Hot Docs 2016: ‘Holy Hell’ and ‘The Infinite Flight of Days’

Holy Hell (DIR. Will Allen)

By: Shahbaz Khayambashi

Cults have almost become a stereotype in our society to a point where anyone can practically spot one on sight.  This is one of the main reasons why Holy Hell is so powerful.

Through the use of archival footage and testimonies of former members of a cultic society, the viewer is brought face-to-face with some of the most blatantly cultic imagery imaginable.  A smug patron can decide to watch Holy Hell and see themselves as smarter than the fools who bought into such an exploitative system, while the empathetic viewer will instead see the lengths to which people go for love and acceptance.  Holy Hell, with its psychedelic archival images and heartfelt explanations of why people stayed, is valuable for many audiences who want a personal tale, an unusual tale, or perhaps want to understand a time that spawned the likes of Heaven’s Gate and the Order of the Solar Temple.

The story is familiar: a charismatic figure promises lost and lonely (and, in this case, extremely conventionally attractive) individuals a better life if they worship and follow him, leading everyone to seemingly live happily ever after (some insisting their happiness until the very end) until the truth comes out.  While the story is still usually fascinating, how Holy Hell unfolds gives this film its added kick.

Since all of the footage was conceived by director Will Allen while he was a member of the featured cult, this chronicling develops an interesting dichotomy between how he felt at the time and how he felt while making the documentary.  Unfortunately, the film did not answer one question that I was hoping would be tackled: the question of the complicity of the propagandist in atrocity.

Despite that oversight, Holy Hell is a powerful look at an underseen (at least from this angle) subject.

Catch Holy Hell at Toronto’s Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival on:

Sunday, May 1 at 9:45 p.m. @ Bloor Hot Docs Cinema

Tuesday, May 3 at 10:00 a.m. @ TIFF Bell Lightbox

Friday, May 6 at 7:00 p.m. @ Hart House Theatre


The Infinite Flight of Days (DIR. Catalina Mesa)

By: Trevor Jeffery

Catalina Mesa’s The Infinite Flight of Days says plenty, but if it were to say only one thing loud and clear, it’s that Colombia has beauty.  It’s in the country’s people and in their stories, in the communities, buildings, and landscapes.  The documentary puts the beauty of the small town of Jericó on display, through thoughtful framing and a colour palette that would set Wes Anderson’s heart aflutter.  Except, you know, these places are real.

The Infinite Flight of Days focuses on women in the small Colombian town Jericó, as they recount their lives: losses and gains, love and hate, tears and laughter.  As conversations, these stories are engaging and warm.  Each subject has their own endearing charm that makes movie goers actually disappointed when we have to move on to the next person.  The process repeats: we quickly find ourselves attached to someone, until it is, yet again, time to move on.

Each chapter is a portrait of someone’s life unto its own, and the diverse and stunning visuals are simple treats to keep you hanging on for more.

Catch The Infinite Flight of Days at Toronto’s Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival on:

Monday, May 2 at 6:00 p.m. @ TIFF Bell Lightbox

Wednesday, May 4 at 1:30 p.m. @ Scotiabank Theatre

Sunday, May 8 at 4:15 p.m. @ Scotiabank Theatre


Click here for more festival details and to buy tickets.

Do You Tweet? Follow These Tweeple:

Shahbaz Khayambashi: @ShaKhayam

Trevor Jeffery: @TrevorSJeffery

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