May 17, 2021
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Hot Docs Hightlights (Act 2 – War)

TO411 documentary review
by staff writer Daisy Maclean

James Elkins once wrote, “There are things we do not see, things we can not see and things we refuse to see.” It is blindness. Seeing involves more than opening our eyes.

Traumatic events have a huge impact on the sight and memory of those who experience them and none more so than those who have lived through a war. The act of creating a documentary provides to us with a visual artifact: a new chance to see the event, to gain a different perspective and to expand our social vision. At its best, a documentary provokes new thought and discussion, sounding its distinct voice into the muddy darkness.

This year Hot Docs has shown a number of well crafted films about the subject of war. While not all of them have been special, well made or easy to watch, Here are my top three picks:

Enemies of the People: Top investigative journalist Thet Sambath, spent ten years getting to know Nuon Chea, otherwise known as Brother Number Two, one of the surviving leaders of the Khmer Rouge, the notoriously harsh regime responsible for the killing fields of Cambodia. The reasons behind the killings have never been explained until now, as Sambath convinces both men and women involved at all levels to break the silence they’ve kept for 30 years. One of the most chilling films I have ever seen, this is not for the faint of heart. The film’s imagery focuses mainly around the killing fields as they are today, farmland and rice patties, their gruesome history buried beneath the serene surface. The stories told by those who carried out the kill policy are agonizing and disturbing: one man sits lit by a torch in the foreground, with insects crawling on him as he relates how he was encouraged to eat the gall bladders of those he killed. It as if he is already in the hell he imagines awaits him. This is a landmark film for this subject matter, well structured, and complimented by a beautiful score from master composer Daniel Pemberton.

Budrus: The border between Israel and Palestine is one that’s well know for its acts of violence between the two countries, so much so that Israel is building a wall to separate the two peoples. The plans for the wall, however, put it clearly on Palestinian land, destroying farms that have existed for generations and cutting through entire towns along the west bank. In this documentary we follow Ayed Morrar and his daughter Iltezam, as they use non-violent demonstration methods against the soldiers intent on carrying out their orders. So inspiring is the cause that people from many cultures, including Israelis themselves, come to rally against the wall. A powerful film that focuses on a solution that brings hope towards and end to the violence. The example of the town of Budrus has inspired many other small towns along the west bank to adopt peaceful methods of protest. The film is definitely biased in its editing, which gives it a manipulative air, however it makes a strong statement with an inspiring story that makes it a good film to catch at Hot Docs.

Disco and Atomic War: Part of the world showcase this week, this film offers a very different perspective on the fall of the Soviet Union. Set in Estonia, a group of engineers fabricate their own antennae, out of pipes or thermometers, in order to watch the American programs broadcast on Finnish television next door. Classified as “soft tactics” the availability of American programming seemed to have inspired a revolution in the ’80s for Estonian youth. This is a charming film that uses a directorial style similar to film makers like Michael Moore, because of the interpretive control imposed on the narrative. Much of the film is drawn from the director’s own childhood memories and the many re-enactments often have a tongue in cheek feel to them. This film is entertainment at its documentary best. I couldn’t wait to tell my friends and you, my readers, how much fun I had.

Daisy Maclean will review recently completed documentaries for TO411 Daily – please contact her for more information: daisy@to411.com. 

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Front Page, Industry News

Hot Docs Hightlights (Act 2 – War)

TO411 documentary review
by staff writer Daisy Maclean

James Elkins once wrote, “There are things we do not see, things we can not see and things we refuse to see.” It is blindness. Seeing involves more than opening our eyes.

Traumatic events have a huge impact on the sight and memory of those who experience them and none more so than those who have lived through a war. The act of creating a documentary provides to us with a visual artifact: a new chance to see the event, to gain a different perspective and to expand our social vision. At its best, a documentary provokes new thought and discussion, sounding its distinct voice into the muddy darkness.

This year Hot Docs has shown a number of well crafted films about the subject of war. While not all of them have been special, well made or easy to watch, Here are my top three picks:

Enemies of the People: Top investigative journalist Thet Sambath, spent ten years getting to know Nuon Chea, otherwise known as Brother Number Two, one of the surviving leaders of the Khmer Rouge, the notoriously harsh regime responsible for the killing fields of Cambodia. The reasons behind the killings have never been explained until now, as Sambath convinces both men and women involved at all levels to break the silence they’ve kept for 30 years. One of the most chilling films I have ever seen, this is not for the faint of heart. The film’s imagery focuses mainly around the killing fields as they are today, farmland and rice patties, their gruesome history buried beneath the serene surface. The stories told by those who carried out the kill policy are agonizing and disturbing: one man sits lit by a torch in the foreground, with insects crawling on him as he relates how he was encouraged to eat the gall bladders of those he killed. It as if he is already in the hell he imagines awaits him. This is a landmark film for this subject matter, well structured, and complimented by a beautiful score from master composer Daniel Pemberton.

Budrus: The border between Israel and Palestine is one that’s well know for its acts of violence between the two countries, so much so that Israel is building a wall to separate the two peoples. The plans for the wall, however, put it clearly on Palestinian land, destroying farms that have existed for generations and cutting through entire towns along the west bank. In this documentary we follow Ayed Morrar and his daughter Iltezam, as they use non-violent demonstration methods against the soldiers intent on carrying out their orders. So inspiring is the cause that people from many cultures, including Israelis themselves, come to rally against the wall. A powerful film that focuses on a solution that brings hope towards and end to the violence. The example of the town of Budrus has inspired many other small towns along the west bank to adopt peaceful methods of protest. The film is definitely biased in its editing, which gives it a manipulative air, however it makes a strong statement with an inspiring story that makes it a good film to catch at Hot Docs.

Disco and Atomic War: Part of the world showcase this week, this film offers a very different perspective on the fall of the Soviet Union. Set in Estonia, a group of engineers fabricate their own antennae, out of pipes or thermometers, in order to watch the American programs broadcast on Finnish television next door. Classified as “soft tactics” the availability of American programming seemed to have inspired a revolution in the ’80s for Estonian youth. This is a charming film that uses a directorial style similar to film makers like Michael Moore, because of the interpretive control imposed on the narrative. Much of the film is drawn from the director’s own childhood memories and the many re-enactments often have a tongue in cheek feel to them. This film is entertainment at its documentary best. I couldn’t wait to tell my friends and you, my readers, how much fun I had.

Daisy Maclean will review recently completed documentaries for TO411 Daily – please contact her for more information: daisy@to411.com. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Front Page, Industry News

Hot Docs Hightlights (Act 2 – War)

TO411 documentary review
by staff writer Daisy Maclean

James Elkins once wrote, “There are things we do not see, things we can not see and things we refuse to see.” It is blindness. Seeing involves more than opening our eyes.

Traumatic events have a huge impact on the sight and memory of those who experience them and none more so than those who have lived through a war. The act of creating a documentary provides to us with a visual artifact: a new chance to see the event, to gain a different perspective and to expand our social vision. At its best, a documentary provokes new thought and discussion, sounding its distinct voice into the muddy darkness.

This year Hot Docs has shown a number of well crafted films about the subject of war. While not all of them have been special, well made or easy to watch, Here are my top three picks:

Enemies of the People: Top investigative journalist Thet Sambath, spent ten years getting to know Nuon Chea, otherwise known as Brother Number Two, one of the surviving leaders of the Khmer Rouge, the notoriously harsh regime responsible for the killing fields of Cambodia. The reasons behind the killings have never been explained until now, as Sambath convinces both men and women involved at all levels to break the silence they’ve kept for 30 years. One of the most chilling films I have ever seen, this is not for the faint of heart. The film’s imagery focuses mainly around the killing fields as they are today, farmland and rice patties, their gruesome history buried beneath the serene surface. The stories told by those who carried out the kill policy are agonizing and disturbing: one man sits lit by a torch in the foreground, with insects crawling on him as he relates how he was encouraged to eat the gall bladders of those he killed. It as if he is already in the hell he imagines awaits him. This is a landmark film for this subject matter, well structured, and complimented by a beautiful score from master composer Daniel Pemberton.

Budrus: The border between Israel and Palestine is one that’s well know for its acts of violence between the two countries, so much so that Israel is building a wall to separate the two peoples. The plans for the wall, however, put it clearly on Palestinian land, destroying farms that have existed for generations and cutting through entire towns along the west bank. In this documentary we follow Ayed Morrar and his daughter Iltezam, as they use non-violent demonstration methods against the soldiers intent on carrying out their orders. So inspiring is the cause that people from many cultures, including Israelis themselves, come to rally against the wall. A powerful film that focuses on a solution that brings hope towards and end to the violence. The example of the town of Budrus has inspired many other small towns along the west bank to adopt peaceful methods of protest. The film is definitely biased in its editing, which gives it a manipulative air, however it makes a strong statement with an inspiring story that makes it a good film to catch at Hot Docs.

Disco and Atomic War: Part of the world showcase this week, this film offers a very different perspective on the fall of the Soviet Union. Set in Estonia, a group of engineers fabricate their own antennae, out of pipes or thermometers, in order to watch the American programs broadcast on Finnish television next door. Classified as “soft tactics” the availability of American programming seemed to have inspired a revolution in the ’80s for Estonian youth. This is a charming film that uses a directorial style similar to film makers like Michael Moore, because of the interpretive control imposed on the narrative. Much of the film is drawn from the director’s own childhood memories and the many re-enactments often have a tongue in cheek feel to them. This film is entertainment at its documentary best. I couldn’t wait to tell my friends and you, my readers, how much fun I had.

Daisy Maclean will review recently completed documentaries for TO411 Daily – please contact her for more information: daisy@to411.com. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

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