In the final part of our Hot Docs 2011 previews, Andrew Parker takes a look at Open Secret, Wild Horse, Wild Ride, The Castle, and The Advocate for Fagdom. To see all our Hot Docs 2011 coverage, click here.
Director: Steve Lickteig
NPR radio personality Steve Lickteig has been living with a terrible family secret his entire life that he was only awakened to by his best friends shortly after high school. Steve found out that his estranged “sister” Joanie was actually his mother, and that these people presenting themselves as his parents were actually his grandparents. It was a secret known by the entire community, but never to Steve. Lickteig is not a filmmaker, nor does he claim to be, but the raw emotion of the second half of this film where Steve confronts not only his biological mother, but also his own feelings, is really powerful stuff. The final scene is something that could never happen in a scripted film and adds to the feeling of uneasiness. Just possibly, as Steve’s fiancee says, not everything will end up being okay. A great look at not only families, but also mental illness, generational gaps, the nature of a well intentioned lie, and forgiveness. Makes for a great double bill with Bob and the Monster since Bob Forrest had a similar familial upbringing.
Rating (out of five stars): ****
Playing with the short Something to Tell You (not reviewed)
Tuesday, May 3rd at 9:30 p.m. at Cumberland 3
Thursday, May 5th at 11:00 a.m. at Isabel Bader Theatre
Wild Horse, Wild Ride
Directors: Alex Dawson and Greg Gricus
Every year horse trainers from across the United States train wild horses rounded up by the government with hopes of giving them up for adoption. These trainers attempt to get the horses ready for a competition in Fort Worth, Texas where they get a chance to show off their hard work. While a bit overlong, Dawson and Gricus have created a film that takes it’s time letting the audience get to know both the horses and their trainers. Every horse and every trainer has a distinct personality. Wild Horse, Wild Ride also shows why so many Hollywood based films about horses are so lacklustre. Horses are infinitely more majestic when shown in a more natural setting. A great film for horse lovers and also a great film for families (unlike the similarly equine themed Buck, which is considerably darker than this film), Wild Horse also has the best musical score of any film at HotDocs this year outside of the musically based National Parks Project.
Rating (out of five stars): ***1/2
Friday, May 6th at 6:15 p.m. at Bloor Cinema
Saturday, May 7th at 6:00 p.m. at Bloor Cinema
Directors: Massimo D’Anolfi and Martina Parenti
An exercise in simple, direct filmmaking, The Castle follows the day to day operations of the security team at Milan, Italy’s Malpensa Airport as they deal with bag searches, drug busts, cavity searches, bomb scares, and a whole lot of boredom and downtime. The title refers to a folk song sung by a woman living in the airport about a dreary castle and in some ways D’Anolfi and Parenti capture the odd beauty of an airport quite stunningly. Sadly, the film is far too long for this objective style to remain watchable. Some segments are much better than others, especially when the audience is stuck watching a driver patrol an empty tarmac for five minutes as nothing happens. The parts that work, really work, but they amount to possibly only half the movie. This should never have been feature length. It is the kind of film where unless someone is talking, should be watched on fast forward at home. Much like The Interrupters (a much better film at the festival), The Castle is in desperate need of some cutting.
Rating (out of five stars): **1/2
Monday, May 2nd at 9:30 p.m. at Cumberland 2
Wednesday, May 4th at 1:00 p.m. at Cumberland 2
The Advocate for Fagdom
Director: Angelique Bosio
Those looking for any insight into what makes gay “pornographer” and provocateur filmmaker Bruce LaBruce tick are sorely out of luck when it comes to this oddly lifeless documentary. LaBruce, best known for such films as Skin of My Ass and LA Zombie, is interviewed but doesn’t seem to have much to say about his place in the homocore scene and only slightly more about his artistic influences. John Waters and Gus Van Sant show up and offer some interesting insight, but most of the interviewees (save for a batshit crazed Harmony Korine) would rather talk about the academic merits of LaBruce’s work rather than the scene that it came out of. LaBruce’s works (especially Super 8 1/2) have a lot of interesting things to analyze, but this is a film that really only an academic could love. There is a great history behind what LaBruce did and Bosio seems to gloss over much of it in favour of film buffs waxing poetic and talking over each other. Not at all what one would expect about such a controversial cinematic figure and I don’t necessarily mean that in a good way. But this film easily has more penis than any other film at HotDocs, so if that is what you are looking for, you will get what you pay for. Actually, you might just be better off seeking out LaBruce’s past output if that’s all you want.
Rating (out of five stars): **
Friday, May 6th at 9:00 p.m. at Bloor Cinema
Saturday, May 7th at 8:45 p.m. at TIFF Bell Lightbox 2
Hot Docs 2011 runs from April 28 – May 8. For more information, and to purchase tickets, visit hotdocs.ca.
Top image: A scene The Advocate for Fagdom. Courtesy Hot Docs.