#hotdocs17: Reviews (Day 7) – ‘Mohawk Girls’, ‘Out of Thin Air, ‘The Departure’ and ‘House of Z’

Mohawk Girls

Winner of the Best Documentary prize at the ImagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival, Tracey Deer’s 2005 documentary Mohawk Girls is a profound portrait of adolescent life. Set on the Kahnawake reserve, Deer follows three teen girls on the cusp of adulthood. While many of their struggles are familiar ones, the trio also carry the weight of a question imposed upon them by colonialism: Should they cross the Mercier Bridge and leave the reserve for opportunities in the “outside world”—and in doing so risk losing their heritage and even their Mohawk status—or should they stay? Framed through Deer’s own coming-of-age experiences a decade before, Mohawk Girls is both deeply intimate and powerfully political. Its resonance with audiences led to the doc becoming a scripted TV series on APTN. Kiva Reardon


‘Mohawk Girls’ is a must see as part of your documentary appetite.  The viewer observes the roots of colonialism in our First Nations daily lives.  A worthy debrief after the film with friends.   The wonderful hand drawn short that precedes ‘Mohawk Girls’ entitled, ‘Christmas in Moose Factory’, will set the flavour for the meal.

Out of Thin Air

“Every Icelander knows about this case.” Iceland in 1974 was a bucolic country of farmers and fishermen, living in a kind of perfect isolation, far from the troubles of the world. Crime was rare, murder rarer still. Then two men disappear under suspicious circumstances and foul play is suspected. The country demands a resolution. Police launch the biggest criminal investigation Iceland has ever seen. Finally, six people confess to two violent murders and are sent to prison. It seems the nightmare is over. But it was far from over. Incredibly, this infamous murder case is still being tried, debated and re-examined today. This taut psychological thriller incorporates archival footage, personal diaries, false confessions, dramatic recreations, wrongful convictions and multiple narratives to explore the most intense criminal investigation in Iceland’s history.


Forget reading your best true crime novel over the week of Hot Docs, ‘Out of Thin Air’ will satiate you.  ‘Out of Thin Air’ will immediately catapult you into an un-just circus of police investigations wrapped in emotional, mental and physical abuse.  ‘Out of Thin Air’ is a beautifully shot film with aerial shots over Iceland capturing the cold and emotional fatigue of a bruised land after years of wondering ‘just who did it?’.

The Departure

A former Japanese punk rocker’s life takes a drastically different turn when he becomes a Buddhist priest counselling those who are tempted to take their own life. With the high rate of suicide in Japan, he attempts to connect with those seeking help, hoping to show them everyone has a reason to live. His unwavering commitment and dedication to helping those in need has seen success—but it’s also starting to take a toll on his well-being. His health is on the decline and he struggles to balance the needs of his family with those on the brink of suicide who reach out to him every day. His pursuit to save lives and give meaning to those who feel as though they have none may be the very thing that costs him his own life. Gabor Pertic


Even the most seasoned helping professional will find ‘The Departure’ a tearful watch.  A life commitment based riddled in his own sense of loss, we examine a Zen priest as he tries to ‘save’ his faithful from suicide ideation and self destructive thoughts.  As we the viewer observes his own inhaling in of his follower’s toxic energy we bear witness to how he is falling ill as a result.  A wonderful portrait into self care, mental health and self awareness.

House of Z

As good looking and stylish as its subject, House of Z is a portrait of the artist as a young man. Famously well connected, Zac Posen rode a rocket ship to fame and success at the age of 21. But his is a cautionary tale of what happens to those whose PR machines are steps ahead of reality. As quickly as the handsome Zac made a name for himself, he found himself on the receiving end of damaging gossip, bad reviews and dropping sales. Told with the help of a star-studded cast, including Puff Daddy, Naomi Campbell and Claire Danes, this all-access story charts the rise and fall—and rise again—of a fashion world wunderkind. Aisha Jamal


‘House of Z’ paints a portrait of Zac Posen from early fashion prodigy, iconic trail blazing seer to a designer focused on reborn luxe simplicity.  ‘House of Z’ will study the Posen family’s full support of Zac in his early days through finances and unfailing protective back up.  When ego grows (as it always does like the best of weeds) we the viewer begin to see the cracks in the wood work and an eventual collapse which if any of us has ever dreamed a dream – is hard to swallow.  ‘House of Z’ oozes drama but really does not tell the viewer anything different in the fashion narrative that is coming out of loss.

www.hotdocs.ca  #hotdocs17, hot docs


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