MCN Blogs
Ray Pride

By Ray Pride Pride@moviecitynews.com

Looking back, looking forward: HotDocs 2009-2010

My first mistake was traveling with a fractured rib. I’d planned to cover films and panels in great detail at HotDocs 2009, but when every sneeze, cough or laugh is accompanied by a sharp rebuke from deep inside, it becomes daunting. For two days before my flight, I’d been in the hospital for all kinds of tests, all of which came up clean. I was determined not to cancel my trip to HotDocs. The prognosis was a relief, especially considering that only about six weeks earlier, I’d been at another documentary festival, the Thessaloniki International, where walking past a political rally held by a right-wing party led to trouble. Taken for “an anarchist infiltrator,” I got a beating in the Square of Heavenly Wisdom that could have been deadly, if not for the intercession of a couple of concerned riot police.
65redroses
(I wrote about that incident here.) Still, I thought I’d be fine, I’d be blogger-on-the-spot, with reviews and stills and videos on a tick-tock timely basis, a tough enough prospect, as every online writer soon discovers, even without stabbing pain. (I was grateful for the strangers I met who had read my Thessaloniki story and for their kind empathy, even if most wrongly assumed that the rib and the Greek incident were related.) I’ll be attending the last four days of HotDocs 2010; my fingers are crossed. Reporting on the opening weekend’s panels and activities makes me envious. I’m hoping it’ll still be valuable to observe the waning days rather than the friendly frenzy of meeting and greeting that makes HotDocs such an important festival for documentary makers and programmers to attend.
What perspective does a year offer, rather than the hot-hot-heat of insta-posting? Checking into my hotel the first rainy afternoon, James Toback was just down the hall, the door ajar, and he was loudly, proudly regaling the bellman with Michael Tyson stories. I thought better of a hello. In the evening, there was a Brit party in Kensington, where my friend from Sheffield’s DocFest, Hussain Currimbhoy ran interference while I held my rib. A bracing bit of perspective was immediately at hand when Yung Chang [left]introduced Nimisha Mukerji and Philip Lyall, the filmmakers of 65redroses, and their subject, Eva Markvoort ([right]. Eva had been a lifetime sufferer of cystic fibrosis, and the fierce documentary is a heartbreaker. More perspective: Eva passed away less than a month ago, at the age of 25.
Overcast Yorkville
Autumn’s Toronto International is abandoning its Yorkville origins, moving further south in the city, including at their new headquarters. Even with the first months of economic trouble, the sky in the area around most of the HotDocs programming was shadowed with construction cranes.
Seasons
Still: spring. Spring in Toronto, a lovely time.
Mila Aung-Thwin
The Rogers Industry Centre is located in a building on the Victoria College campus, and collegiate (collegial?) informality rules. Mila Aung-Thwin, from Eyesteel Film, catches sun and WiFi.
Andy Astra Thom
Conversations are rich, even if you were to only eavesdrop on the likes of Andy Bichelbaum (The Yes Men Fix The World), Astra Taylor (The Examined Life) and Thom Powers, TIFF documentary programmer and creator and host of the Stranger Than Fiction documentary series in New York.
TDF
For two days, filmmakers pitch at the Toronto Documentary Forum, with fifteen minutes to convince the commissioning editors around this table that their work deserves their channel’s cash. Eugene Jarecki is one of the most impressive pitch artists I’ve ever witnessed. A highlight in 2009 was a slightly nervous Christopher Hitchens talking up a film about his lecture tour casting doubts on God.
Transformation
The late nights are sometimes comfortingly inexplicable.
Query
And language barriers are no barrier over drinks.
Cat ladies
Logistical mayhem is eased by the Doc Shop, where films in the festival, as well as films that were submitted did not make the cut, are available to view on an extremely well-designed system, feeding from a closed server onto rooms full of stations lit by iMac screens. Postcards and buttons are sometimes clever enough to convince you a film like Cat Ladies is worth a peek.
Cumberland Rush
Meanwhile, rain. Rush lines. Eager filmgoers. Terrific films, serious-minded and giddy alike. Thursday’s opening night film was Babies, or, “March Of The Zygotes.” And the cycle begins for HotDocs 2010… [An extended slideshow of forty-seven HotDocs 2009 photos is here; my 2008 photos-and-text report for Variety is here.]

Comments are closed.

Movie City Indie

Quote Unquotesee all »

What about replacing Mr. Spacey with another actor? Mr. Plummer, perhaps.
“That would theoretically be fantastic,” Mr. Rothman said he responded. “But I have supervised 450 movies over the course of my career. And what you are saying is impossible. There is not enough time.”
~ Publicizing Sir Ridley’s Deadline Dash

“Would I like to see Wormwood in a theater on a big screen? You betcha. I’d be disingenuous to argue otherwise. But we’re all part of, like it or not, an industry, and what Netflix offers is an opportunity to do different kinds of films in different ways. Maybe part of what is being sacrificed is that they no longer go into theaters. If the choice is between not doing it at all and having it not go to theaters, it’s an easy choice to make.”
~ Errol Morris