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article imageReview: There’s no two films alike in Hot Docs’ World Showcase Special

By Sarah Gopaul     May 7, 2016 in Entertainment
Hot Docs’ “World Showcase” includes a variety of selections that provide a glimpse of significant and/or interesting events from around the world.
The Earth is a big place, filled with endless stories waiting to be told and countless more that will never be revealed. The Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival’s “World Showcase” features just a small selection of these tales. There’s no common underlying themes or tone; just a desire to share these narratives with an audience. We look at three films in this category: Diving into the Unknown, The Father, the Son and the Holy Jihad, and Future Baby.
A scene from  Diving into the Unknown
A scene from 'Diving into the Unknown'
Hot Docs
Diving into the Unknown
Sports that require some level of skill are often the most rewarding. There are certain activities that don’t rely on natural ability, but instead depend on learned competencies and the person’s ability to apply that know-how; these sports are often riskier as well. Diving into the Unknown demonstrates the dangers of underwater caving together with the importance of having a trusted team.
A group of five Finns dove into a small lake in Norway, but hours later only three of them re-emerged. Two of their friends and team members had died near the centre of the six-hour-long cave passage, trapping their bodies 160 metres below the surface. An international rescue team was formed to retrieve their bodies, but failed. Therefore, the three survivors take it upon themselves to go back to this dangerous, and now closed, cave to ensure their friends can receive a proper burial.
The film is split into two parts: the first recounts the incident, using interviews with the survivors, footage they had shot and vague recreations; and the second documents the recovery process for which the camera is always present. The opening section also serves as an introduction to the sport, which requires extraordinary preparation due to the length and depth of the dive. From this respect, the whole course of the movie is fascinating. Rather than focus on the morbidity of their story, which is inevitably always present, director Juan Reina concentrates on the challenges they face as both divers and emotionally-involved human beings returning to the scene of a traumatic experience.
A scene from  The Father  the Son and the Holy Jihad
A scene from 'The Father, the Son and the Holy Jihad'
Hot Docs
The Father, the Son and the Holy Jihad
The call to protect one’s country is strong for some; but when it’s also tied to a greater system of belief, the call can be impossible to ignore. This is the position in which many Muslims seem to find themselves as conflicts rage on in the Middle East. Notably, it’s not only those born or living in Syria and surrounding countries who feel compelled to join the fight, but those raised in Western cities are similarly leaving their homes to pledge their allegiance to Eastern causes. The Father, the Son and the Holy Jihad is clearly divided into two stories, though there exists a significant connection between them.
The first half of the film focuses on Abdel Rahmane Ayachi. His siblings describe his transition from a mischievous child who didn’t heed his father’s teachings to a young man who immersed himself in religion and became a fundamentalist. Their father was a sheik so Muslim traditions had an added importance in their home and Abdel Rahmane’s dedication couldn’t have made him happier. As an adult, he moved into their ancestral home in Syria and eventually joined the jihad, combating government forces and Daesh (ISIS). Through various conversations, he reveals his decision process and takes the crew into the centre of the conflict. Later, inspired by his son’s efforts, the sheik also returns to his homeland to bring spiritual guidance and inspiration to people, which comprises the second part of the movie.
This documentary provides a window into why someone from the West, in this case France, would be persuaded to join a foreign battle. It’s also interesting because where the media often portrays these individuals as illogical, Abdel Rahmane proves very reasonable and conscious of his choices; though the rebellious nature of his youth does still occasionally rise to the surface. Director Stéphane Malterre must also be given considerable credit as he is often in dangerous situations, following his subjects into active gunfights and areas where shelling is happening.
A scene from  Future Baby
A scene from 'Future Baby'
Hot Docs
Future Baby
Advancements in reproductive technologies and practises has had a significant influence on what is now possible versus what wasn’t before. Initially, many of these developments were aimed towards curbing mortality rates and helping people struggling to become parents. However, in some cases, the line between need and want is becoming blurred as the potential for this industry grows both promising and frightening. Future Baby objectively examines who is using these services and the outcomes of their experiences.
Around the world, reproductive clinics are providing more options for would-be parents from late-in-life in-vitro fertilization to preserving genetic materials to removing the possibility of hereditary illness. Speaking to a number of researchers, doctors, donors, couples and children, director Maria Arlamovsky catalogues the various alternatives available to people and why they are choosing in-vitro. On the flipside, she also speaks to women who sign-up with agencies to be surrogate mothers or donors in exchange for financial compensation. Finally, near the movie’s end, one doctor describes his clinic’s evaluation process for clients as well as a need for greater and modified regulations that address the increasing possibilities of risk.
Arlamovsky presents a fairly unbiased documentary, retaining a safe distance from the subject and allowing those in front of the camera to tell the story. As a result, the viewer is allowed to come to their own conclusions about the various treatments and ethics involved. Surprisingly, it takes some time for the film to address the issue of the manufactured baby for which parents predetermine its sex, eye colour, traits, etc. and then does so strictly from a clinical perspective — although the response is somewhat reassuring. In the end this is basically a presentation of facts and processes, leaving any emotion to the people using these services, which also causes audiences to remain detached from what may have been a provocative picture.
Showtimes and ticket information can be found on the festival website.
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