Films discovered at Hot Docs

I love discovering new films at festivals and testing just how memorable a film becomes amongst so many more. So a month after Hot Docs, which films have stayed with me?

Planet of Snail

This IDFA winner by Korean director Seungjun Yi is a beautiful love story of a deaf-blind poet and his wife. He is extremely tall and child-like; she is very short with a serious face. She uses finger braille to communicate with him. Her fingers were like butterflies liberating him from his silence. The film employs exceptional observational cinematography to capture those intimate moments and the way they share and experience the world. I was mesmerised and immersed in their world. 

The Ambassador

Photo by Johan Stahl Winthereik

Sundance award-winning Danish director Mads Brügger goes to extremes in order to expose how easily diplomatic accreditation can be bought in Africa for purposes of illegal trading. From setting up backroom deals with corrupt consuls and brokers to creating his own business in the Central African Republic, he takes us on an extraordinary journey of corruption and deception. There is a huge irony to this film: to be able to expose how power truly works, the director acts as the main character, and the film turns into a well-crafted black comedy that gets exponentially more dangerous the deeper he goes. We know from the beginning that he is not real – but the situation and the dangers are very real indeed. I would not normally go for such acting in documentary, but the ability to navigate between danger and comedy by making the audience an accomplice allowed the director to create various perceptions of reality within one film.

Sweden had a very strong presence this year at Hot Docs, and the following are among my favourite films.

Big Boys Gone Bananas!*

Photo by Joseph Aguirre

Swedish director Fredrik Gertten tells the story of food giant Dole filing a lawsuit against the filmmaker. It is an extraordinary in-depth case study of an independent filmmaker’s battle with the corporate world. Fredrik managed to capture every turning point in the story without portraying himself too much as a victim or drama queen. Rightly so, the screening ended with a huge standing ovation. My hands burned from clapping. Every filmmaker in the cinema felt thankful to Fredrik for defending our rights to make films without interference and intimidation.

Women with Cows 

A fly-on-the-wall documentary by Peter Gerdehag about 12 cows, several cats, thousands of flies, and two elderly sisters! Their constant bickering is great source of humour as well as pain. A farming community is not what I tend to associate Sweden with. The use of landscape and animals to express human emotions sustains our curiosity throughout the film.

Colombianos

A very intimate family portrait of two brothers and a mother, by Tora Mårtens. One of them is a medical student, the other one is an alcohol addict. Their daily struggle to overcome this gap and not threaten the love they have for each other is a major dramatic challenge. The film gives us 90 minutes of suspense and ends with most extraordinary twist. Bergman, eat your hat!

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