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Hot Docs 2023 #5: 10 Short Reviews of 10 Short Films

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Hot Docs Film Festival

Whether serving as appetizers for similarly themed features or palate cleansers between more emotionally taxing fare, short films deliver a broad range of subjects served up in easily digestible morsel form. Here are a bunch I checked out!

Savi the Cat

Eat Flowers (5/8)
Visually stunning but a bit narratively wonky, this meditation on nature, color and friendship from director River Finlay chronicles her creative efforts to comfort a very-ill best friend through photography and video.

Eco-Hack! (7/8)
The dedicated work of conservation biologist Tim Shields — who’s made it his personal mission protect tortoises from extinction in the Mojave Desert by adopting all manner of creative tactics — is a beautifully shot, informative and entertaining nature doc.

Emission Impossible: The Future of Flight (NR)
Um. Hang on. This isn’t actually a “documentary”… is it? This short felt a LOT like a promotional corporate video for ZeroAvia, a company developing hydrogen-electric aircraft engines, to attract investors and/or sell their engines. So… it doesn’t feel right to rate it.

Field Notes (4/8)
This profile of a Toronto woman who discovered a love of birds during the COVID lockdowns was pleasant, but it felt like key pieces of information that could have tightened/fleshed out the narrative — for example, would a non-local viewer know what FLAP (Fatal Light Awareness Program) is/does? why does the subject keep dead birds in her freezer?, etc. — were missing.

Friday Night Blind (5/8)
Friendship and fun take center stage in this fun, cheerful profile of a trio of visually impaired bowlers who participate in a Milwaukee beer league. Judy, Rhonda and Sandy all prove that you don’t have to be able to see in order to get the most out of life.

Savi the Cat (7/8)
This grin-inducing short chronicles one couple’s on-again/off-again love/hate relationship with their destructive feline. Cute, funny and with a super-charming set of subjects, it’s a modern-day “The Cat Came Back,” complete with fabulous illustrations by Freyja Whitney.

She Run the World (7/8)
I love learning about people around the globe finding new and innovate ways to protect the environment and combat climate change. Director Koval Bhatia’s inspirational, idea-generating short profiles three super-smart young women whose waste-management solutions could — and should — easily be replicated everywhere.

Teleporting (5/8)
The role of technology in mitigating COVID’s impact on human connection provides the backdrop for this timely doc about four friends — two in Korea and two in Japan — who met online during the pandemic. Using video chats, augmented reality, and avatars (to disguise their identities), the quartet of young women find strength and kinship in each other.

Undertaker for Life! (6/8)
At first glance, I thought this mid-length doc was going to be a lot funnier and more irreverent than it is. I mean, it has an exclamation point in its title, and that’s usually a sign of an unapologetically fun film. Instead, director Georges Hannan’s look at the lives and work of an assortment of morticians — who vary in age, gender, religion and ethnicity — is a surprisingly thoughtful, insightful and contemplative exploration of grief, mourning, life and, of course, death.

We Ride (2/8)
Five seconds into watching this doc about women bikers, I knew it was directed by a man. What should have been a kick-ass film felt more like it was objectifying its subjects, and the booming male voiceover reading Hunter S. Thompson passages in a female-empowerment project seemed like a poor choice. I understand the creative device/framing the filmmaker was attempting, but it didn’t work for me at all.

Check out more of our Hot Docs 2023 coverage here!

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