I hope you all are enjoying your Hot Docs adventures! The team at Hot Docs has gifted my readers with tickets to ‘Hondros’ and ‘The Workers Cup’. The first 4 people to email me get tickets to these films!
Hondros – Saturday May 6th at 9:15 p.m.
The Worker’s Cup – Sunday May 7th at 9p.m.
In the mean time, show some love to the following films over the weekend!
At the conclusion of the award-winning Hurt, a vicious home invasion left Steve Fonyo in a coma fighting for his life. In Hope, director Alan Zweig picks up where Hurt left off. Recovering in hospital, Steve allows Zweig to follow him through his lows, hoping he might find a way to a better life. In the 30 years since he was a nation’s hero for his cross-country run on a prosthetic leg to raise funds for cancer research, Steve’s life has been a sequence of tragic events. Now in his 50s, Steve admits he needs to remove himself from his circumstances in Surrey, BC, to overcome his addiction and have a fresh start with his girlfriend. Bringing director-subject dynamics to the forefront, Zweig has created a rare and exceptional documentary sequel that attempts to look at the road forward and leave a troubled past behind. Alexander Rogalski
Once the plaything of children, the hobbyhorse—a stick with a horse’s head—takes on greater importance and symbolism for a group of Finnish teens who organize flash mobs and post videos dedicated to the object of their devotion. The (mostly) girls who practise competitive hobbyhorse dressage and show jumping are not horsing around. With backs straight, shoulders square, knees up and toes pointed, these fantasy athletes are part of an underground scene and sport that’s taking hold of a new generation of riders—who also happen to be the ride. With a punk rock attitude, these hobbyhorse rebels use make believe and social media to challenge what’s considered age-appropriate or different. Bullies be damned. Hobbyhorse Revolution catches a trend in its infancy along with the imaginative and brave pioneers who refuse to be categorized or kept down for being true to themselves and their passion. Angie Driscoll
Why is the remote nation of the Federated States of Micronesia, composed of hundreds of tiny volcanic islands in the Western Pacific, supplying the US military with soldiers? The recent death of Sapuro Nena in Afghanistan while in the line of duty makes waves on his home island of Kosrae. The Nena family has served for generations, but they’re not American citizens. They can’t vote—they can only die for a country not their own. A protectorate of the USA since the Second World War, Micronesia is a microcosm of American imperialism’s disturbing economic, sociopolitical and cultural consequences. From the Spam-stocked shelves in grocery stores to the mass exodus of its young people, the high price of having a special relationship with “the land of the free” is especially evident in the high number of military casualties from foreign wars fought in the name of freedom and democracy… but whose exactly? Angie Driscoll
In the aftermath of 9/11, award-winning Getty Images conflict photographer Chris Hondros became driven by a commitment to capturing the agony of war. A sensitive photojournalist, he worked with purpose and demonstrated an immense tolerance for personal risk and sacrifice before being fatally wounded by a mortar attack in 2011. Daringly covering more than a decade of conflict across Africa, Europe and the Middle East, his drive to share the perilous reality of frontline confrontation is no more evident than in his arrestingly powerful and intimate imagery. Directed by author and longtime friend Greg Campbell, Hondros is a moving retrospective testimonial that ventures beyond his definitive combat work to lay bare the backstories and personal connections of his most influential photos. Featuring sweeping on-the-ground archival footage interspersed with his own recordings and candid interviews with colleagues, friends and family, the legacy of a generational trailblazing force is earnestly illustrated. Shaka Licorish
It’s immediately clear why Strong Island was awarded a Special Jury Prize for Storytelling at Sundance. Filmmaker Yance Ford shares his brother William’s life, and his family’s profound grief over his 1992 murder, in an innately original way. William was a black man shot dead in Long Island, New York; William’s white killer was never charged. With each interview shot centre frame, every family photo symmetrically placed in front of the camera, grief is foregrounded and the chronology of the case manipulated to allow the story of who William was to emerge ahead of how he died. Ford essentially crafts two memoirs, one of the family before the murder basking in the promise of social equality, and the second following the post-trauma implosion of their parents’ relationship, the filmmaker’s transgender struggle, their American dream. A triumph of personal cinema, Strong Island creates a powerful presence from a most senseless absence. Myrocia Watamaniuk
In 2003, the Oakland Police Department was placed under federal oversight for police misconduct and civil rights abuses, and forced to complete reforms. The Force takes an observational, inside-out approach to these attempts at change, going inside the police academy, on the beat with rookie cops and into meetings with the chief, then heading out to the streets with grassroots activists, visiting crime scenes with witnesses and victims. Is police reform possible in a city that has struggled to treat its citizens with dignity and respect for 40 years? Is there such a thing as good and bad cops? Can a systemic culture of racist and macho behaviour within the ranks of law enforcement really be reversed? As the #BlackLivesMatter movement emerges and citizens demand a civilian review board, will Oakland police learn to serve and protect in a new era of transparency and accountability? Angie Driscoll
Bring the Jews Home
Want to hasten the return of Jesus Christ to Earth? Radical organization Christians for Israel can help. One of its most zealous members, Flemish activist Koen Carlier, is convinced the Messiah will come back once all the Jews of the world are returned to their homeland. He travels to Ukraine, visiting each village, stopping by every house, seeking out Jews to “send back” to Israel. His laid-back, exasperating persistence is generally met with bewilderment and polite indifference. But the global organization behind him claims they’ve convinced over 150,000 Jews to move to Israel in the last 20 years—and the Ukrainian conflict might give Koen an extra push. Filmmakers Eefje Blankevoort and Arnold van Bruggen got surprising access to the inner workings of this fundamentalist group, whose dream of redemption needs to be fulfilled regardless of the consequences, in this tragicomic look at the absurdity of fanaticism. Charlotte Selb
Danny Houck, a self-described “nobody” living in a ramshackle farmhouse in the sticks, pours all his time and energy into his obsession: violins. He’s particularly passionate about the work of famous violin makers Stradivari and Guarneri. When Danny “friends” violin virtuoso Razvan Stoica on Facebook, he makes a rash fanboy promise to create a perfect replica of a world-famous violin—Guarneri’s Il Cannone—for Stoica’s next concert. But with only a matter of months and much to learn, can this eccentric autodidact train in the ancient art of violin-making using only images from the Internet and improvisation? Working around the clock, Danny tests the limits of his own capabilities and that of the human spirit. What he lacks in technique and skill, he makes up for in enthusiasm and imagination, persevering where most would resign. Strad Style provides living proof that if you’re not trying, you’re dying. Angie Driscoll
The Workers Cup
In 2022, Qatar plays host to the FIFA World Cup, arguably the biggest sporting event in the world. But far from the roaring crowds, 24 teams drawn from the 1.6 million migrant workers constructing the many stadiums compete for glory and the thrill of winning the Workers Cup. In his debut feature, filmmaker Adam Sobel acquires unprecedented access to a handful of the thousands of labourers lured to work and eventually compete in a soccer tournament of their own. More than a film about a game, Workers Cup is an examination of the poorest residents in the richest country. The ability to provide for family back home and the illusion they might play (real) soccer are dangled in front of vulnerable and desperate migrant workers. Instead they endure backbreaking work for low pay and agree to strict contracts under false pretenses, which Sobel succinctly exposes as modern slavery. Ravi Srinivasan