Over the past fews days I’ve seen the following HotDocs films:
Echos of Home
This is an interesting Swiss film, directed by Stefan Schwietert , which focuses on the lives/talents of three eccentric Swiss yodellers – Christian Zehnder, Erika Stucky, Noldi Alder. Zehnder and Stucky fall into the category of performance artists and their stories and performances could easily be in an Images Film Festival. This film had me thinking about how similar yodelling is to the chanting of monks be they asian or western: all very zen and quite hauntingly beautiful. This is a very well made, edited and directed film with some gorgeous scenes of Switzerland and while it slips three-quarters of the way thru with a bizarre performance by Stucky, all in all, me liked. My rating 8 out of 10.
Seven Dumpsters and a Corpse
Another Swiss film. In a way, this is a story of two son’s love of their mother. Erik and Thomas Haemmerli arrive at the apartment of their recently deceased mother and take on the onerous task of sorting through the piles of junk she left behind. Thomas is a journalist and tries to dissect the history of his mother using the cold detachment associated with most journalists. What results is both comic and tragic. I enjoyed this film knowing, sadly, how one day we will all be faced with the same task of cleaning out our own parent’s homes. The film will make you consider what you will leave behind once you’re gone. My rating 6 out of 10.
Comrades in Dreams
Comrades tracks the lives of four small house movie operators in the US, North Korea, Burkino Faso and India. A German production, directed by Uli Gaulke, the film gives voice to every small town, independent operated movie house – and the characters that own them – you’ve ever visited. Interlaced among the stories of the theatres they operate is the real meat of this production, the stories of the men and women who own them. It’s these small stories that shine from the wives of Burkino Faso’s three movie kingpins complaining about their husband’s absence all night, to the matchmaking story of India’s travelling movie-in-a-tent, to the loneliness and saddness of Wyoming’s Penny Tefertiller. The rare glimpse you get behind the world’s most reclusive dictatorship, North Korea, is worth the price of admission itself. My rating 6 out of 10.
A heartbreaking documentary to watch that chronicles the ‘Rape of Nanking’ in December 1937 and the systematic slaughter of some 200,000 Chinese civilians and soliders at the hands of the Japanese Imperial Army. The film uses eye-witnesses to the slaughter, played by actors, to recount the work of a small group of 8 foreigners who set up a ‘safe zone’ within the city and did their best to save lives. A difficult film to endure but one everyone should see; anyone of Japanese descent in particular. My rating 9 out of 10.
No dialogue to speak of and essentially a day in the life of a pig farm (with all that entitles). Pretty much unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Frankly, I’m at a loss for words. Directed by Luc Beauchamp, it is hands-down one of the most original things I’ve seen in a while. My rating for the strangeness of it all 8 out of 10.
Another Canadian production directed by Marie-Josée Saint-Pierre, McLaren’s Negatives is a montage of mixed medias (news reel, animation, live action) and pays kudos to the famous Canadian animator, Norman McLaren. While it is short (10 minutes) worth a peek. My rating 7 out of 10.