Thursday, May 10, 2012

Hot Docs -- Reviews (April 29-30, 2012)


The Job [Cumberland, Sunday April 29, 1:30 pm]

The primary scene of this documentary is a French corporate boardroom of a job recruitment agency that pits a panel of headhunters against a ten job-seekers of varying ages and job experience.  As the perspective changes between four static, strategically-placed cameras, the viewer gets to observe the often-tense situations the job candidates go through over the course of two days. With the two days entailing entailing role-playing, mock debates and intimidating panel discussions, candidates are often confused with the techniques and at times even feels border-line demeaning. But there is a method to the madness and the successful candidates that last stand will be the ones that can exemplify the soft skills that the recruiters are looking for. The 2-day recruitment session is interspersed with interviews with most of the candidates a few weeks after, with some honest and sometimes humorous insight each of the candidates had of their experience. I haven't gone through any recent job changes myself, but if what was displayed in this film is what, I have to look forward during a job recruitment process, God help me.

Ping Pong [Isabel Bader Theatre,  Sunday April 29, 4:00 pm]

The competitive spirit knows no limits even age as Ping Pong follows eight over-80 years of age Ping Pong players from the US,  Germany, Australia, China and the UK going to Mongolia for the over-80's table tennis championships. Director Hugh Hartford, shown in a Hot Docs promo video clip for his documentary expresses it's major themes as "morality, friendship, rivalry". It was interesting to see the various back-stories of each competitor, some of it being a bit sad and painful, but overall there is a funny and light-hearted tone to the documentary that strongly illustrates the tenacity of the elderly. 

The Record Breaker [Isabel Bader Theatre, Sunday April 29, 4:00 pm]

Within the span of 28 minutes, Danish director Brian McGinn tells the story of Ashrita Furman of Queens, New York who holds the record of most Guinness World Records held by an individual. Is this driven by the immutable spirit of a perpetual man-child, by a higher spiritual calling, or perhaps one man's quest to give his life meaning? It may be a little of all of these things. As the film focuses on his most recent record-breaking quest to climb Macchu Picchu on stilts, one thing is for sure - Furman is one zany dude, and an immediatedly likable one at that. He chases these records because it makes him happy, and chasing what makes us happy may be the most important lesson The Record Breaker has taught us. Recommended.

Laura [ROM, Sunday April 29, 7:00 pm]

Somewhere within this documentary, there may be a story to tell but overall this feels incomplete and unresolved.  Shot in a very free form, cinema-verite style,  director Fellipe Gamarano follows Laura who lives a dichotomous life, living in a cramped / cram-filled apartment on one hand, and charming her way into the New York socialite-scene on the other. The first half of the documentary feels very superficial as it follows Laura attending socialite events, shopping and going to fancy restaurants with Laura, while not a boring person, doesn't feel like an intriguing enough of a character to hold the audience's attention. And indeed I did observe small groups of people walk out. Even as I was pondering what the point of this documentary was, Laura herself expresses criticism to the director that the footage that he's been shooting of her hasn't been that interesting. It's the second half of the film in which it partially redeems itself as the director himself interjects himself into the story to address Laura's hoarding issue. It feels a little to late by the time this happens, and there are more questions than answers by the end. An overall frustrating experience, all the more surprising given Gamaran's articulate responses during the Q & A afterwards.

The Quiet One [TIFF Bell Lightbox, Monday April 30, 6:30 pm]

Childhood, as does life, alternates between happiness and sadness and this documentary short illustrates this beautifully. Focusing on Maryam, an Irani refugee having to adjust to her school life in Sweden, she not only needs to learn Swedish but also has to deal with the tribulations of making friends and fitting in - it's not easy, and often leads to outbursts and acting up on Maryam's part to express herself.  Equal parts heartbreaking and victorious, this is a lovely, lovely film. 

Inocente [TIFF Bell Lightbox, Monday April 30, 6:30 pm]

Inspiring, emotional, and visually spectacular, this documentary focuses on the story of 15-year old Inocente who while experiencing much pain in her life, from physical abuse from her father, to her subsequent homelessness after she, her mother and siblings left their home, has found hope and optimism through her art work. The documentary  acts as subtle paen to the arts & arts funding as the story focuses on Inocente's preparation for her own art show(for which she needs to create thirty pieces), sponsored by a program at her local youth centre. The camera cuts between an observer's perspective and intimate close-ups of Inocente, and also interviews with people in Inocente's life like the youth centre art program co-ordinator but also perhaps the most  heartbreaking being with her mother's painful confession. Overall,  Inocente is a well-edited, interesting-told story of a an impressive young person.

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