One of the perils of seeing a large volume of films at Hot Docs is the inevitable emotional exhaustion that can set in, especially if you find yourself seeing one sad story after another. Garden of Eden (5/8) is sort of a microcosm of that phenomenon because it literally features one sad story after another in its somewhat meagre 75-minute running time.
The film tracks a year at the Sakhne, a large, popular public park in Israel, where people come to swim, soak up the sun and cleanse their spirits, literally and figuratively. Filmmaker Ran Tal finds a wide array of park visitors and, one by one, they each tell their respective stories in voiceover. But each story is sad! Abandoned spouses, beaten wives, families lost in the Holocaust, lives ruined – I started to wonder if anyone carefree ever visits the park. Like 15 Reasons to Live, not all the stories are as compelling as the rest, but the film still works as a languid meditation on healing.
If you feel the need to do penance, or if you just love suffering through bad movies, hurry out and get your ticket for The Last Black Sea Pirates (1/8), an achingly boring film features a bunch of unpleasant, toothless, alcoholic old men behaving badly on the coast of Bulgaria. Here’s what the movie is about: NOTHING. It’s purportedly about “pirates,” and how a resort development threatens their livelihood, but these wildly unappealing men are only “pirates” in the sense that they waste their days digging holes in the woods, looking for buried gold. And, save for a passing mention, there is nothing at all in this movie about the construction of a resort. Note: what I’ve just written is at least 10x more exciting than anything that happens in this documentary. Thankfully, it was only 72 minutes long, and I’m giving it one generous slice because, despite it abject dreadfulness, it does have some nice cinematography.