HOT DOCS 2014: Reviews Set 5

May 7, 2014 | By



The fifth and final set of reviews from Hot Docs 2014 features a quartet of documentaries from the NFB, each somewhat sharing aspects of emotional & psychological trauma, tough childhoods, and learning to eschew indifference during the final years of high school.

As her mother’s mental health continues to deteriorate due to the effects of Alzheimer’s, director Carole Laganière examines the effects of living without a parent or sibling, and the four ongoing stories in Absences (2014) are very moving: coping with the death of a father, the disappearance of a sister, the estrangement of a mother, and the slow mental decline of a mother.

Some viewers may recognize bits of themselves in the handful of teens filmed by director Jean-Francois Caissy in Guidelines / La marche à suivre (2014), and identify with the ennui of school, the after school boredom, and slowly processing the reality of being caught after doing something quite dumb. Favourite moment: a kid who slowly admits to a knowing teacher he did indeed do something wrong to a classmate. Been there, done that – which is why it’s amusing to see it from the other side, watching the limited brain power of a youth realize the jig is up before throwing up both arms and acquiescing to whatever needs to be done so he can get back to his friends.

Toronto’s had some recent high profile tragedies in which someone suffering from mental illness were confronted by the police, and the outcome was tragic. The incidents polarize families and communities against police, and the media hovers around to heighten and exploit outrage while advocates for the mentally ill hope each event will result in significant changes in the way the police handle someone clearly ill with a potential for violence, but not directly engaged in it. John Kastner’s Out of Mind, Out of Sight (2014) humanizes the image of a troubled stranger by letting patients undergoing behavioural therapy explain and reflect on the circumstances and current states. It’s the sobering and tempered information which should’ve been covered by the media, but can’t due to the destructive time limits on news segments in prime time coverage. One of the best docs of the festival.

Lastly, we have Claude Demers’ Where I’m From / D’où je viens (2014), an unusual self-reflective piece on childhood in which the director’s impressionistic narration supports a collage of striking images and vignettes with present day kids in his hometown of Verdun, Montreal.



Coming soon: Twilight Time’s new Blu-ray editions of David Lynch’s polarizing Wild at Heart (1990) and Steve Barnett’s Mindwarp / Brain Slasher (1992), some final thoughts on Hot Docs 2014, and the first set of Toronto Jewish Film Festival reviews.



Mark R. Hasan, Editor

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