Hot Docs Film Festival

I recently spent a week and a half in Toronto for the Hot Docs film festival. Meeting people in the industry, watching films, roaming downtown Toronto in the sun… it is not a bad way to spend a working vacation.

Meeting Romeo Dallaire talking about the film "Fight like Soldiers, Die like Children"

Meeting Romeo Dallaire talking about the film “Fight like Soldiers, Die like Children”

First of all, it is absolutely inspiring to see films that one day I aspire to. Secondly, it was great to be able to see a such a range of documentary styles ranging from bare bones handheld camera style to beautiful cinematic experiences. It reinforced the importance of the story of a fit of the tool for the story.

It’s also clear that the documentary industry as a whole is finding it more difficult to make even modest returns for the producers and directors who invest a number of years in a project. But this also means that many filmmakers are looking for alternative funding and distribution models since traditional channels don’t really work – when was the last time you saw a documentary at the cinema? There appears to be a greater expectation that the documentary filmmaker be the all-round entrepreneur now as well. It’s something I don’t shrink from, but I can’t help but feel that no individual can be expected to do everything well. Exciting times ahead I suppose!

I must have seen almost three films a day and still I saw less than 10% of the films being screened. There were a few that stood out for me primarily because of the type of content that I’m on the search for.

Anita: Speaking Truth to Power

Anita Hill publicly testified before a senate panel, about her claims that then Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas sexually harassed her. The documentary reveals the embarrassing process and the lack of any understanding by the all-white male panel. The movie does a great job of showing how hard it is to speak truth to power and then showing the ripple effects 20 years later. What was significant was not so much that she spoke out because she felt it was right. What was significant was the people (men and women) across the country she galvanized to speak out as well about sexual harassment and human rights. In fact, Anita didn’t realize how deep the problem was until she read all the fan and hate mail. Great case study of a framebreaker. Here is an interview with Anita Hill:


Fall and Winter

Fall and Winter was a long movie with over 20 interviews with people that you lost track of by the end of the movie. But it was trying to tackle something really audacious… the possibility of a catastrophic collapse of the human species and looking at it from a variety of disciplines. I had a great chat with the director and he is dedicated to this work. I definitely hope to connect him our work here since he seemed to instantly see the significance of the human venture path. The trailer:


Teenage (along with Maiden Trip)

For something very different, Teenage is about the creation of the “teenager” as a social class. The director creatively uses archival footage from the early 1900’s and recreates stories from that era. There’s something really revealing about seeing actual footage and hearing words from the times to get a sense of how we as a culture dealt with this “in-betweener” age.

This pairs with a film called Maidentrip which charts the trip of a 14-year old girl who becomes the youngest person to sail around the world alone. Child welfare in Denmark originally filed to take the girl away from her dad because they felt she wasn’t responsible enough. I met a couple Germans who felt that it was ridiculous that she was allowed to go (despite her high level of capability on a boat). In fact, they went as far as to say it was more important for her to be in school, enjoying her childhood until she was 18. Interesting, I thought that sailing around the world might be more of life education than anything else!

Tales of the Organ Trade

I didn’t have a chance to see this film but by all accounts it is an incredible move that made you think about the whole range of motivations around the organ trade business.