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Hot Docs 2024 #9: 10 Short Reviews of 10 Short Films!

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Hot Docs Film FestivalWith a broad range of topics served up in easily digestible bites, the short films at Hot Docs always prove that great (and, sometimes, not-so-great) things can come in small packages. Here are 10 of the shorts I checked out this year!

Am I the Skinniest Person You’ve Ever Seen? (8/8)
Unfolding like a beautiful spoken-word art project, director Eisha Marjara’s rhythmic and revealing film packs a lot into its brisk running time, thoughtfully and creatively exploring the themes of sibling rivalry, body image, eating disorders, family dynamics and cultural expectations, through an assemblage of home videos, photos, reenactments and archival footage. (Screening with Shorts Program 4)

The Big Wait (6/8)
The town of Forrest in Western Australia sits in the middle of nowhere and has a population of two — Greg, and his wife, Kate — but nonetheless has an emergency landing strip, which the duo manage just in case a passing plane needs to make an unexpected pit stop. Director Yannick Jamey’s charming character study provides insight into the pair’s everyday activities, and serves as an oddly sweet love letter to living a life of purpose-filled isolation. (Screening with Fire Tower)

Christmas, Every Day (4/8)
If you’re looking for evidence of the decline of human civilization, look no further than social-media “influencers,” especially the ones shoved in front of the cameras by their parents. Director Faye Tsakas’ profile of rich kids Laura and Lyla Wesson feels like little more than a promotional piece for the pair, lacking in real insight or critical exploration, instead reaffirming (intentionally or not) the superficiality of the influencer life — especially when it involves monetizing childhood. (Screening with Shorts Program 3)

The Everlasting Pea (7/8)
While you may think we don’t have a whole lot in common with plants, this almost-ASMR-esque botanical brief proves otherwise. Using time-lapse and macro photography to capture movement, growth and reaction to stimuli, this imaginative doc from director Su Rynard examines plant “consciousness,” and reveals the remarkable history of vegetation in Rome’s ancient Coliseum. (Screening with Shorts Program 2)

It’s Okay (4/8)
Filmmaker David France’s short centered on a drag-queen story hour — and one boy’s experience in attending — felt weirdly staged. The kid’s behavior, especially. Intended (I think?) to condemn North Carolina’s proposed bill making it a felony for drag queens to perform for anyone under 18, the film’s message is subtle to the point of being totally unclear. The drag queen who was reading to the kids was great, though! (Screening with Shorts Program 3)

Meet Me at the Creek (5/8)
Narrated by Rebecca Jim, this eco-themed film consists entirely of Jim’s poetic recollections of Oklahoma’s Tar Creek, which runs through her family property but which is considered endangered due to pollution from nearby mining operations’ waste rock. Like It’s Okay, the doc’s message is a bit muddied — had I not read the synopsis, I don’t know that I would have understood what it was trying to convey, aside from nostalgia for greener days gone by. (Screening with Shorts Program 2)

TR(ol)L: New Kids on the Block, Total Request Live and the Chain Letter that Changed the Internet (6/8)
Possibly the short film with the longest title in history (or, at least, at the fest), this lively look back at the viewer-driven subverting of MTV’s Total Request Live on March 10, 1999, is a sort of TRL 101. Director Yourgo Artsitas enlists former TRL hosts Dave Holmes and Ananda Lewis, as well as New Kid Joey McIntyre, to revisit the day mischief makers decided to test the limits of the show’s voting system. While I wish the doc had delved a bit more into the how instead of just the what, it was a nonetheless entertaining recap. (Screening with Shorts Program 3)

Sandcastles (5/8)
The subtext of Carin Leong’s pensive film seems to be “those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” The doc juxtaposes the town of Singapore, Michigan (which was deforested and subsequently buried by sand dunes in the 1800s) and the country of Singapore, where sand is currently being used to infill harbors so that the new “land” can be developed. Aerial photography and archival footage help shore up the narrative, but I found the film just okay. (Screening with Shorts Program 6)

Skate! (2/8)
It drives me nuts — and not in a good way — when a film’s description winds up having nothing to do with the actual film I then watch. That was the mystifying case with this equally mystifying short. Purportedly about amateur hockey’s “toxic masculinity” and “institutional complicity in abuse” in Canada, this doc is (as far as I could tell) about neither. I don’t actually know what it’s about, really, but was glad it was only eight minutes long. (Screening with Shorts Program 6)

The Sparkle (7/8)
As predicted when I earmarked this doc as one I was excited to see, director Isabelle Grignon-Francke’s moody and evocative short could very easily be the foundation for a feature-length doc or multi-part documentary series. Chronicling the behind-the-midway after-hours antics and conversations — about life, the future, collecting rocks — of a group of carnival workers, the film has a sort of sad, melancholy vibe that suits the end-of-summer-set material perfectly. (Screening with Shorts Program 4)

 

Check out all of our Hot Docs 2024 coverage here!

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