Hot Docs 2013 Preview Pt. 3: The Manor, ALIAS, and The Devil’s Lair

A scene from The Manor. Courtesy Hot Docs.

In the third part of our Hot Docs 2013 preview we take a look at The Manor, ALIAS, and The Devil’s Lair.

The Manor
Special Presentations
Directors : Shawney Cohen and Mike Gallay

A first time filmmaker chronicles the life of his out of the ordinary family in this year’s hilarious and sometimes heartbreaking opening night film. Director Shawney Cohen’s look at his family’s three decade long ownership of the titular Guelph area strip club balances the funny and uncomfortably awkward through the lens of a man trying to understand the madness around him a little better.

Cohen has to be admired for the warts and all look at his family beyond just their salacious profession. His father is grotesquely obese, potentially to the point of immense suffering, His dad’s brain trust is his lovesick brother who’s dating the talent and a longtime friend that might be doing some illegal junk behind his back. Back at home, his mother suffers in silence with an eating disorder the rest of the family is pretty blind to see. It’s bracing stuff with a healthy dose of dark humour, but Cohen shows just how much he loves the people around him no matter how conflicted he feels about their lifestyles. It’s just as much a film about him as it is everyone else.

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

Thursday, April 25 at 9:30 p.m. at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema (Rush tickets only)
Monday, April 29 at 12:00 p.m. at the TIFF Bell Lightbox

Canadian Spectrum
Director: Michelle Latimer

T-Dot hip-hop takes centre stage in this look at several artists trying to come up in the rap game. Making a clear distinction between rappers people who just rap for the heck of it, director Michelle Latimer takes a look at the struggle to be heard and to try and make a go of it working in a field that’s often pretty thankless. It shows the love and devotion it takes to keep going even when it seems like you can never break through.

Focusing primarily on three acts, Latimer takes viewers through a world of low budgets, packed open mic stages, and even a music video shoot that takes on almost Spinal Tap levels of bizarreness. It’s hard not to wish that it would be a bit longer than just barely over an hour since there has to be so much going unsaid, but it’s still a very down to Earth look at those grinding it out day in and day out for what they love.

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

Friday, April 26 at 7:00pm, Royal Cinema
Sunday, April 28 at 1:00 p.m. at the Scotiabank
Saturday, May 4 at 8:45 p.m. at the Scotiabank

The Devil’s Lair
World Showcase
Director: Riaan Hendricks

An absolutely terrifying and striking verite look inside the day to day life of a South African drug runner and gangleader, director Riaan Hendricks takes viewers closer to the inside of a drug den than they probably ever dreamed of getting. This film is the definition of “the real deal.”

Braaim runs a gang called Nice Time Kids, but they’re anything but. Despite having a fed up wife and two young children, he finds himself in the middle of a turf war with two rival gangs. He has doubts about his profession, but he’s in too deep to ever get out.

The film opens with Braaim ordering a hit on someone and making sure its carried out, and yet it still manages to build tension from that point on. It’s haunting and at times almost claustrophobic how close Hendricks gets to the nastiness at the heart of an area boasting one of the highest murder rates in the world.

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

Wednesday, May 1 at 6:30 p.m. at the TIFF Bell Lightbox
Thursday, May 2 at 3:30 p.m. at the TIFF Bell Lightbox

Hot Docs 2013 runs from April 25 – May 5. For more information, and to purchase tickets, visit

Top image: A scene from The Manor. Courtesy Hot Docs.

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.