding a picture to reach an unnecessary but more widely accepted duration. The Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival’s “The Pursuit of Happiness” programme includes two of these shorter format movies: Dugma: The Button and Up or Out.
A scene from  Dugma: The Button
A scene from 'Dugma: The Button'
Hot Docs
Dugma: The Button
When someone enlists to fight in a war, they accept the possibility of their death. However when one volunteers to be a martyr, giving their life for the cause becomes a guarantee. In just under an hour, director Paul S. Refsdal introduces audiences to Abu Qusawara and Abu Basir who are both on the “waiting list” to be an al-Qaeda suicide bomber. The aptly named Dugma: The Button includes insightful interviews with the men as they wait for their names to be called.
The men are quite different from each other. Qusawara is very cheerful with a lovely singing voice and a passion for fried chicken, and Basir is a little more serious and a British expatriate. While Qusawara is sure his family will be cared for after his demise, Basir’s impending fatherhood causes him to question his decision. Their enthusiasm for their opportunity to push the button is somewhat surprising as is the support they receive from family and friends; conversely as Qusawara approaches life with such gusto, it’s strangely expected that he exhibit the same eagerness for martyrdom. By piecing together these revealing and unexpectedly humorous interviews, Refsdal offers audiences a unique perspective of a shadowy tradition.
A scene from  Up or Out
A scene from 'Up or Out'
Hot Docs
Up or Out
Although a lot of money can be made in the stock market, there are no guarantees. Understanding the market provides an advantage, but there is still significant unpredictability. Nonetheless, there are a number of people who believe they’ve discovered the key to permanently limiting their losses. Two Dutch brothers, Sebastiaan and Joshua Ratha, are convinced they’ve created such an algorithm and invite director Jona Honer to document their road to riches. However, Up or Out isn’t exactly the success story for which they hoped.
Not understanding enough about the stock market can make most of this film dull and difficult to relate to as the young men in suits ramble about points and stop-losses. Each scene is either recorded in their control centre or conference room, starkly contrasting their dark suits with the white walls and mirroring the sterility of the subject matter. However as they strive to remove human error and emotion from trading, they also appear to be disregarding the feelings of their employees. Tthe most captivating part of the documentary unfolds in the final 10 minutes as the brothers have a tense conversation about the start-up’s future.
Showtimes and ticket information can be found on the festival website.
More about hot docs 2016, Documentary, Pursuit of Happiness, Dugma The Button, Up or Out
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