Hot Docs 2012 Preview Pt. 2

A scene from 'Jeff'. Courtesy Hot Docs.

In part two of our Hot Docs 2012 preview, Andrew Parker takes a look at Welcome to the Machine, The Great Liberty, and Jeff. Check back over the next few days for more previews of films playing at Hot Docs 2012.

Welcome to the Machine
World Showcase
Director: Avi Weider

Unfocused and not nearly as affecting and insightful as it could be, Weider takes a look at human’s relationships to the machines that run their lives through the personal lens of being the father of three premature babies who’ve needed technology to survive.

Looking at everything from high tech eyeglasses and remote fighter planes to the Unibomber’s anti-technology bent, Weider’s film goes all over the map with few interesting or definitive connections. He tries to look at the ethical and moral implications of our mechanical obsessions, but some great interviews are awkwardly assembled into a messy, shapeless whole. Weider’s emotionless, overly scripted personal narrations also don’t do the personal aspects of the film any favours.

Rating (out of five stars): **

Showing
Sunday, April 29th at 7:15 p.m. at The Royal
Tuesday, May 1st at 1:15 p.m. at the Cumberland 3
Friday, May 4th at 4 p.m. at the ROM

The Great Liberty
International Spectrum
Directors: Asa Blanck, Klas Ehnemark

Swedish filmmaker Ehnemark documents the life of his estranged, closeted father following his murder by reliving the past through old photographs and grainy home movies in this captivating, but tonally challenged reopening of old wounds running against the creation of new ones.

Shot mostly as a flashy first-person drama peppered with standard looking interviews and haunting archival footage, the style takes about 20 minutes to warm up to, but the compelling nature of the murder case and Ehnemark’s familial background makes up for some unnecessary stylistic excesses that leave things feeling extremely staged instead of organic.

Rating (out of five stars): **1/2

Showing
Saturday, April 28th at 6:30 p.m. at the ROM
Monday, April 30th at 4:30 p.m. at the TIFF Bell Lightbox
Sunday, May 6th at 9:15 p.m. at the Isabel Bader Theatre

Jeff
Nightvision
Director: Chris James Thompson

This look back at the impact infamous serial killer and cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer had on his Milwaukee, Wisconsin neighbourhood back in 1991 keeps things refreshingly simple by only relying on three really great interviews and some sparse, and creepily banal recreation footage that’s all about reading between the lines.

The stylish, good looking interviews of the lead investigator, a neighbour, and the county coroner paint a full picture, while the grainy recreations only show Dahmer (actor Andrew Swant) performing seemingly mundane errands and tasks that are a part of the gristly crimes that are tastefully never shown. They aren’t all necessary, but they provide good accompaniment to the facts at hand.

Rating (out of five stars): ****

Showing
Saturday, April 28th at 11:30 p.m. at the Bloor
Sunday, April 29th at 10:00 p.m. at the TIFF Bell Lightbox
Friday, May 4th at 9:45 p.m. at the TIFF Bell Lightbox

Hot Docs 2012 runs from April 26 – May 6. For more information, and to purchase tickets, visit hotdocs.ca.

Top image: A scene from Jeff. Courtesy Hot Docs.

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Andrew Parker

About Andrew Parker

Andrew Parker writes for numerous blogs and publications, including Notes From the Toronto Underground and his more personal pop-culture blog, I Can't Get Laid in This Town. He is also the curator of the Defending the Indefensible series of films at the Toronto Underground Cinema.