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Hot Docs 2011

North America's largest documentary film festival, Hot Docs, opens today in Toronto and screens nearly 200 films through May 8 — and blogTO is already all over it, having run a mammoth preview in three parts (1, 2, 3), each divided into three sections: Top Picks, Recommended and Not So Recommended. I'll follow a sampling from those Top Picks with some recent reviews and overviews coming out the recently wrapped Full Frame Documentary Film Festival.

Empire North, winner of the 2010 Danish:DOX Award at CPH:DOX: "Danish artist Jakob Boeskov pulled off quite a stunt in 2001. After 9/11, he built a sniper gun designed to shoot GPS sensors into demonstrators; the pricks of the sensors penetrating the skin feeling like a mild mosquito bite. The gun was a fake, but the flocks of technology developers and international arms dealers were not. Hilarious and terrifying, it's like a performance-art James Bond film, only with real stakes. Raises provocative questions left and right, while also succeeding in turning the idea into an entertaining fiction."

Hot Coffee is "an extremely powerful documentary, a call to action deconstructing the encroaching power of big business in the US over civil rights and liberties, and most interestingly, the ability to sue for damages." Buck "is the story of Buck Brannaman, a horse 'whisperer' of sorts who took the horse training world by storm by introducing his take on a kinder form of horse wrangling… But a horse comes by at the end of the film which presents a real challenge to Buck, the question arises, is he really able to rehabilitate any horse, or are some horses, like people, too broken to be fixed?" And People in White "portrays the experiences of mental care patients through their own words and reenactments, and explores the unique relationships they have with their physicians from the patients' perspectives."

Monika Bartyzel has more capsule previews at Moviefone's troubled blog.

PopMatters dispatched a team to Durham a couple of weeks ago and posts their full report on Full Frame today. Again, blurbs galore. A few that caught my eye: "Il Capo, directed by Yuri Ancarani, is a beautifully shot 15-minute short with no dialogue and no soundtrack, save for the gnashing and grinding of the crane engines and the rumbling of rocks. The camera trains itself on a nameless, voiceless, shirtless man with a deep, dark tan, wearing nothing but cut-off denim shorts, marble-dusted work boots, and a thick gold chain with a large Jesus on the cross. He orchestrates the machinations of two gigantic cranes as they topple massive slabs of freshly cut marble on the side of a mountain in Catarra, Italy."

"If The Interrupters forces us to confront present-day manifestations of the inner-city violence epidemic, The Pruitt-Igoe Myth shows us, at least in part, how the conditions were created in which it could thrive."

"Lyon Forrest Hill's Junk Palace, is a brilliant, visually stunning gem of a short. With intricately built sets and papermâché marionettes, the film uses puppets to retell the tragic tale of the Collyers brothers who lived in East Harlem in the early 20th century, slowly accreting around them mountains of junk (scavenged trash, newspapers, and lord knows what else). As most know, the pair was eventually discovered crushed to death beneath their hoarded possessions." Trailer.

Jesse Paddock's Full Frame roundup is merely the latest entry in the House Next Door's admirably extensive coverage.


Also on Durham, Amy Monaghan caught The Loving Story, the directorial debut of Full Frame founder Nancy Buirski, and notes that it'll be screening once more in New York tomorrow as part of the Tribeca Film Festival. The story told is that of the Loving family, "who lent their name to the Loving v Virginia decision, delivered on June 12, 1967, by the unanimous Warren Court, which invalidated anti-miscegenation laws in Virginia and 15 other Southern states…. A trove of previously unseen photographs (many of them taken by Life's Grey Villet) and 16mm film (the latter shot by Hope Ryden in 1965 while the publicity-adverse defendants were living secretly in Virginia) turns the abstract but aptly named 'Loving' of Loving v Virginia back into a family fighting a terrible injustice. The film's most powerful moments come from two marriages, actually: the Lovings' and the marriage — a film term never more appropriate—of audio recordings of the Supreme Court testimonies with these photographs and silent footage of Mildred, Richard and their three children doing homely, ordinary things."

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