HOT DOCS 2014: Reviews Set 1

April 24, 2014 | By


Hot Docs 2014 officially launches tonight, and in advance of the full programmes that’ll make up each of the subsequent days between April 25 – May 4, I’m posting sets of reviews reflecting some of the eclectic subjects typical of the film festival.

If anything seems to characterize the films this year, it’s the many filmmakers who tackled their subjects as director-cinematographers, applying their own striking visual sensibilities.

The Darkside, for instance, offers 2.35:1 images framed like geometric patterns to convey a collection of ghost stories retold by actors, whereas The Overnighters emphasizes the physical surroundings and the changing faces of its subjects to show the effects a job boom in a town unable to house its workers have on workers and a generous Lutheran pastor.

The maker of Sacro GRA is similarly obsessed with striking angles to convey the various character strands in this loose portrait of the people who live in and around Rome’s encircling highway. Slums: Cities of Tomorrow is aglow with the colours of densely-packed residential structures throughout the world, and it’s a visual tactic that supports the director’s viewpoint of slums being the seeds of modern urban society rather than cesspools of crime.

The last film in this quintet may end up nabbing a nomination or a prize for best cinematography, as The Songs of Rice is the most immersive and visually ravishing film I’ve seen in a while. One can easily transpose its subject – the rice harvests in rural Thailand – for any local fruit or vegetable harvest in North America, but the blazing colours wouldn’t be as dynamic. Plus: you also wouldn’t see the launching of some hand-crafted (and kind of scary) fireworks.




Coming next: another set of Hot Docs 2014 reviews, including Doc of the Dead, and Khrushchev Does America.



Mark R. Hasan, Editor

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