Review: ‘Aim for the Roses’

Hot Docs 2016

2 mins read

Aim for the Roses
(Canada, 102 min.)
Dir. John Bolton
Programme: Canadian Spectrum (World Premiere)


John Bolton brings the WTF factor to Hot Docs with the bizarre, ambitious, and ridiculously entertaining Aim for the Roses. This doc tells the eccentric story of Canuck daredevil Ken Carter and his quest to jump the St. Lawrence River in a rocket car. Buckle up and enjoy this zany ride.

It helps that Carter’s colourful personality shines through archival footage showing him grandstanding and showboating in the face of innumerable setbacks, including a poorly-calculated ramp that leaves six inches of air between two support posts. He’s an even grander character in the performative elements of the film in which Bolton casts Andrew McKnee as the daredevil in an ode to death defying acts. The only thing stranger than the real-life story in Aim for the Roses is Bolton’s stunning interpretation in which he tells Carter’s fable through songs. The doc finds a parallel narrative in the work of composer Mark Haney and his ambitious conceptual album about Carter’s leap. Both threads create stories of bold and daring risk-takers and their fanatical pursuits of unlikely goals.

Comparisons to Joshua Oppenheimer’s The Act of Killing are both inevitable and warranted for the film’s ingeniously playful approach to documentary form, but there has never been a doc quite like Aim for the Roses. Fuelled by an electrifying musical score, and possibly the first dramatic chorus ever in a documentary, the doc uses the embellished characters and performance art of Haney’s work to substitute for absent parties. Bolton and Haney’s entertaining delivery illuminates the creative process. Aim for the Roses is one of the wildest, craziest, and smartest docs in years.

Aim for the Roses screens:
-Sunday, May 1 at Cineplex Scotiabank at 7:15 PM
-Monday, May 2 at TIFF Bell Lightbox at 1:15 PM
-Friday, May 6 at Cineplex Scotiabank at 1:00 PM


Hot Docs runs April 28 – May 8. Visit for more

Pat Mullen is the publisher of POV Magazine. He holds a Master’s in Film Studies from Carleton University where his research focused on adaptation and Canadian cinema. Pat has also contributed to outlets including The Canadian Encyclopedia, Paste, That Shelf, Sharp, Xtra, and Complex. He is the vice president of the Toronto Film Critics Association and an international voter for the Golden Globe Awards.

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