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Hot Docs 2023 #10: Five More Short Reviews of Five More Short Films

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Hot Docs Film Festival

There are tons of shorts screening at the festival — either on their own as opening acts for features, or grouped into thematic programs — and here are five more quick-hit reviews of some I checked out!

Beautiful Poison (7/8)
This super-cool short combines two of my fave documentary subjects: art and science! Director Dan Ashby’s fascinating eco-doc follows artist John Sabraw as he and his team discover they can turn iron-oxide river pollution from Ohio coal mines into valuable pigment — leading to a genius solution to help regenerate dead waterways and their surrounding communities.

Entities with Knowledge (3/8)
I’m not really sure for whom this film — which takes a cursory look at the use of magic mushrooms, and follows the director on a psychedlics-generated trip to deal with some kind of emotional trauma that is never actually revealed — is intended. Who’s the audience? It was scattered and confusing, felt weirdly self-indulgent, and I have no idea what the take-away is meant to be.

How We Get Free (7/8)
Co-directors Geeta Gandbhir and Samantha Knowles profile Elisabeth Epps, the fiercely dedicated and determined Executive Director or the Colorado Freedom Fund, in this compact and compelling biographical doc. The film follows Epps on the job, where she works (and works and works) tirelessly to help those who can’t afford to post bond while they await trail. It’s a sobering examination of an under-examined component of the U.S. justice system.

Sisterhood Softball (6/8)
Director Farhiya Ahmed explores the titular Toronto-area league run for and by Muslim women, which removes many of the barriers to sport they face, and from which the players — many of whom are immigrants — find friendship, community and confidence, on and off the field. It’s a great female-empowerment film that feels like it’s offering a taste of what could easily be a feature-length doc.

Waste to Life (7/8)
Like Beautiful Poison, this short is a refreshing look at how brilliant, planet-saving ideas can emerge from literal garbage. In the film, director Ose Oyamendan profiles Nigerian “wastepreneur” Rita Idehai, who not only figured out a clever way to build a business out of repurposing and upcycling used plastic bags, but who’s helping vulnerable women learn marketable skills in the process.

Check out more of our Hot Docs 2023 coverage here!

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