HotDocs 2009 Day Four: Fest Firsts

To borrow from the standard-issue introduction at every HotDocs screening, I have a little bit of housekeeping to take care of: the comments feature on these entries is a little wonky. We’re aware of the problem and are working to resolve it. Apparently, trying multiple times might get it to kick in, and registering as a user also works. Thank you for reading, regardless.

Now, moving on…

Today featured a couple of festival firsts for me at HotDocs. A walkout and a giveaway!

Neither occurred at my first screening of the day, the thoughtful Those Who Remain (6/8), which profiles various Mexican families who have members of their family living in, or en route to, America. Beautifully shot and sort of poetic in its execution, the film examines the internal conflict among the Mexicans who have left or are leaving, and – as the title suggests – the family members they leave behind. While it did feel a bit long and seemed to have at least three endings, the stories told within it were all quite moving, and nothing more so than listening to a little girl read a letter to her papá… asking that he please never forget her. (Cue: Vickie tears.)

Thankfully, though, the tears I shed at Those Who Remain were the last ones I shed at HotDocs today. Because my second film was responsible for one of the aforementioned firsts: my first walkout of this festival.

I was actually looking forward to seeing Action Boys, which was apparently about the Seoul Action School, an academy that trains stunt performers in Korea. Problem is, that is SO not what the film is actually about. Because, instead, the documentary is a sloppy, disjointed, confusing mess that feels a lot like a frenetic collection of home-video footage shot by a bunch of friends and assembled into a whopping 1 hour and 48 minute (?!) film that would be entertaining solely to those friends. There was no context, the action (literal and figurative) jumps back and forth in time, and there was nothing in its first 70 minutes (after which I walked out) about the actual school. As if all of this wasn’t enough, every single second of the movie is NARRATED by an anonymous woman who literally describes everything onscreen. As in: “he lights a cigarette and waits… he is angry… he falls asleep in a strange way as if to indicate his displeasure…”

(Cue: a Vickie-shaped silhouette departs in the darkness as if to indicate her displeasure.)

Last up was a documentary that promised excessive male nudity. And delivered. Director Michael Noer crafts a wacky, wild and wanton road movie with The Wild Hearts (6/8), which follows its titular subjects – a Moped “gang” – on an alcohol- and debauchery-filled journey from Denmark to Poland. At times unexpectedly sweet and frequently nutty, the film profiles this group of young male friends who hug and kiss each other freely, get naked ALL THE TIME and slowly reveal their insecurities to the camera and each other. Buoyed by a great soundtrack, The Wild Hearts proved to be a spirited way to end the day.

The screening itself was blessed with a fantastic post-film Q&A, and that Q&A was responsible for the day’s second first: the giveaway! Just before the audience filed out of the theater, Noer announced that he had four movie posters from the film to hand out if anybody wanted one. Cue: stampede. The best part was moderator Myrocia Watamaniuk (sigh) saying into the mic, “But you have to take your clothes off!”

And then someone did.

(Well, he took off his shirt. Still, one doesn’t see that – or free posters – at every HotDocs screening.)

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