TORONTO, Digital Journal – War and political struggle will be in the spotlight at this week’s 2004 Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival in Toronto.
Running from Friday, April 23 to May 2, Hot Docs will screen 106 documentaries from 25 countries. While film subjects range from competitive Scrabble tournaments to Buddhist teachers, overseas military operations stand out as the theme that is poised to dominate the 11th annual festival.
Co-programmer Shannon Abel said those artistic snapshots exploring the human aspect of political conflicts. “As non-fiction film continues its repositioning, audiences are increasingly turning to documentary filmmakers to illuminate and make sense of a complex world,” she said.
Several Canadian and international films explore the inside-out of wars both past and present:
As the Opening Night film, the world premiere of Christian Bauer’s The Ritchie Boys chronicles a group of German Jews who formed an elite U.S. intelligence unit during World War Two.
Israeli soldiers become the focus of Checkpoint, a film detailing the intense interactions at military checkpoints on the West Bank and Gaza strip.
Throughout Justice – In Time of War, Fabrizio Lazzaretti profiles guerrilla fighters, drug lords and Aboriginal elders in a cinematic investigation into the murder of an Italian student at the hands of the Colombian police.
Diving into the minds of U.S. soldiers following 9/11, Army of One follows three recruits through the arduous journey of military preparation and engagement.
Relating to the war-and-peace theme, several films target corporate malfeasance and showcase social justice issues that appease the left-wing mentality in all of us. Many Canadian films populate this genre that won’t be hitting the mainstream circuit anytime soon:
The anti-globalization movement’s premier couple, Avi Lewis and Naomi Klein, travel to Argentina to highlight a burgeoning movement where people run bankrupt workplaces without bosses. Hot Docs’ Lynn Fernie says of The Take: “It cleverly exposes the ideology and effects of the ‘capitalist wild west’ that is called democracy in IMF-indebted nations.”
Taking another potshot at the IMF, Isaac Isitan’s Money delves into policies that impoverish struggling countries, while also showing how Turkey, Argentina and the U.S. are reinventing currency.
“Free Tibet!” is the rallying cry behind What Remains of Us?, a moving portrait of Tibetans under Chinese occupation. The Dalai Lama features in a film that coincidentally screens two days after the Buddhist guru visits Toronto’s SkyDome.
Every year, Hot Docs exhibits documentaries from a country overseas, and this year Netherlands will receive the National Spotlight treatment. Films range from profiling a 77-year-old who believes Vladimir Putin is her long lost son to following underage refugees in Dutch prison-like camps.
Honouring Canadian filmmakers is a hallmark of the festival, and award-winning producer and broadcaster Michael Maclear is this year’s recipient of the Outstanding Achievement Award. Four of his films will focus on post-war Westernization and America’s increasing appetite to enter global hot spots. Vietnam: Ghosts of War will have its world theatrical premiere at Hot Docs.
But don’t expect every doc to be as serious as a Chomsky lecture. Some of the more fun and funky films will spark laughter, inspiration and water-cooler chats: Metallica: Some Kind of Monster follows the metal band into therapy sessions as they finish producing their first album in six years; Tara is a 13-year-old girl who shops, gossips and arm-locks boys, and Girl Wrestler profiles the Texan girl as she travels from State to National championships; Morgan Spurlock defies nutritional reality by eating three McDonald’s meals a day for a month, in the hilarious and disturbing Super Size Me; and intense Scrabble competition is at the heart of Word Wars, where triple-word scores and seven-letter coups define success in the National tournament.
Expecting 40,000 attendees, Hot Docs will feature films at four locations in downtown Toronto: Royal Cinema, Bloor Cinema, Innis Town Hall and Isabel Bader Theatre.
Tickets to individual docs are $10 each and festival passes, good for 10 tickets, cost $60 each.
For more info, call 416-536-6663 or go to: www.hotdocs.ca