#hotdocs17: Reviews (Day 4) – ‘For Ahkeem’, ‘Becoming Who I Was’ and ‘New Chefs On The Block’

For Ahkeem

When 17-year-old Daje winds up in juvenile court and risks expulsion from high school, we quickly learn she’s one of many Black youth caught in the school-to-prison pipeline. Living in St. Louis, Missouri, she faces an uncertain future growing up in a marginalized neighbourhood surrounded by gun violence, police brutality and a biased criminal justice system. In this powerful and intimate coming of age story, a pathway opens when Daje is placed in an alternative high school and love blossoms with classmate Antonio. But just as things seem hopeful, events in Ferguson break open with the shooting of Michael Brown, and Antonio finds himself drawn into the criminal justice system. Daje, discovering she’s pregnant, questions how she’ll protect her new family in a world and system that’s set up for them to fail. Heather Haynes


A timely documentary based on current day USA.   ‘For Ahkeem’ will provide a glimpse into a Missouri youth’s architecture and her struggles to stay afloat in the school system.  Strife with family, a boyfriend, a school system that refuses to give up on her versus the law and the racial uprisings in Ferguson only adds to the temperature on the screen.  This film aches generational injustice, race and class divisions, discrimination and systemic abuse as Obama leaves and Trump enters the picture.

Becoming Who I Was

In northern India’s sparsely populated Ladakh region, an impoverished young boy discovers he is the reincarnation of an esteemed, high-ranking Tibetan monk. Born displaced from his original monastery and disciples in Tibet, Padma Angdu is denied the privilege of his second incarnation as a noble Rinpoche, and banished from a local monastery. Filmed over eight years, as circumstances change and the young Rinpoche enters adolescence while waiting indefinitely for his Tibetan disciples to retrieve him, an incredibly touching bond between the future religious leader and his elderly godfather is intimately depicted. Amid growing doubts and mounting expectations in the community, the two embark on a gruelling, improbable quest across India to return the young Rinpoche to his rightful monastery before it becomes too late. An evocative, longitudinal exploration of culture, tradition and identity, Becoming Who I Was artfully captures the universal truths of unconditional love and sacrifice. Shaka Licorish


All you need is one documentary during a film festival that will make you rethink your whole existence, what you are doing with your life and what you are still yet to achieve.  ‘Becoming Who I Was’ will slaughter you.  The story of Rinpoche heaps with emotional fatigue but also a sense of wonderment.   What could come of you if you turn a different corner just on your way home?  If you work harder?  Play less?  Stay away from over stimulation for a day?  ‘Becoming Who I Was’ is truly inspirational, heartbreaking and a love story for the books.  You will be encouraged to live simply with intent, perhaps breathe a little more with gusto and enhance your life so you can stretch yourself a tad further.  Try to catch the last screening of this film before it leaves town or watch it again.  A Hot Docs 2017:  Best Doc of the Film Festival (hands down)!

New Chefs On The Block

Think starting your own restaurant is easy? Think again. Nearly 30 per cent of new restaurants fail within the first year, and most are risky investments that rely on borrowing from banks and unquestioned commitment from friends and family. Filmmaker Dustin Harrison-Atlas’s debut feature chronicles the roller-coaster ride of two young chefs in Washington, D.C., as they tackle opening their first restaurants. From design to demolition to opening night, Atlas serves up a multi-year portrait of chefs Aaron Silverman of Rose’s Luxury and Frank Linn of Frankly…Pizza! In the digital age where the difference between a two-star and three-star rating can make or break you, New Chefs on the Block is a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at two dedicated chefs where one becomes the most famous new restaurant in America and the other redefines his definition of success. Ravi Srinivasan


I had hopes for New Chefs On The Block.  It was a tad overindulgent, a bit all over the place and disjointed.  The subjects and their stories did not ooze intrigue or interest.  Where’s the hootspa?   Indeed, learning of the early days of a start up resto venture is always intriguing.  But how does a director make it different for the viewer without re-examining the financial short fall throughout the documentary?  Perhaps showcasing a different lens into the chef’s journey would have created a deeper meaning for the viewer.  or maybe Chef’s Table has spoiled me?

www.hotdocs.ca  #hotdocs17, hot docs


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