I was fortunate enough to see a few films at Sundance this year that are now making their way to Toronto for the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Film Festival, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. The festival runs from April 26 through May 6 at several venues throughout the city, and is one of the best values in terms of festival experiences in my opinion. I’ve got two recommendations for now:
Shirkers (Director: Sandi Tan)
In the early 1990s, Sandi Tan and her friends set out to make Singapore’s first “indie” film. With the help of a mysterious expatriate producer, they nearly finished the project, only for Georges to abscond with all the footage. More than two decades later, Tan returns to Singapore to reminisce with her collaborators, and tracks down the missing elements of the film. Not only is this a lovely look back at teenage friendships tested in the crucible of fevered creativity, it’s also an amazing look at what might have been: the restored footage of the original film will knock you out.
BISBEE ’17 (Director: Robert Greene)
I’ve been following Robert Greene’s work for nearly a decade now. He’s one of the most exciting filmmakers working in documentary today, able to push formal boundaries while still remaining one of the most humanist people I’ve met. In his latest film, he immerses himself and his crew in the town of Bisbee, Arizona, which is about to commemorate the 100th anniversary of a dark episode in their history. The crew follow various townspeople as they prepare a re-enactment of the rounding up and exile (more like being dumped in the desert) of 1,200 striking mineworkers. Families were divided and the town quickly covered up the incident. A century has passed and it’s time to shed a little light on things.
Once again, Hot Docs has put together an amazing programme of non-fiction gems. I hope to share a few more with you over the next few days.