HOT DOCS REVIEWS YOU CAN USE
FROM THE # METOO MOVEMENT TO THE ABUSES IN THE WHITE HOUSE, REAL LIFE IS MORE FASCINATING THAN FICTION THESE DAYS. THAT’S REFLECTED IN THIS YEAR’S STRONG SLATE OF URGENT, TIMELY FILMS.
By NORMAN WILNER, SUSAN G. COLE, KEVIN RITCHIE, GLENN SUMI and RADHEYAN SIMONPILLAI
Thursday, April 26 PUMPKIN MOVIE (Sophy Romvari, Canada). 10 minutes. Rating: NNNN See review at nowtoronto.com/movies. I USED TO BE NORMAL: A BOYBAND FANGIRL STORY (Jessica Leski, Australia). 96 minutes. Rating: NN See review at nowtoronto.com/movies. THE HEAT: A KITCHEN (R)EVOLUTION (Maya Gallus, Canada). 75 minutes. Rating: NNN See cover story and review, page 2. Friday, April 27 ñBISBEE ’ 17 (Robert Greene, U. S.). 118 minutes. Rating: NNNNN Robert Greene’s films linger in the cracks between fiction and non-fiction. His previous documentaries emphasize actors performing in staged scenarios to draw out emotional truths, and his latest is even more ambitious: an absorbing meta- doc with the sweep of a classic American western. In 1917, a copper mine in the Arizona-Mexico border town Bisbee conspired with deputized citizens to illegally round up roughly 1,300 striking workers – mostly immigrants – and deport them 1,600 miles away. The social cleanse has been erased from history books, so on its centennial Greene and local residents decide to reenact it. The collaboration brings together an eclectic cast of citizens, each distinct and with strong senses of their identities who come to see echoes of their own lives in the story they are to inhabit. Working with painterly DP Jarred Alterman, the director makes the most of Bisbee’s beautiful terrain, using striking framing and slow pans to convey a haunting sense of emptiness. There are no archival images, so the trauma and tragedy are conveyed entirely through the lens of the reenactors, people who continue to be affected by issues of race, labour and immigration. It’s all about little gestures and glances, and when past and present collide in the climactic scenes, it’s thrilling to watch. KR Apr 27, 2: 45 pm, Hart House; Apr 30, 11: 30 am, Scotiabank 7; May 4, 5 pm, Scotiabank 3 VICTORY DAY (Sergei Loznitsa, Germany). 94 minutes. Rating: NN See review at nowtoronto.com/movies. UBIQUITY (Bregtje van der Haak, Netherlands, Belgium). 82 minutes. Rating: NNN See review at nowtoronto.com/movies. THE GAME CHANGERS (Louis Psihoyos, Canada/U. S.). 88 minutes. Rating: NNN See review at nowtoronto.com/movies. MAJ DORIS (Jon Blåhed, Sweden/Norway). 73 minutes. Rating: NN See review at nowtoronto.com/movies. DREAMING MURAKAMI (Nitesh Anjaan, Denmark). 58 minutes. Rating: NNN See review at nowtoronto.com/movies. QUEERCORE: HOW TO PUNK A REVOLUTION (Yony Leyser, Germany). 80 minutes. Rating: NNN This efficient overview of queercore – a punk response to patriarchy and gay conformism in the 80s – charts how a small group of oppositional LGBT artists in Toronto eventually influenced aspects of the U. S. rock ’n’ roll mainstream. If you’ve seen Scott Treleaven’s Queercore ( A Punk- umentary) or Kevin Hegge’s She Said Boom: The Story Of Fifth Column, not a lot will be new here. Bruce LaBruce, G. B. Jones, Kathleen Hanna and others supply wit and context, but a token John Waters appearance adds absolutely nothing. It’s interesting to think about the endurance of queercore’s politics, but director Yony Leyser is less interested in exploring how these artists evolved than where they came from. As such, the most fascinating figure is Lynn Breed love, singer for raunchy San Fran dyke band Tribe 8. The band’s performance footage is bonkers and she adds emotion, complexity and honesty that’s missing from other interviews. KR Apr 27, 9:15 pm, Hart House; Apr 28, 3: 45 pm, Scotiabank 3; May 4, 9:15 pm, Hart House ALT-RIGHT: AGE OF RAGE (Adam Adam Bhala Bhala Lough’s Lough, U. Alt- S.) Right: 104 minutes. Age Of Rating: Rage NNN feels like two movies in one. For the first hour or so, the documentary is a standard (albeit over- stuffed) back-and-forth between white supremacist and Antifa member Daryle Lamont Jenkins, Richard with Spencer supplementary Jared Taylor commentary from American Renaissance’s and the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Mark Potok. Like a pot reaching a boil, these interviews lead up with disturbing momentum to the chaos of the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, last August, which causes the film — as indeed America — to lose its composure. While the documentary can’t figure out an elegant conclusion to this intensity, the images from the rally — including the tragic death of counter- protester Heather Heyer — are nevertheless a vital snapshot of violent racism’s cyclical grip. Apr 27, 9: 30 pm, Hot Docs Cinema; Apr 28, 1:15 JaKe pm, Howell Isabel Bader; May 4, 3: 45 pm, Hot Docs Cinema Saturday, April 28 UNITED WE FAN (Michael Sparaga, Canada). 97 minutes. Rating: NNNN Without playing into easy stereotypes or fringe characterizations, United We Fan explores the way beloved television series can bring people together – and even provoke them to action. Michael Sparaga ( The Missing Ingredient) draws a clear line from the passionate viewerships that created letter-writing campaigns to keep Star Trek, St. Elsewhere and Cagney & Lacey from cancellation to the modern age of online petitions and save- our-show stunts for the likes of Chuck, Longmire and Jericho. Talking to creators as well as fans, Sparaga assembles a cheery collage of anecdotes about how popular culture brings people together and inspires them to fight for the things they love. But he also explores the way viewer identification creates passionate support for a given show – and how an audience’s sense of ownership might start to conflict with the stories that show’s creators want to tell. NW April 28, 5:30 pm, Scotiabank 4; April 30, 3 pm, May 3, 12:15 pm, Hart House DOLOURS (Maurice Sweeney, Ireland). 82 minutes. Rating: NNNN In 2010, journalist Ed Moloney sat down with former IRA member Dolours Price for a wide-ranging interview – under the condition that it be locked away until after Price’s death. Price died in 2013, and now Maurice Sweeney’s hybrid documentary illustrates that conversation with elaborate re- enactments to create a decadesspanning study of what it meant – and what it cost – to be a Republican in Northern Ireland. The bulk of the film is composed of those reenactments, in which Price and her sister and comrade Marian are played by Lorna Larkin and Gail Brady, respectively. I’m usually put off by re- creations in documentaries, but the stylistic choices Sweeney makes allow us to understand that we’re seeing an interpretation of Price’s memories rather than a strict factual accounting. It’s an important distinction, and one that works very well. I, Dolours brings Price’s story – which included seven years in an English prison for the 1973 bombing of the Old Bailey – to vivid, brutal life. NW April 28, 6 pm, TIFF 3; April 29, 1 pm, Isabel Bader; May 6, 8:15 pm, TIFF 4 I’M LEAVING NOW (Lindsey Cordero, Armando Croda, US, Mexico). 74 minutes. Rating: NNN See review at nowtoronto.com/movies. WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR? (Morgan Neville, U. S.). 93 minutes. Rating: NNNN This must have been an inspiring change of pace for Morgan Neville, whose last pic was about the toxic feud between bitter political rivals William F. Buckley and Gore Vidal. Here, he takes on beloved children’s TV composer, writer and host Fred Rogers, tracing his career from Presbyterian minister to TV icon. Via Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, his show for pre-school children, he fearlessly dealt with profound issues – assassination, war, racism among them – all along demonstrating, never preaching, love. Rogers wasn’t a saint – see his initial response to a co-worker’s gayness – but Neville’s portrait is nevertheless of a gifted and exceptional human being. The doc is conventional, featuring interviews with Rogers’s family and collaborators, clips from the show and additional animation – which is becoming de rigueur these days – and Neville mistakenly lumps Pee Wee Herman into the makers of trash and bash children’s fare that Rogers tried to counter. It’s Rogers himself who makes this movie remarkable. SGC Apr 28, 6: 30 pm (Big Ideas screening), Apr 29, 1 pm, May 6, 12: 45 pm, all at Hot Docs Cinema CHEF FLYNN (Cameron Yates, U. S.). 83 minutes. Rating: NNN As a kid in the San Fernando Valley, Flynn McGarry dazzled his parents with complex menus; by the time he was 11, he’d turned their living room into a makeshift fine- dining restaurant called Eureka, offering a $160 tasting menu to select diners. Chef Flynn is a celebration of its subject rather than an inquiry into his specific skills; director Yates ( The Canal Street Madam) seems content to follow the prodigy from one event to the next as he tours the world and plans his big New York opening, filtering out any major conflicts that might distract us from scenes of Flynn obsessing over beet recipes or creating the perfect garnish. The result is a doc that probably made the McGarry family very happy, while proving frustrating to anyone who understands how documentaries are made and how restaurants work. NW April 28, 6: 45 pm, Isabel Bader; April 29, 10: 45 am, TIFF 1; May 5, 1:15 pm, Isabel Bader YOURS IN SISTERHOOD (Irene Lusztig, U. S.). 100 minutes. Rating: NNN See review at nowtoronto.com/movies. CALL HER GANDA (PJ Raval, U. S.). 93 minutes. Rating: NNNN PJ Raval’s doc about a trans woman in the Philippines who was murdered by a U. S. Marine in 2014 is an unflinching and eye- opening investigation into the emotional, physical and political toll continued American military presence is having in that country. It’s clear that Jennifer Laude’s killer is a Marine, but the country’s Visiting Forces Agreement essentially grants immunity to American officers, and the ensuing trial becomes a flash point that blows up politically. By focusing on Laude’s mother, Julita, lawyer Virgie Suarez and Buzzfeed reporter Mere dith Talusan, Raval makes clear and compelling connections between personal stories and systemic violence. In one of the most interesting scenes, a trans activist and friend of Laude’s explains how trans culture in the Philippines predates American colonialism, and another of Laude’s mother speaking to a scrum of reporters while clearly in the throes of grief is devastating, recalling the African-American mothers forced into the spotlight hours after police killings of their sons or daughters. This is a film that doesn’t shy away from challenging anyone’s attitudes about trans people and the ongoing effects of colonialism. KR Apr 28, 9:15 pm, Isabel Bader; Apr 29, 3: 45 pm, TIFF 1; May 6, 5: 45 pm, Scotiabank 3 ñMCQUEEN (Ian Bonhôte, UK). 111 minutes. Rating: NNNN The life and career of maverick designer Lee Alex ander McQueen are recounted in appropriately lavish style in this biographical doc, which traces his rise through the fashion industry through his untimely death in 2010, aged 40. Ian Bonhôte and writer/co- director Peter Ettedgui follow the standard celebrity template, moving chronologically through the key events of their subject’s life and offering context through interviews with family and friends. But they also have plenty of archival footage of McQueen himself, and of course his runway shows were all filmed in high style, which allows the doc to catch moments that seemed insignificant at the time, but clearly weren’t. Bonhôte and Ettedgui also spend enough time on the clothes McQueen created that we can understand how his state of mind influenced each collection. It’s the sort of observation that feels reductive when you put it into words, but watching his designs shift from vivid punk expressions to dark meditations on physical transformation makes a hell of an impact. NW April 28, 9:15 pm, TIFF 1; April 29, 2: 30 pm, Hart House; May 6, 9 pm, TIFF 2 Sunday, April 29 93QUEEN (Paula Eiselt, U. S.). 85 minutes. Rating: NNNN What at first looks like a straightforward story about plucky Hasidic women battling to create an all-female emergency force in Brooklyn turns into something much more complex. There’s the predictable opposition from their community – which has its own skilled and strangely macho all-male emergency team. But then there’s the women’s formidable leader Rachel Freier, a committed seeker of justice, but with her own ambitions, who confronts resistance from within the group of activists. And there’s more humour here than you would expect. Check out a scene at the hair salon, where women discuss why they have to cover their heads. SGC Apr 29, 3 pm, Scotiabank 3; May 1, 8: 45 pm TIFF 2; May 6, 8: 45 pm, Hart House THE ACCOUNTANT OF AUSCHWITZ (Matthew Shoychet, Canada). 80 minutes. Rating: NNNNN This exploration of Oskar Gröning’s 2015 trial is short but mighty. Gröning, the man who registered the possessions left by prisoners on the train as they were processed in Auschwitz, was an unusual defendant. He openly confirmed the crimes committed at history’s most efficient killing machine, actively challenging Holocaust deniers (who nevertheless protested the trial outside the courthouse). His lawyers argued that, because he never killed anyone, he was not responsible for war crimes. Via interviews with the lead prosecutor at Nuremberg, commentators such as Alan Dershowitz and survivors, Matthew Shoychet packs into the doc a record of Gröning’s trial as well as a solid survey of war- crimes trials and how their emphases have shifted over time. Even issues dealt with briefly emerge as huge here, often both emotionally powerful and intellectually challenging. For instance, a short sequence in which one of the survivors forgives Gröning – causing a major uproar – is guaranteed to make you think. SGC Apr 29, 5: 45 pm, TIFF 2; Apr 30, 3: 45 pm, TIFF 1; May 4, 9 pm, Scotiabank 13 MY WAR ( Julien Fréchette, Canada). 98 minutes. Rating: NNN This gracefully shot and probing film profiles four western volunteers who sign up to fight ISIS in Iraq and Syria with the Kurdish army, including a melancholic ex-model from Vancouver and a wild- eyed, well-armed Quebec man. Director Julien Fréchette follows his subjects in classic observational style: we see them racing around in combat scenarios (in self-shot footage), but mostly they wait for something to happen and predictably grow antsy when war doesn’t live up to preconceived expectations. For better or worse, the Kurdish fighters are preoccupied so we don’t get much perspective from them. Ultimately, My War benefits from its subjects’ desire to perform for the camera, blurring the line between enabling and observing. Fréchette persistently asks “Why?” but his strict fly- on-the-wall approach allows him to evade his own question. Still, the doc subversively suggests the western need for war is, at least partially, existential. KR Apr 29, 6 pm, TIFF 3; May 1, 12: 30 pm, TIFF 2; May 3, 3: 30 pm, Scotiabank 3 THE DEVIL WE KNOW (Stephanie Soechtig, Jeremy Seifert, U. S.). 88 minutes. Rating: NNNN This doc about how a greedy corporation knowingly poisoned the Ohio River – and 99 percent of all Americans (!) – may not break any formal boundaries, but the shock factor makes it a must-see. West Virginia–based DuPont produced the chemical C8 for myriad products – including Teflon and Scotchgard. Despite health problems for factory workers and, later, people living downstream from the factory – even DuPont’s scientists and lawyers urged the company to inform the public – DuPont kept pumping out the poison. I’d tell you to dump your Teflon, but after a successful class-action suit against the corp, DuPont invented another untested toxin. And there are 88,000 other untested chemicals out there. SGC Apr 29, 6: 15 pm, Hart House; May 1, 12: 30 pm, Scotiabank 3; May 4, 12:15 pm, Hart House COMMANDER ARIAN: A STORY OF WOMEN, WAR AND FREEDOM ( Alba Sotorra, German/Spain/Syria). 77 minutes. Rating: NNNN Alba Sotorra’s look at the Kurdish resistance in Syria follows Arian Afrin, a commander in the Women’s Protection Unit ( YPJ) in her fight against ISIS – which leads to her taking five bullets in an ambush in 2015. That’s just the starting point of Commander Arian, which weaves footage of Arian’s painful recovery through a two-year span of time, climaxing in the spring of 2017 as her YPJ unit joins an operation to liberate the city of Kobane from an ISIS siege. We see her as a resourceful soldier and an even better leader of women, making sure everyone under her command knows they’re all fighting for so much more than literal liberation. And this isn’t just a war story: Sotorra catches some wonderful human moments between Arian and her comrades in arms, which helps to break up the tense battle footage. NW April 29, 6: 30 pm, Scotiabank 4; April 30, 10: 30 am, TIFF 2; May 6, 6:15 pm, Aga Khan Museum NETIZENS (Cynthia Lowen, U. S.). 97 minutes. Rating: NNNN Cynthia Lowen’s insightful and quietly furious doc spends time with multiple women who have all been victimized online, whether by violent threats, revenge porn or an all- consuming hack into their private lives. Netizens tracks the extent of the damage that the current legal system easily brushes aside and the women’s efforts to fight back. Their resilience is the story but the filmmaking often says more, such as when the camera lingers on tertiary details that complement or complicate arguments, or when Lowen withholds a surprising detail not for its narrative impact but to properly contextualize its relevance (or lack thereof). RS Apr 29, 6:30 pm, Hot Docs Cinema (Big Ideas screening); Apr 30, 10 am, Isabel Bader; May 5, 10 am, Hot Docs Cinema AFGHAN CYCLES (Sarah Menzies, U. S.). 90 minutes. Rating: NNN See review at nowtoronto.com/movies. Monday, April 30 YELLOW IS FORBIDDEN (Pietra Brettkelly, New Zealand). 94 minutes. Rating: NNN See review at nowtoronto.com/movies. THE CLEANERS (Hans Block, Moritz Riesewieck, Germany, Brazil). 88 minutes. Rating: NN See review at nowtoronto.com/movies. ACTIVE MEASURES (Jack Bryan, U. S.). 112 minutes. Rating: NNNN Assembling a wealth of information and presenting it with relentless, almost shark-like momentum, Active Measures sets out to prove two very simple points beyond any reasonable doubt: first, that Donald Trump’s ascendance to the presidency was the result of deliberate Russian interference in the American electoral process – tactics Vladimir Putin had previously deployed in Ukraine, Georgia and Estonia – and second, that Trump is neck- deep in questionable financial relationships with the Russian oligarchy and has been for decades. Jack Bryan builds his case with archival footage and present- day interviews with journalists, intelligence officials, diplomats and politicians like Hillary Clinton and John McCain, both of whom weathered smears and worse from Trump and his enablers during the 2016 campaign. Paralleling the early accusations of Trump allowing Russian gangsters to launder money through Manhattan’s Trump Tower and the Taj Mahal casino with the unsavory alliances that enabled Putin’s rise to power in the 90s, Active Measures tracks the two men all the way to their current status as puppet and puppet master. I had worried that the speed of breaking news would make this film stale- dated before it even premieres, but Bryan’s coverage is current enough to include a look at Cambridge Analytica’s datamining operations, and glimpses of Trump’s hapless counsel Michael Cohen. The only question Active Measures doesn’t answer definitively is whether Trump is actually aware of Putin pulling his strings, or if he’s just another useful idiot. Either way, we’re all screwed. NW April 30, 9 pm, Isabel Bader; May 2, 3: 45 pm, TIFF 1; May 4, 6:15 pm, TIFF 1 306 HOLLYWOOD (Elan Bogarín, Jonathan Bogarín, US). 94 minutes. Rating: N See review at nowtoronto.com/movies. ñTHE BILL MURRAY STORIES: LIFE LESSONS FROM A MYTHICAL MAN ( Tommy Avallone, U. S.). 70 minutes. Rating: NNNN The internet is rampant with examples of actor Bill Murray showing up at someone’s birthday party or touch football game, washing a stranger’s dishes or taking on temporary bartender duties at a club. Tommy Avallone’s sweet doc investigates many of these stories, forming a theory – put forth by many a journalist and author before – that these in-the- moment encounters are tied both to the actor’s improv training and life philosophy. While the structure of the film grows slightly tedious – Avallone repeatedly tries to reach Murray for an interview on his 1-800 number to create his own “Bill Murray moment” – the doc provides a fascinating look at celebrity, spontaneity and how technology often prevents us from being present. Stay after the closing credits for one of the loveliest tales of all. GS Apr 30, 9: 30 pm, Hot Docs Cinema; May 2, 10: 30 am, TIFF 1; May 5, 3: 30 pm, Hot Docs Cinema; May 6, 10 am, TIFF 1 Tuesday, May 1 ñSTRAND: UNDER THE DARK CLOTH (John Walker, Canada). 81 minutes. Rating: NNNN Photography giant Paul Strand comes under intense scrutiny in this entry, part of Hot Docs’s John Walker retrospective. Via interviews with many of Strand’s collaborators and two of his wives, Walker, who was mentored by the artist, reveals how Strand went from photographer to filmmaker – he’s credited with one of the first documentaries ever made – and then back to his first love, photography, all the time striving for social justice. Not surprisingly, since it’s about a visual artist, this doc is beautiful to look at. A sequence comparing Strand’s early photos with the paintings of modernists is especially arresting and his film imagery, especially in scenes from the anti- Ku Klux Klan feature Native Land, is powerful. But it’s not all deadly serious – consider his portraits of celebrities in 60s Paris. And what’s not to like about a movie that features Georgia O’Keeffe? SGC May 1, 3:15 pm, TIFF 2 ñON HER SHOULDERS (Alexandria Bombach, U. S.). 94 minutes. Rating: NNNN This harrowing documentary profiles Nadia Murad Basee Taha, a Yazidi woman from northern Iraq who witnessed the murder of her family members by ISIS and endured months of brutal captivity before escaping. Now an activist and a United Nations goodwill ambassador, she tours the world telling her story – which inevitably forces to relive the darkest time of her life, over and over again. On Her Shoulders is painfully aware of the toll Murad’s work takes upon her, and director Bombach makes sure we are, too. Without ever exploiting her subject’s past or pain, she’s made an empathetic, uncomfortable study of a woman pushing herself through her worst memories in order to make sure no one else ever has a similar experience. NW May 1, 6:15 pm, Isabel Bader; May 2, 10 am, TIFF 3; May 5, 4 pm, TIFF 2 WITKIN & WITKIN (Trisha Ziff, Mexico). 93 minutes. Rating: NNN See review at nowtoronto.com/movies. ANOTE’S ARK (Matthieu Rytz, Canada). 77 minutes. Rating: NNN See review at nowtoronto.com/movies. ñBLOWIN’ UP (Stephanie Wang-Breal, U. S.). 97 minutes. Rating: NNNN In 2004, a gob-smackingly progressive program is initiated in Queens, in which New York’s justice system gives women arrested for prostitution-related crimes the option of forgoing a trial in favour of counselling sessions. If they attend the sessions, their charges are dropped. Stephanie Wang- Breal’s persistent cameras capture conversations – and the close relationships – among the program’s participants, including special court judge Toko Serita, counsellor Eliza Hook and women, many of them illegal immigrants from China, caught up in sex work life. Attempts to zero in on the personal lives of Serita and Hook almost derail the pic, but Blowin’ Up (the term for leaving the sex trade) winds up being a powerful ode to a sanctuary city – even if Trump’s Immigration Services have started invading to sweep up the undocumented. SGC May 1, 6: 45 pm, Hart House; May 3, 12:30 pm, TIFF 1; May 5, 9 pm, Revue GOLDEN DAWN GIRLS (Håvard Bustnes, Norway, Denmark, Finland). 92 minutes. Rating: NNN See review at nowtoronto.com/movies. ñTHE BLUE WALL (Richard Rowley, U. S.). 76 minutes. Rating: NNNN On the night of October 20, 2014, Laquan McDonald was shot and killed by a Chicago police officer on the street near a Burger King. The official story was that he’d pulled a knife and lunged at the officers who wanted to question him about car break-ins in the area; officer Jason Van Dyke had no choice but to defend himself. It took over a year for the truth to come out: McDonald was facing away from Van Dyke and the other officers when Van Dyke opened fire, shooting the 17-year- old a total of 16 times. The Blue Wall recounts the incident and the subsequent cover- up through security footage, news broadcasts and present- day interviews, moving chronologically from the shooting to the official spin to the bad faith and outright lies that eventually crumbled as more and more evidence came to light. ( The film makes a good case that mayor Rahm Eman uel and his staff tried to bury a crucial dash- cam video because its release would have threatened his 2015 re- election chances.) It’s a story that’s no less exasperating for its familiarity, but Rowley – director of the Oscar-nominated Dirty Wars – makes us feel the pain and rage of McDonald’s family and community, framing it against the cynical rationalizations an institution deploys to maintain its authority and avoid taking responsibility for its mistakes. NW May 1, 9 pm, Isabel Bader; May 2, 12: 30 pm, Hart House; May 3, 9 pm, Scotiabank 3. ñTHE OSLO DIARIES (Mor Lushy, Daniel Sivan, Canada/Israel). 98 minutes. Rating: NNNNN In 1993 the Palestinians and the Israelis made a peace agreement in the midst of unbearable tensions between the two peoples. This pic traces the process of negotiators arguing, agonizing and finally crafting a deal. Extremists on both sides couldn’t bear it. At the mammoth rally celebrating the pact, Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated by extremist right-wing Zionists and demoralized Israeli leaders withdrew from the agreement. Three essential points emerge. Talking leads to enemies discovering one another’s humanity. Nobel Peace Prize winner Rabin was an exceptional leader who stood up to Israel’s settlers and condemned Israeli violence against Palestinians. Benjamin Netanyahu, the leader of the opposition party Likud – who egged on his supporters who were screaming “Death to Rabin” – has blood on his hands. He’s now Israel’s prime minister. How close they came to peace, how far away that goal seems now. SGC May 1, 9 pm, TIFF 1; May 2, 12: 30 pm, Isabel Bader ñOUR NEW PRESIDENT (Maxim Pozdorovkin, U. S.). 77 minutes. Rating: NNNN Our New President looks at the ascent of Donald Trump from the perspective of the Russian Federation, creating a puckish collage of broadcast media and civilian videos that appears to react to each stage of the 2016 election. Director Maxim Pozdorovkin mashes up silly homemade YouTube videos with editorially skewed coverage from national broadcaster RT – which frets about the state of Hillary Clinton’s health and Barack Obama’s posture even more often than FOX News did – to create a portrait of a nation determined to keep its citizens gossiping about foreign politics so they won’t question what’s happening in their own government. The framing device in which Pozdorovkin suggests Trump’s election is the result of some kind of ancient curse is a little much, but I can sort of see how he made the leap. It’s as reasonable an explanation as anything else. NW May 1, 9 pm, Scotiabank 4; May 3, 10 am, TIFF 1; May 5, 12: 45 pm, TIFF 1 ñBATHTUBS OVER BROADWAY (Dava Whisenant, U. S.). 87 minutes. Rating: NNNNN If you’ve never whistled songs about light bulbs or bathroom fixtures, that could change after watching this ridiculously entertaining documentary about “industrial musicals,” a sub- genre that flourished from the 1950s to 80s, when big corporations would commission Broadway-style musicals to be performed for their employees at national conventions. The Late Show With David Letterman writer Steve Young discovered these shows from their not-forpublic-sale souvenir albums and soon became obsessed, tracking down their more famous stars and creators (who include Chita Rivera, Martin Short and choreographer Susan Stroman) and also their lesser- known talents to find out more about the scene. Besides providing catchy audio and video samples from the shows and mind-boggling stats (the budget of one was six times that of the same year’s My Fair Lady), the doc presents a fascinating picture of optimism and corporate loyalty in mid-20th- century America. It’s also heartwarming to see the jaded, ironic Young follow his obsession as his own long-running TV show comes to an end and he goes on to his next venture. GS May 1, 9: 30 pm, Hart House; May 3, 9 pm, TIFF 1; May 5, 3: 45 pm, Isabel Bader Wednesday, May 2 ñMATANGI/ MAYA/M.I. A. (Steve Loveridge, U. S.). 97 minutes. Rating: NNNN M. I. A. doesn’t show up until nearly the halfway mark in Steve Loveridge’s breakneck and fascinating doc. Instead the film spends a great deal of time with home footage shot by Mathangi “Maya” Arul pragasam, before she becomes a Grammy-nominated recording artist and outrage- generator. Like a miniature coming- of-age story, early sequences see Maya in both London and Sri Lanka, sorting out an identity between Sri Lankan refugee and British citizen, child of an absent freedom fighter or terrorist (depending on your politics), documentarian or musician. It’s all context that informs what comes later with M.I. A.’s combustible mix of music and activism, where the search for identity continues between pop star and provocateur. RS May 2, 6: 30 pm, Hot Docs Cinema (Big Ideas screening); May 3, 4 pm, Coliseum Scarborough; May 5, 9 pm, and May 6, 9:30 pm, Hot Docs Cinema MORE HUMAN THAN HUMAN (Tommy Pallotta, Femke Wolting, Netherlands, U. S., Belgium). 79 minutes. Rating: NNN See review at nowtoronto.com/movies. ñCONSTRUCTING ALBERT (Laura Collado, Jim Loomis, Spain/Estonia). 82 minutes. Rating: NNNN I felt tired just watching Constructing Albert — which can only be a testament to the accuracy of Laura Collado and Jim Loomis’s portrait of chef Albert Adrià as he continually invents and reinvents his restaurant empire over a four-year span. Long known as the second banana to his brother Ferran at groundbreaking Spanish eatery El Bulli, Albert is desperate to make his own name. That fuels a thirst for culinary perfection and originality that not even two Michelin stars (which he scores early in the film for a pair of restaurants, one of which he promptly dismantles) can appease. Whether he’s fussing over an impossible-looking new dish, pep-talking his staff, accepting a lofty prize or lamenting some substandard detail in one of his dizzying, tough-to-keep-straight array of new projects (which the filmmakers admittedly could have delineated more clearly in editing), the look of laserfocused concentration never leaves the chef’s face. Adrià always seems to be reaching for some notion of excellence just beyond the borders of definition. The directors position the opening of Enigma, Adrià’s crown jewel restaurant, at the film’s finale — which, given the chef’s boundless drive and ambition, feels more like a “to be continued” than a neat bow on his story. Natalia MaNzoCCo May 2, 7 pm, TIFF 1; May 4, 1:30 pm, TIFF 3; May 5, 11 am, TIFF 2 ñOBSCURO BARROCO (Evangelia Kranioti, France/Greece). 60 minutes. Rating: NNNN France-based, Greek-born artist Evangelia Kranioti’s second feature- length film is a dreamy acid trip through Rio de Janeiro’s queer nightlife. Transgender activist and underground icon Luana Muniz is the film’s guide, reciting poetic lines from late author Clarice Lispector’s experimental monologue Água Viva. Like that book, Obscuro Barrocco avoids traditional narrative, drifting through clubs, street protests and carnival celebrations to capture the interplay of lights, fireworks, reflections, colour, gyrating bodies and the particular textures of makeup, glitter and aging body parts. It’s a dream-like film essentially fusing partying with politics, and Rio’s dazzling geography and architecture with human forms to suggest things otherworldly and transcendent. Pure visceral entertainment. KR May 2, 9 pm, Hart House; May 3, noon, Scotiabank 13; May 6, 1:15 pm, Scotiabank 13 ñPICK OF THE LITTER (Dana Nachman, Don Hardy, U. S.). 79 minutes. Rating: NNNN There are few things more delightful than Labrador retriever puppies, and Pick Of The Litter knows it, following five dogs over their first two years of life as they’re placed with foster families by Guide Dogs for the Blind. Producer/directors Dana Nachman (Batkid Begins) and Don Hardy lean into the adorability of it all – and really, how could they not? – but they’ve also constructed a thoughtful film about the exacting selection process for guide dogs, and the bonds that form between the pups and the people who’ve agreed to raise them for a limited span of time. (Not everyone fully understands the emotional investment, which leads to some painful moments when the time comes for a given pup to move forward in his or her training.) The dogs are totally winning, and the complexity of their training is fascinating. The packaging is maybe a little on the cutesy side, but as an infomercial for Guide Dogs for the Blind, it’s undeniably effective. NW May 2, 9 pm, Scotiabank 4; May 4, 1 pm, Isabel Bader; May 6, 3:15 pm, TIFF 1 SLUT OR NUT: DIARY OF A RAPE TRIAL (Kelly Showker, Canada). 70 min. Rating: NNN See review and story, page 8. PLAYING HARD ( Jean-Simon Chartier, Canada/U. S.). 90 minutes. Rating: NNN See review at nowtoronto.com/movies. BACHMAN (John Barnard, Canada). 80 minutes. Rating: NN See review at nowtoronto.com/movies. ñBARBARA RUBIN AND THE EXPLODING NY UNDERGROUND (Chuck Smith, U. S.). 78 minutes. Rating: NNNN Barbara Rubin And The Exploding NY Underground makes a pretty good argument that the single most important person in American culture in the early 60s was a young woman who showed up in Manhattan, got a job with experimental filmmaker Jonas Mekas and wound up influencing not just her mentor but also Andy Warhol, Bob Dylan, Allen Ginsberg, Lou Reed and countless others. Rubin was 17 years old when she met Mekas; just a few years later, she abandoned it all for a life as far removed from the Factory scene as one can imagine. But while she was active in New York, she changed the course of the culture – bringing Warhol to the first Velvet Underground show, introducing Dylan to Jewish mysticism and making a sexually graphic short film, Christmas On Earth, that served as a feminist counterpoint to Jack Smith’s far better known Flaming Creatures. It’s a hell of a ride, and director Chuck Smith lays out Rubin’s trajectory and her art in vivid detail, contextualizing a wealth of archival footage with presentday testimonials from her family and friends (including film critic Amy Taubin) and Rubin’s own letters, read by Claire Jamison. The result is a portrait of an artist determined to make the most of every last artistic impulse – even if that meant pitching Walt Disney on a pornographic sequel to Christmas On Earth that she believed would expand the minds of anyone who saw it. She just needed a little help with the animation. NW May 2, 9: 45 pm, Hot Docs Cinema; May 4, 6: 30 pm, Scotiabank 13; May 5, 9:15 pm, Hart House Thursday, May 3 ñSIBLINGS (Audrey Gordon, France). 63 minutes. Rating: NNNN Audrey Gordon’s small, lyrical, fly- on-the-wall doc drops in on a summer camp where siblings separated by foster homes reunite annually. The children, from adolescents to verging on adult, soak up everything they missed in the year together, whether it’s a birthday cake, impromptu dance- off or aimless but comforting wandering. The film doesn’t hang on their unfortunate circumstances, nor does it try to impose any meaning beyond a clever structure that’s aware of how fleeting time can be. But within that time, Gordon collects moments between these kids and sees something beautiful in the unique connections they make. RS May 3, 6 pm, Scotiabank 7; May 4, 3:15 pm, Scotiabank 7; May 5, 12: 30 pm, Fox Theatre Saturday, May 5 THE TROLLEY (Stephen Low, Canada). 45 minutes. Rating: NN See review at nowtoronto.com/movies.