Monthly Archives: April 2012

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It has only been about 5 days into the festival, and Hot Docs is turning out to be a pretty thought provoking exercise for me. Working for, I first thought that reviewing these films would be similar to other jobs I’ve done covering festival material. However, the films I’ve seen at Hot Docs so far have been intimate and time consuming (mostly in the best way), and this goes to show that even though the standard documentary’s running time is only just over an hour, these experiences pack a serious punch.

With about 1 week left of the festival, I strongly urge you to check a film out (its free during the day for seniors and students!).

Find schedules and film info by clicking here!

There will be more to come!



Director: Freida Mock

Program: Youth & Children

Running Time: 92 Minutes

Recommended? Yes, Strongly and with a box of Kleenex

For the homeboys and girls who sport “nothing stops a bullet like a job” t-shirts in G-Dog, they are living proof of the truth to this statement. Started by priest Gregory Boyle, Homeboy Industries began as a work program offering jobs to recently released felons and kids growing up in Los Angeles’ worst gang territories.

Homeboy Industries started as a means to help members of a community Boyle felt were being completely neglected by the system. From these humble beginnings, Boyle has forged many lifelong relationships with legions of home boys and girls.

As director Frieda Mock investigates Homeboy Industries’ mission, we see that this center for recovering criminals offers drug rehabilitation, parenting classes, even laser tattoo removal all in the hopes of giving honest hard working people a chance to restart. When Homeboy Industries is threatened by a serious budget deficit, Boyle finds out that he needs this tight community of ex gang bangers as much as they need him.

In the Year of Hip HopDirector:Boris PetkovicProgram:Made in Southeastern EuropeRunning TIme: 71 Minutes

Recommended? Yes, Not Strongly

“People can’t just identify with your story if it’s just about: I roll joints, I smoke all the time, oh yeah, hip hop, street, gun kill, stab…that’s just hilarious” says a Slovenian MC in Boris Petkovic’s In the Year of Hip Hop. It is with this desire to keeping it real that Slovenian MC’s ground their funky, punk-infused songs, setting Slovene rap apart from all the rest.

In the Year of Hip Hop gets accounts from several pioneering Slovene rappers like 6 Pack Cukur, N’Toko, and Klemen Klemen. Their testimonies show just how far this art form has come from its comedic origins to now being utilized to raise awareness to problems of unemployment and government neglect.

With song lyrics that push divisive agendas like “Englishmen are moving here because of our cake” and “the whole Slovenian system is fucked up”, Petrovic shows just how entertaining a revolution can be.


Director: Fillipe Gamarano Barbosa

Program:  Mental Health

Running Time: 78 Minutes

Recommended? Yes, Strongly especially if you’re one of those people who like anything of the TLC variety

Laura situates itself at the intersection where Grey Gardens, Hoarders, and Entourage somehow meet. More simply put, I guess you could say that Fellipe Gamarano Barbosa’s documentary is really about Laura: a celebrity/glamour obsessed, New York City socialite vetera. Laura transcends any common place categorization and as the film progresses Barbosa’s ‘day in the life’ documentary becomes more like a ‘day in the head’ of the eclectic Brazilian émigré diva.

Although her garbs are demure and stylish, it is Laura’s apartment that is possibly the best indication of her neurosis. Laura’s chic apparel sits in an bedroom packed top to bottom with hundreds of flyers, VHS tapes, and anything else that has picked up on the streets over Laura’s 30 plus year occupation of New York. Barbosa continually evolves our understanding of thisthis masquerading woman who chooses to live her life with the utmost secrecy and privacy but admirably allows peace, respect, and a driving desire to enjoy life to ordain her solitary existence.

My Mate Manchester United

Director: Stefan Valdobrev

Program: Sports & Recreation

Running Time: 57 Minutes

Recommended? No- While heart warming, this film features many scenes of old Bulgarian men sitting around, drinking, and talking

As a sea of men clad in all red garments sit glued to a T.V. screen, intense looks of dedication and focus occupy each face. Director Stefan Valdobrev sets us amiss the excruciating suspense floating in the air as these men wait to see if Manchester United will score a much needed goal. As this small crowd erupts in raucous commotion once a goal is made, the joyful calamity that ensues makes it no surprise that Valdobrev chose football fandom as the subject for My Mate Manchester United.

Still, this early example of the diehard attitude many Manchester United fans exhibit is no match for Bulgarian construction worker Manchester United’s (yup, he legally changed his name is Manchester United) all out love for his favourite football team. As Valdobrev follows Manchester in his ultimate pursuit to meet his hero, Manchester United’s Bulgarian striker Dimitar Berbatov, Manchester’s unwavering allegiance to this football club shows the admirable endurance of a fan’s heart.

Originally Appearing In: The Woodsworth Howl

Imagine walking into your kitchen, pulling out a high powered blender, throwing in the plots  from The Evil Dead, ScreamScary Movie, Jeepers Creepers, Cabin Fever, Cube, and topping this off with some pages of an H.P. Lovecraft story. Smash the blend button and I guess the results could begin to explain what Cloverfield writer Drew Godard’s directorial debut The Cabin in the Woodsaccomplishes. Cabin follows a group of young adults who take a weekend retreat to a, well, Cabin in the woods. Penned by Godard and Buffy the Vampire Slayer T.V. show creator Joss Whedon, this duo wastes little time showing off their precise knowledge of the workings of the camp and Meta horror conventions which have dominated the box offices for the last fifteen. 

Stoned to the Bone Marty

 The Cabin cast is composed of the sexy but overly sophisticated Dana (Kristen Connolly), her valley girl roommate Jules (Anna Hutchison) and Anne’s all American football bro boyfriend Curt (Chris Hemsworth). Throw in Holden (Jesse Willaims), a highly intelligent but still very token black guy, Holden (Jesse Williams) and the constantly stoned to the bone Marty (Fran Kranz) and voila: Cabinskilfully sets the foundation for its playful bizzaro-horror aesthetic in its cast alone. While many films have made multi part franchises (see Scary Movie 1-3) about the wackiness of the overuse of staple characters (the smart girl, the cheerleader, the joc, etc), Godard and Whedon show instead that it takes only a well written 10 minute conversation amongst all the film’s characters to establish stereotypes. While the regurgitated cast  pile into an old school camper for their weekendgetaway, we find out they are completely unaware that their every move is being monitored by a top secret American Military division dedicated to covertly causing supernatural havoc and unleashing monsters all around the world as a ritualistic offering to blood thirsty, Lovecraftian gods.

I love that films always make dudes who work for the government wear short sleeved dress shirts. Seriously, it has become essential to the ‘government worker bee’ look. Apollo 13 influenced? Maybe…

 One of the best things about Cabin is that the clever portrayals of horror clichés (at one point the men in the bunker unleash pheromones that make Anne and Curt become inexplicably horny), makes the film that much more intelligent. The characters are attacked by the undead cadavers of a creepy quaker family buried beneath the Cabin, whose marred corpses relentlessly hunt them in a The Hill’s Have Eyes fashionOnce they find out that the Cabin, the zombies, and generally all the other monstrosities they come across are part of a bigger event orchestrated by this behind the scene Military force, Cabin warps the genre one more time by turning Cabin into a sinister fantasy imagining the diabolical powers that are actually responsible for our government’s actions.

Cabin’s inventive reworking gives attention to the very particular niche that Godard occupies in a cinema already highly saturated with camp and satire films. By continually mutating the genre and stereotypes in the film, Cabin’s greatest comment is its display of just how ridiculous the standards of modern American horror films have become.  Unlike any other the other parody horror films of late, the character’s in Cabin follow their source of terror all the way to its Cthulhu-esque origins and functions as both the writer’s way of taking a stand (no longer will the characters of a horror film be ambiguously haunted but instead they fight to find out whya deranged Zombie family has decided to attack them. All this makes Cabin recognizable as one of the most original camp genre parody pieces I’ve ever seen.

When I saw Cabin in the Woods, I hadn’t seen a trailer, a teaser, not even a photograph of what the film entailed. The results of this were delighting.

Finally seeing a trailer for Cabin a day or two ago while going to see The Hunger Games (which was very riveting and plausible up until the actual Hunger Games), I was even more impressed by the nerdy finesse of Cloverfield screenwriter Drew Godard and Buffy the Vampire Slayer mastermind Joss Whedon. If Godard’s more subtle, but none the less momentous, genre mashing in Cloverfield or Whedon’s adeptly campy sci-fi/ horror tendencies in Buffy are an indication of anything, it’s that you should really have no idea what to expect from Cabin.

I’m going to refrain from going too far into the plot, because it is a sensitive matter with this film, but I’ll say that Cabin showcases a certain consciousness that I really can’t recall being so deliciously misleading  since Eli Roth’s Cabin Fever.


Looking back, its no wonder that the $1 million dollar budgeted Fever fared well in theaters, eventually pulling in just over $30 million dollars in the box office. Out of the 347 films screened at TIFF 2002, Fever was sold for $3.5 million to Lionsgate making it the highest selling film at that year’s festival. Still, Fever‘s 65% critic rating and 45 % audience rating (also the fact that when I ask most people if they have seen Fever a look of skepticism poses them) shows that if there is any real fellowship for this film, it is definitely cult.

 Although I don’t typically base my predictions on Tomatometers (Paranormal Activity has an 82%. Case in point.) Cabin‘s 90% critics freshness rating should be some indication of the film’s potential for success with audiences. Or rather, maybe this will be just one for the critics? With a marketing campaign by Lionsgate Entertainment that is eerily reminiscent of Cabin Fever, I can only guess that those behind the marketing of this film are just as aware of their work as Godard and Whedon.

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