Author Archives: thirtyfourflavours

About thirtyfourflavours

Canadian. South Asian. Lifestyle Writer. Master of Arts. Total sweetheart.

#HotDocs23 @hotdocs: Cynara, Revir and Unsyncable – Last Day of Hot Docs Must See’s!


A brief synopsis,

                On February 19, 2011, a distraught woman calls 911, telling the dispatcher that two men broke into her house and that her daughter is not breathing. When first responders arrive, they find 16-year-old Cynara without vital signs, and her mother, Cindy Ali, lying on the floor, unable to move. Mere hours later, Cynara is dead, and Cindy is the prime suspect. With exclusive access to Cindy, her family, her lawyer, witnesses and court documents, this film is both a suspenseful crime thriller, and an emotive drama about a mother trying to clear her name.”


A brief synopsis,

“Revir is a story about longing for a life that isn’t handed to you. Siblings Susie and Sune have been left to themselves since childhood. Together they buy an old farmhouse and surround themselves with animals—live, dead and in different stages of resurrection: She is a promising taxidermist and he has decided to support her dream of running her own business. But they long for different things and cracks begin to show. The film explores the landscape inhabited by Susie and Sune and the nature that inhabits them. Is siblinghood enough? Or is it too much?”.


A brief synopsis,

“Six senior artistic swimmers (formerly known as synchronized swimmers), ages 63 – 83, prepare for the Masters Championships in Maine, U.S.A. Some are going for gold, others for community. One is going knowing she can’t win. All will push physical, emotional and societal boundaries to get there. Collectively they have lost partners, suffered disabilities and contended with assumptions about who they are and what they can do. Through it all, they keep swimming – and do it with a perfect smile – no matter how old they get.”


A brief synopsis,

                ALLIHOPA, the Swedish word for “all together”, follows the unique story of how the Dalkurd soccer team, which began as a social project in a rural working-class town in Sweden, became the de facto national team of Kurdistan. Founded by Kurdish refugees in Sweden to help assimilate Kurdish youths to their new home, the team’s inspiring rise has become a beacon of hope and unity for millions of Kurdish people around the world.”

Review: Kurds remain the largest ethnic group in the world without a homeland. ALLIHOPA explores how a community of Kurds have transformed their displacement into a transformational and aspirational life in Sweden. ALLIHOPA illustrates Dalkurd soccer players deep connection to their homeland, their push for Kurdish independence, all the while being optimistic Kurdish ambassadors om behalf of their Swedish community. Their underdog status does not intimidate them. Instead, they are appreciative that Sweden permitted the creation of their team alongside the use of their flag. This gesture strengthens Dalkurd’s drive for a spot on the top of their division. Their journey consequently inspires their community to find healing while also symbolically pushing back against traumatic memories rooted in displacement from their homeland.

Thirty Four Flavours Rating: 4/5

#HotDocs23 @hotdocs: Fauna

A brief synopsis,

                In a forest on the outskirts of Barcelona an old shepherd and his flock live alongside a high-tech laboratory for animal experimentation. Two opposite worlds facing each other. Two worlds that are two sides of the same coin. While the shepherd, afflicted with a bone disease, witnesses his profession disappearing, scientists are busier than ever researching the Covid-19 vaccine. ‘Fauna’ is a science fiction fable about the relationship between humans, animals and science in post-pandemic times.”

Review: Fauna is a wonderfully reflective documentary to consider as we wrap up the festival. Breathe in the pastoral scenes of goats in a pasture. A shepherd considers their contribution to his life as an aging individual. The goats provided the shepherd a quiet existence with a lifetime of support towards the human condition. A parallel is juxtaposed to the shepherd’s narrative in the form of a researcher’s relationship to the goats. We see the researcher’s in the early days of Covid-19 committed to using pigs and goats to test vaccines but from a lens of ushered kindness and respect when led into a testing facility. The researcher’s speak to gratitude for the contributions of the animal’s lives and bodies. When challenged by members of the research community on re-considering the use of animals for testing purposes – their responses may not be what you may expect. Worth a watch!

Thirty Four Flavours Rating: 4/5

#HotDocs23 @hotdocs: Polaris

A brief synopsis:

“If your mom didn’t love you, who can love you? Nobody. Even if you see the demonstration of love, you will not believe it.”

Review: Hayat, an expert sailor in the Arctic, navigates far from humans and her family’s past in France. Her family of origin’s story is bleak. Hayat explores the emotional neglect that she encountered as a child and how it breathes deeply in her bloodline, her work ethic, and her sense of self. Her relationship with her sister Leila is a strong one as illustrated in their check ins. After Leila gives birth to a baby girl Inaya, both sisters recant how their childhood and complex relationships with their parents shaped their adult lives, romantic relationships, and their relationships to one another. The film provides gorgeous snapshots of ocean and landscapes to get lost in while considering the heaviness of the subject matter.

Thirty Four Flavours Rating: 5/5

#HotDocs23 @hotdocs: July Talk: Love Lives Here

Must be hard to break these
Ancient habits
Hard to kill ’em
Yeah, someone’s gotta pay, gotta pay
Gotta pay, gotta pay for it

Review: With the pandemic chasing July Talk off stages on the heals of their recent release Pray for It, the bad performed at Stardust Drive-in as a way to provide some comfort, and safety to their fan base. The documentary takes audiences on a journey with July Talk to a place and time that perhaps once felt ominous. The documentary illustrates that illness lived within that band at the time which was further exacerbated by stress. Healing as a band was challenged in the wake of the civil rights uprising in the United States. July Talk took a breath to consider their social location and create an anti-oppressive space for racialized and marginalized voices during their performances. As the pandemic and the uncertainty of their collective future challenged them, July Talk innovatively found healing engaging with their audiences while evolving artistically.

Thirty Four Flavours Rating: 4/5

#HotDocs23 @hotdocs: Love to Love You, Donna Summer

Lay your head down real close to me
Soothe my mind and set me free

Review: “Love to Love You, Donna Summer”, illustrates an emotional portrait of Donna Summer’s lived experiences with her family, colleagues and journey to stratospheric fame. Known as the “queen of disco” or purveyor of “love rock”, Summer encouraged her fans to let loose, and experiment with different ways of knowing, being, and doing. Summer was a private person whose secrets are now slowly being revealed by friends and family towards a lens of understanding and compassion. It can be argued that Beyonce is the ultimate show woman of modern day, but Donna Summer paved the way for her and so many racialized and marginalized individuals. From her glorious costuming, intricate hairstyle, on point make up, and a voice that could give Beyonce’s “Cuff It” a run for its money – Donna Summer was the Queen Bee. Summer’s stage experience may have enlightened Zendaya with her brand of storytelling in partnership with her songwriting. Be prepared for a deeply introspective journey into an entertainer’s craft whom set the tone for a generation and whose ripples are still being felt in 2023.

Thirty Four Flavours Rating: 5/5

#HotDocs23 @hotdocs: AITAMAAKO’TAMISSKAPI NATOSI: BEFORE THE SUN – Glorious! A must see!

A brief synopsis,

                Native women aren’t given enough recognition for their accomplishments.”

Review: Aitamaako’tamisskapi Natosi: Before The Sun presents more like an epic blockbuster than a documentary. The audience is introduced to Logan Red Crow, a Siksika woman, who is engaged in training to ride one of the most dangerous horse races in the world, on bareback. The film is a cinematic masterpiece. Truly. The film takes the audience onto the golden plains of Blackfoot Territory and provides a behind the scenes view into Logan’s relationship with her parents, her Elders, and Indigenous ways of knowing, being, and doing. From the sprawling landscape of Logan’s family’s ranch, races, the feeding and caretaking of the animals on the ranch. If you love animals and specifically horses, this film will woo you. The love that emanates between Logan and her horses is transformational. The way she prepares her horses for races is moving and resplendent.

The audience bears witness to Logan’s deep connection to her deceased grandmother whose quiet presence is felt throughout the film. An emotional moment is seen when Logan chooses to wear her grandmother’s moccasins for her race as a form of good luck and support. Logan’s entire family oozes the same love for one another and hold each other’s hearts closely to one another.

Logan frames her loving relationship with her horses and being the only female participant of a male-dominated Indian Relay Racing world as a way to strengthen relationships with her family and community, and ancestral traditions. The film celebrates Indigenous Peoples traditions, and their connections to the land whilst pushing back at colonialism in Canada. This film is a relaxing watch and worthy of your time – even if you pick one documentary to watch this HD season.

Aitamaako’tamisskapi Natosi: Before The Sun  was shot on location in beautiful Siksika Nation, Tsuut’ina, Îyâxe Nakoda, Blackfoot Territory, Enoch Cree Nation ᒪᐢᑫᑯᓯᐦᐠ Maskêkosihk, Casper, Wyoming.

Thirty Four Flavours Rating: 5/5

#HotDocs23 @hotdocs: Who’s afraid of Nathan Law? – Hands down, one of the best of the festival!

A brief synopsis,

                As a college freshman, shy Nathan Law finds an identity in activism. He helps launch the Umbrella Revolution, a student-led occupation of Hong Kong demanding the government allow citizens to elect their own leader. This awakens an entire generation of young people, and when Law becomes the youngest elected official in Hong Kong history—only to be ousted from the role in a hurry—he helps launch a new movement, further galvanizing the youth of Hong Kong.”

Review: Quoting Ghandi, Nathan Law states in Legislature “….you can destroy this body, but you will never imprison my mind.” The audience bears witness to the activism of Nathan Law and his colleagues as they fight for democracy, alongside voices that are often erased. The government in turn tries to silence and demobilize their activism only further strengthening Law and his colleague’s social justice vision. Fantastic footage of the student led occupation, Legislature siege, and watershed moments aimed at disrupting messaging from President Xi. Freedom and human rights narratives are explored. Hands down, one of the best of the festival!

Thirty Four Flavours Rating: 5/5

#HotDocs23 @hotdocs: Nathan-ism – Inspiring!

A brief synopsis,

                At the end of World War II, Nathan Hilu, the son of Syrian Jewish immigrants to  New York, received a life-changing assignment from the U.S. Army: to guard the  top Nazi war criminals at the Nuremberg trials. This experience fueled a lifetime of artistic inspiration for Nathan, a virtually unknown “outsider artist”, who spent the next 70 years obsessively creating a visual narrative from his memories. But what happens when those memories take on a life of their own? 

“Nathan-ism” explores Nathan’s relationship with his own stories, and the compulsion he has to share them with a world that doesn’t always listen.”

Review: A precious snapshot into the mind of a man who provides a living testament of a meaningful moments in human history as seen through his bespoke art work. Nathan proudly shows the filmmaker and the audience photographs from his personal albums which would give Time Magazine a run for their money. Eloquent illustrations embedded with rich stories are recanted with exuberance and excitement in this film. Nathan’s work is not about what the market will glean in profit; rather his work is much more existential. His art will transform you to a place and time that is harrowing with room left for reflection in the present about what was lost in the past. Inspiring!

Thirty Four Flavours Rating: 5/5

#HotDocs23 @hotdocs: Long Distance Swimmer: Sara Mardini

A brief synopsis,

                10,000 euros gives you the chance to die or survive in the water.”

Review: Sara and her sister Yusra fled Syria in 2015. When their boat broke down en route to Greece, the competitive swimmers jumped into the water and towed the boat to safety. The film documents Sara’s journey in the present, her legal; issues, and her focus on supporting refugee rights and fighting against the criminalization of humanitarians.  A beautifully shot film with breathtaking imagery of refugees en route in dark waters seeking respite in European countries. We also bear witness to those individuals who aim to support refugees on the waters and the shoreline. Introspective.

Thirty Four Flavours Rating: 5/5