Friday, April 20, 2007

Hot Docs #2: Strategy

This afternoon, I went to the HotDocs media room and picked up my press pass. Yay! But the process, however thrilling, was an exercise in non-security: I didn’t have to show any I.D. (?!), I just walked up to the desk, said my name and they handed it to me. Given the hoops one has to jump through to get accredited at other fests (*cough*TIFF*cough*), I was somewhat taken aback at how easy it was. After she handed me my pass, the volunteer manning the desk smiled, gave me an envelope and said, “And heeeeere’s the most important part – your party tickets!”

I wanted to tell her that party tickets were waaaay down on my festival priority list, but I simply thanked her and left (not before snagging a “Your Mommy Kills Animals” button). Most of the invites are for one person only, which is understandable but (for a wallflower like me) makes the thought of flying solo at an event where everybody knows everybody else kind of daunting. I don’t know that I’ll actually use any of those tickets.

Unfortunately for me, I wasn’t be able to use my shiny new press pass right away because I had to spend most of the day today waiting by my phone to do an interview with an athlete...who never called. Neither did her agent. It’s now 10:40pm and I still haven’t heard from them – no apology, no rescheduling, nada. It’s times like these that I long to interview celebs, whose handlers are at least very apologetic if their clients don’t behave. Anyway, I’d spent all morning waiting, and eventually dashed to the HD industry centre for my pass before dashing home...all for nothing. I could have seen more movies today if I’d known my interview subject was gonna flake out on me.

As I sat on my couch watching time crawl by, I began to restrategize my HD moviegoing. When I first flipped through the schedule last week, I picked films based on their marquee value – i.e., which ones look like they’ll be big crowd pleasers and which ones have the most amount of pre-fest buzz? But today I realized that I was making a mistake. If everyone and their cousin was clamoring to get tickets to high-buzz flicks like Manufacturing Dissent or Let’s All Hate Toronto (which I’d originally planned to see tonight), who’s going to cover all the other, smaller, perhaps lesser-known films screening this week? Who’s going to champion the little guy? What if there are some magnificent movies playing to half-empty houses because people were too busy trying to scam their way into Punk the Vote! (which looks fun but is screening at the very tiny Innis Town Hall later in the week)?

So, I redid my sked. I picked different films. I reorganized my week and decided to see movies that I might not otherwise see. I mean, if I can be blown away by In the Shadow of the Moon, which I had zero interest in seeing, what else might I discover if I expand my horizons a bit? I therefore decided to skip Let’s All Hate Toronto (which I’m sure is good but which will also likely wind up airing on the CBC) ce soir and see something else. And I’m delighted to report that the two films I saw instead confirmed that I was totally making the right call.

The first was a short called Magic Night (6/8), which profiles a blind Finnish bird “watcher,” who spends every night walking along a road through bird-filled brush in order to listen to the array of avian voices that fill the air. Simple and poetic, the film is a smart and melodic rumination on beauty – do you need to see the bird in order to enjoy its song? (Hint: nope.) This short was also a brilliant companion piece to the feature-length documentary that made up the rest of the screening.

As an accredited member of the press for this fest, I’m not allowed to post full reviews of the films I see (only capsule reviews until the films’ theatrical release dates). But oh, how I wish I could, because the second film of the night -- Hear and Now (8/8) -- was simply breathtakingly good. If I could, I would give it 9 out of 8 slices. Or 10. I absolutely loved it. Filmmaker Irene Taylor Brodsky trains her lens on her 65-year-old parents, Sally and Paul, who have both been deaf since birth and who both decide (at 65) to have cochlear-implant surgery, which would allow them to hear for the first time in their lives. Simultaneously joyous and heartbreaking, the film is a beautiful portrait of love more than anything else, and had most of the audience crying on and off throughout. It also shows the struggles and frustrations inherent in giving up the life you know for one that may or may not be better, depending on your point of view.

Both Paul and Sally were in attendance at tonight’s screening, and they received a standing ovation when they took the stage after the film. Funny, inspiring and true partners in every sense of the word, they made a huge impact on those of us at the Bader. (For anyone reading this in time: the film screens again tomorrow (Sat.) at noon at the ROM. I highly, highly recommend checking it out if you can. Bring Kleenex!) Again, I wish I could ramble on about the movie for ages, but I can’ see it for yourself and enjoy.

Tomorrow, OMG, it’s Girls, Rock!


Lou said...

There's just something about training the lens on real life. I love to read your responses to these documentaries!

Vickie said...

Aw, thanks, lou! Still eight more days (!) to go, so I expect you'll still have a lot more to read. :-)

Linda said...

Hear and Now sounds like a great film. If you haven't seen it, you would probably also like the doc Sound and Fury from 2000... it was nominated for an Oscar, I believe. It is also very moving and emotionally volatile.

Vickie said...

"emotionally volatile" is just your way of saying, "Vickie, you're gong to BAWL...", isn't it?

Linda said...

Yes. :)