Chef Flynn (USA, 83 min.) Dir. Cameron Yates Programme: Special Presentations (Canadian Premiere) If tennis was the competitive pop-up theme for TIFF17, chefs are it for Hot Docs 2018. Eight women chefs put on The Heat for the festival’s opening night film by Toronto director Maya Gallus. Another “hot doc” in the burgeoning fine dining kitchen genre is Chef Flynn, a profile of 19-year-old cooking superstar Flynn McGarry. On the screen, 10-year-old “Chef Flynn” transforms his family’s California living room into supper club “Eureka” (note the early chutzpah) using his classmates as line cooks. With sudden fame, Flynn outgrows
Harvest Moon (Canada, 70 min.) Dir. Zaheed Mawani Programme: Canadian Spectrum (North American Premiere) Slow cinema nuts are in for a treat with Harvest Moon. This observational film demands and rewards patience. Harvest Moon offers a methodical and contemplative portrait of a family of walnut farmers in the forests of Kyrgyzstan. It reflects on a way of life that moves at a different pace from most of this fast-running world. Director Zaheed Mawani lets life play itself out in pensive long takes as the family readies for the impending nut harvest. These strikingly shot frames offer sharp compositions of
What Walaa Wants (Canada/Denmark, 89 min.) Dir. Christy Garland Canadian Spectrum (North American Premiere) On the surface What Walaa Wants is a film about a young girl who wants to join the Palestinian Authority; however, it manages to explore a lot more than that. Walaa is a strong-willed impassioned teenager living in Balata, a refugee camp in the West Bank. Her mother was imprisoned for eight years and was part of a historic decision to release over one thousand Palestinian prisoners in exchange for one Israeli soldier. Beginning soon after her mother returns home, the film follows Walaa as
Golden Dawn Girls (Norway, Denmark, Finland, 92 minutes) Dir: Håvard Bustnes Programme: World Showcase. (North American Premiere) Once on a tiny Aegean island called Koufonissi, an Athenian friend said to me, “There are no ghosts in Greece. There is too much light.” She was wrong. The warm, sweet Greece that I’ve loved barely makes an appearance in the haunted world of Golden Dawn Girls. It is haunted by the financial crisis that devastated countless people and dragged on for years, haunted by the Nazi occupation of the country during World War 2, haunted by the military junta that ran
Active Measures (USA, 112 minutes) Dir: Jack Bryan Programme: Special Presentations. (World Premiere) Active Measures is so loaded with information that Jack Bryan and his producers considered telling the story in a series. Watching this film back-to-back with Our New President, another Trump and Putin horror show screening at Hot Docs 2018, could bring on fear and loathing that even Hunter Thompson might have had trouble handling. The liberal media speculates about how deep Donald Trump’s corruption goes, and the suspicious nature of his relationship with Vladimir Putin. Why is he so reluctant to censure the Russian President’s dictatorial
Grit is sure to be the great eco doc of Hot Docs 2018 and the year overall. This powerful film witnesses tragedy on an epic scale as a tsunami of toxic mud displaces over 60,000 people in Indonesia and leaves a flowing geyser of gritty goop scarring the ecosystem.
Minding the Gap was executive-produced by Hoop Dreams director Steve James and it shares James’ ability to place the individuals’ aspirations against a hardscrabble socio-economic background. Bing Liu, who demonstrates he’s as good an action cinematographer as he is a gutsy interviewer, is a talent to watch.
Andy Irons: Kissed by God (USA, 100 min.) Dir. Steve Jones, Todd Jones Program: Special Presentations (World Premiere) Catch some waves with Andy Irons: Kissed by God. This emotional roller coaster of a film breaks through sports documentary conventions and delivers a raw study of mental illness. The film mines a deep archive of Irons’ footage to chronicle the rise and tragic fall of the all-star surfer. From the moment the camera opens on his brother Bruce, a former pro surfer himself, who does everything he can to hold himself together while remembering his brother, Kissed by God asserts
The Bill Murray Stories: Life Lessons Learned from a Mythical Man USA. 70 Minutes Dir. Tommy Avallone. Special Presentations (International Premiere) Bill Murray’s habit of engaging with strangers in unusual ways — joining karaoke parties, taking a cab driver for a ride or reading poetry to construction workers— has been extensively chronicled on the internet and confirmed by the star. As Murray told an audience at the Toronto International Film Festival’s Bill Murray Day in 2014, “it’s something I do consciously — when I’m conscious.” Is Murray a subject worthy of an entire documentary? Maybe just a short, facile