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Hot Docs 09: What's Hot, What's Not

I have screened 4 films playing at Hot Docs this year, and the reggae documentary, RiseUp, if by far my favourite. I had the opportunity to interview the film's Argentinian director, Luciano Blotta today (he called in from L.A.). Blotta followed 3 subjects from various economic strata of Jamaican life, as they try to break onto the Reggae scene. The 3 year journey is well-documented and each subject is fascinating in their own way: Hungry Town's Turbulence dreams of having his face painted on street walls and buildings along with other reggae superstars but is stuck in the ghetto; Uptown Kingston's Ice has all the money and women he needs but is hungry to make it big in the reggae business; and country girl, Kemoy, loves composing and singing songs, but Clarendon is hardly the place to become a reggae queen. Throughout the film we get introduced to a variety of music industry players including the legendary Sly and Robbie and Lee Scratch Perry. For someone who didn't really listen to reggae music, Blotta's serendipitous encounters, connections and talent as a cinematographer turned director, results in a very engaging documentary about reggae and the socio-economic conditions in Jamaica. Upcoming screenings May 8th, 9th, 10th various times and venues.

I appreciated Hair India's contrasting images of poor Indians offering up their hair at Temples in exchange for good wishes with images of rich, style-conscious women who create images of the new India with hair extensions (and a booming cosmetics industry), but in the end, the pace of the film was too slow for me. Bombay superstars and Hollywood movie stars alike use Great Lengths hair extensions, but images of the Roman hair mogul in his helicopter (a la La Dolce Vita), and the Indian factory owner lording it over rows of silent, bangled women could have been edited--really, we got the picture. Pare the film down from 75 minutes to 45 minutes and it would have more of an impact. Final screening: Tuesday, May 5th, 7PM at the Cumberland.

You won't be blown away by Laughology (or its screenmate, Amerika Idol) but you will learn something about why we laugh (babies around the world begin laughing around 2 months of age), the health benefits of laughter, and why, at some points in history, laughter was thought of as seditious. You will laugh at Amerika Idol, which documents a Serbian town's decision to erect a statue of Rocky. The beleaguered town needs an economic as well as psychological boost. For the town, the modern icon of Rocky Balboa is the perfect tourist attraction and embodiment of the everyman dream. Sly Stallone and the creator of the Philadelphia Rocky sculpture make appearances in the film. Final screening for this film package is Sunday, May 10th, 7:15PM at the Isabel Bader Theatre.

There are no more screenings of the opening night film Act of God, but considering the director is Jennifer Baichwal, odds are that it will be coming to a channel in your living room. Baichwal's latest film is not her best work, in my opinion, but it does have some interesting moments about the randomness of lightening strikes and the difficulty of not having someone to blame.

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Photo Credit: Hot Docs site.


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