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article imageReview: Not all Hot Docs’ films are traditional documentaries Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Apr 29, 2016 in Entertainment
“Nightvision” is the Hot Docs programme designed for festivalgoers seeking films that deal with outside of the box subjects.
In most film festivals, there are a number of films that don’t easily fit into other categories. At the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival, those movies are put in the “Nightvision” programme. It’s here that audiences can find bizarre tales of horror, sex and outlandishness. We look at two films from this programme: Fear Itself and Nuts!
A scene from  Fear Itself
A scene from 'Fear Itself'
Hot Docs
Fear Itself
Horror movie fans generally have a story about the first scary movie they ever watched, as well as reasons they continue to return to a genre that has such a derisive reputation. However, academic explorations of the field have proposed a number of psychological reasons these films appeal to audiences. In Fear Itself, director Charlie Lyne presents an essay on viewers’ connection to the narratives.
A female voice guides the audience through countless clips from horror movies going as far back as 1922. The films originate from a range of countries and collect titles from the obscure to mainstream. She relates real-life horrific incidents of death and illness as various scenes play across the screen, contemplating an often asked question of fans’ relationship to the material and what role it fills in their lives.
In spite of the footage being unrelated to the voiceover, the editing often creates subtle connections between the words and images. It’s easy to become absorbed in one or the other, briefly losing track of what was just said or seen. Scenes of Nosferatu lurking in the shadows are juxtaposed with Freddy Krueger’s victims being terrorized in a dream theatre, Dario Argento’s moody style and Roman Polanski’s erratic depiction of insanity. Yet none of the selected moments are the film’s most notorious or horrific, as Lyne chooses to convey fear via his script rather than the screen.
A scene from  Nuts!
A scene from 'Nuts!'
Hot Docs
Legitimate treatments for various ailments are not only hard to find, but sometimes difficult to define. This was even truer 100 years ago when the medical profession was less regulated and the number of people calling themselves doctors while supplying counterfeit cures outnumbered the rest. The aptly titled documentary, Nuts!, traces the career of a man who offered an unusual remedy for impotence.
Using archival images and hand-drawn animations, director Penny Lane relates the “somewhat-true” tale of how Dr. John Romulus Brinkley convinced a population of men in 1917 that the miracle cure for erectile dysfunction and infertility was goat testicles. He was not instructing them to ingest them though; no, he was surgically implanting them. Unsurprisingly the popular procedure raised eyebrows and caught the attention of regulators; but it also spurred an unexpected crossover to politics and radio.
The narrator doesn’t conceal his own shock at the story’s peculiarities, allowing his tone to echo the audience’s disbelief. The 20-year journey is filled with humour and skepticism, and recounted in a manner that matches its more fantastic qualities. Brinkley seems to have been quite a character and Lane does an excellent job capturing his personality via the comics and narration.
Showtimes and ticket information can be found on the festival website.
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