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article imageReview: What’s 'Next' at this year’s Hot Docs Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Apr 22, 2015 in Entertainment
Hot Docs’ “Next” program takes fans behind-the-scenes to discover little know secrets about pop culture phenomena, all while being creative themselves.
By understanding a society’s culture, one can learn a lot about its history and values. The “Next” program at the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival reflects on trends, music and the arts, using one form of creativity to explore other modes of creativity. Focusing on contemporary pop culture and looking back at notable moments, events and figures makes this category one of the festival’s most appealing. This year one film revisits a special television exclusive that saved a struggling network, while another features the surprising top-selling genre in literary fiction.
A scene from  Best of Enemies
A scene from 'Best of Enemies'
Hot Docs
In 1968, ABC News was the lowest ranked amongst the networks. With the approach of the National Democratic and Republican Conventions, they could not claim the perspective of a popular anchor so instead desperate executives sought to host special debates between a couple of well-known personalities. Best of Enemies chronicles the venomous, live, unscripted discussions between left-wing pundit Gore Vidal and unwavering conservative William F. Buckley Jr. Shocking archival footage and commentators trace the origins of trash-talk TV to these volatile sparring sessions. With each subsequent show, it took less time for the conversations to devolve from intellectual discourse to outrageous, personal mudslinging.
The documentary explores the mythical origins of each man where neither came from illustrious backgrounds and Vidal’s satire was miles ahead of its time. At the same time, it illustrates how much Buckley and Vidal really feared and loathed each other’s doctrines. ABC first approached Buckley who listed Vidal as the one man he would not want to sit across, which of course compelled executives to recruit the outspoken liberal. The “unconventional convention coverage” was a smash and would forever change the political discourse. One analyst observes that in these debates one must first attack their opponent clinically and rationally, but then he needs to get behind his adversary’s beliefs. This they did skilfully with results that would haunt them for the rest of their lives.
A scene from  Love Between the Covers
A scene from 'Love Between the Covers'
Hot Docs
In the literary world, there is one genre that surpasses all others in popularity and profit though it’s likely not the first one to come to most people’s minds: romance. Love between the Covers opens at a gathering held by the Romance Writers of America that allows fans to meet the authors of their beloved books. The atmosphere is surprisingly akin to a sci-fi or comic convention as admirers flock to the opportunity to meet their favourite writers in-person and seek advice for beginning a career of their own. In one sense, this perspective of the phenomenon makes it relatable for those who may have never read a romance novel or had an inkling regarding its status. These scenes set the tone for the rest of the documentary, which is very upbeat and positive as everyone seems happy to meet and help each other — perhaps the results of a female-dominated industry.
Each of the authors interviewed is introduced via a fictional romance cover featuring their names in a flowery script used throughout the film. In addition, filmmakers speak to enthusiastic fans of the genre and insightful commentators. Romance novels are “the one place where you will consistently find women’s sexuality treated fairly and positively,” says a romance blogger. It’s also suggested romance is scorned because “it’s written by women, for women, about women.” At least two of the authors interviewed began writing to produce works in which they could see themselves — a black woman and a lesbian. The pay-it-forward attitude directs most conversations, though some do elude to the tremendous competition that exists amongst writers. So much of the film focuses on telling viewers anyone can do it, they postpone informing them of the difficultness of breaking into the industry and slim chances of actually being able to earn a living writing like Nora Roberts. Most women published dozens of books before quitting their day jobs. Still, in spite of the rose-coloured lens this is a fascinating look at a multi-million-dollar industry that never really receives the recognition it’s earned.
Ticket and screening information are available on the Hot Docs website.
More about hot docs 2015, Next, Documentary, Best of Enemies, Love Between the Covers
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