One of the common criticisms of advocacy films like Bully that I’ve heard and share is that the filmmakers narrowly focus on victims without ever exploring those who perpetrate. These films help along the equivocal knee-jerk reaction to oppression when we have a two-dimensional villain to point to: kids today! But why do kids bully and what are their lives like? Answering, or at least interrogating, these questions would move us in a direction to better understand the complexities of bullying and would likely elicit a more nuanced, thoughtful reaction…read more
North America’s largest and most sweeping doc-deluge, the Canadian International Hot Docs Festival, is once again in full swing, and the moment wouldn’t be complete, for me at least, without some form of commentary that assesses this institutional giant as it marks another year. In that spirit and as with past “taking stock” previews (2014 is here, 2013 is here and 2012 is here) of Hot Docs, I humbly present my take on this year’s fest, divided into three Sergio Leone-inspired sections: what’s promising, what’s looking like a fixer-upper, and…read more
I’ve watched over 50 documentaries in the last two weeks (and many more over 14 years of programming), and here’s what I’m thinking:* The first point is so crucial that I’d like to just put it up front and center, then get on with the lesser evils of contemporary documentary filmmaking: If white people, who are usually or always cis-gendered males, are featured in your film as the only subjects, protagonists or voices of authority, then you have either made a film about a small remote sect in some distant…read more
Earlier this month I had the pleasure and privilege of participating in NSCAD’s Cineflux Symposium, an academic gathering that explores the “old new” forms, modes, practices and theories of cinema. My Postdoctoral supervisor, Dr. Darrell Varga, invited me to present a paper on the politics of presence and documentary activist screening spaces, which was indeed given to a receptive audience on the last Sunday morning of the symposium. There was a slight hiccup with my arrival for my panel, as my phone was still set to Montreal time and the…read more
When Marc Glassman, the editor of POV magazine, asked me to join the publication as the newest contributing editor last year I was honoured. As Canada’s only source of writing on documentary culture, politics and production, the quarterly has been my go-to on all things doc for some time. Started by the Canadian Independent Film Caucus (now the Documentary Organization of Canada) in 1993 along with the Hot Docs film festival, POV delivers articles on documentary policy, production, and distribution, as well as film reviews and interviews. I recently checked…read more
An unforgettable documentary about the real costs of resource exploitation — a must see.
Svetla and I are giddy with anticipation with the thought of attending the world premiere of a new doc by our Bulgarian friends Vanya and Svetlo, THE LAST OF THE BLACK SEA PIRATES at this year’s Hot Docs. If the film is half as good as the incredible trailer above, then we’re in for a real treat. The action takes place at our favourite beach in Bulgaria, a magical sandy place where the sun always shines and where crazy characters are in abundance.
The beaten (by the Canadian Conservative budget cuts) but not down National Film Board of Canada is offering a treasure trove of titles for free streaming today, in celebration and recognition of International Women’s Day. Included in the bunch is the 2012 experimental short by Jenn Strom, below (after the jump), called ASSEMBLY. We’re not talking about a couple of films here, we’re talking dozens of amazing documentaries. The section also features a forward by Ravida Din, Director General of English Program, who discusses the NFB’s herstory with the women’s…read more
Much ink has been spilled and pixels punctuated regarding the ongoing controversial topic around the copyright, downloading, streaming and file sharing of creative content — yet there has been little discussion (outside of organizational listserves and at festival forums) of documentary cinema and file sharing. This may be in large part due to the fact that public discourse is catching up to a trend that is really less than five years old. Whereas commercial and mainstream fiction cinema has been swapped, downloaded and streamed online since file sharing’s early days, documentary has…read more
This week’s Friday Film Pick is the beautifully shot and tenderly rendered Scrappers, a documentary that quietly follows two Chicago residents as they eke out a living from the salvaging of metallic refuse. It’s not fist-in-the-air advocacy filmmaking for the downtrodden, but in its own way Scrappers gets under the skin, forcing a closer look at the stark indexes of inequality present in contemporary America. With a subtle grace and empathic approach this gorgeous film challenges the notion of the “American Dream” — the mainstream media and Hollywood fairytale that…read more