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Hot Docs 2017: ‘My Enemy, My Brother’ and ‘PACmen’

My Enemy, My Brother (DIR. Ann Shin)

In 2015, Ann Shin documented a rather unusual event: an Iranian child soldier, Zahed, had recently had a chance encounter with an Iraqi soldier, Najah, whom he had saved during the Iran-Iraq war, at a Vancouver institution for survivors of torture.  This chance encounter had made the two men friends.  This anomaly had led to the short film My Enemy, My Brother.  Now, Hot Docs is home to the world premiere of the feature version of that story, which also has the same name.  It may be slightly unfair to call it a remake, because the feature version includes the stories of Najah returning to Iraq to reunite with his wife and Najah coming to terms with his parents’ illnesses.

For anyone who has not seen the short, this is an amazing story.  Unfortunately, the feature tends to drag in certain spots: this is the sort of film which needs to be shorter than an hour, used as an exercise in storytelling.  The segments which were added don’t have satisfactory conclusions and everything else just seems like a retread of the short.  In fact, the short has been basically segmented and edited into the feature.  For those who have seen the short, it may be worthwhile to follow up with the characters, but that is about all you will get out of this.

Finally, the subtitles may not seem like much, but there is a complaint to be made about them (a complaint that was present in the short as well): why are the English lines spoken by the protagonists being subtitled, even though the subtitles are merely transcriptions of the spoken words?  There is something vaguely offensive about this practice, but that is a discussion for another time.

For anyone who is interested in seeing this story unfold the way it was meant, the short can be found online, but, as it relates to the feature, there are worse ways to spend an evening.

– Shahbaz Khayambashi 

Catch My Enemy, My Brother at Toronto’s Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival on:

Saturday, April 29 at 9:00 p.m. @ TIFF Bell Lightbox

Monday, May 1 at 4:00 p.m. @ Scotiabank Theatre

Saturday, May 6 at 6:30 p.m. @ Scotiabank Theatre

UPDATE: My Enemy, My Brother will receive a one-week long theatrical engagement at Toronto’s Carlton Cinema. Accompanying the release is an exclusive preview of Eye of the Beholder, a free 30-minute VR experience movie goers can try in the theatre’s lobby.  

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PACmen (DIR. Luke Walker)

Dr. Ben Carson receives the Weiner treatment in Luke Walker’s PACmen, a documentary about Carson’s ambitions to be the Republican bid in this past year’s Presidential election as told through his fundraising teams and hopeful supporters.

Life moves pretty fast for Carson. Early in his campaign, he was greeted with sheer optimism from followers who appreciated his fearless public speaking along with his beliefs. To many, he was a fair competitor against Donald Trump’s aggressive strategies. However, just when it seemed as if Dr. Carson was untouchable, awkward comments made by the budding politician along with unsustainable details about his past became a heavy burden on his goals, and continued to poke holes in his relevancy. Meanwhile, his baffled, loyal fundraisers and supporters try to make sense of the ever-changing campaign.

PACmen is very observant and passionate. It may be more political and not as entertaining as the aforementioned Weiner, but the documentary sends home a versatile message. Walker’s wisely-constructed film earns a mutual connection with different audiences – conservatives, liberals, what have you. With unflinching honesty, PACmen shows us that despite our differences, we’re all human. We all experience the same feelings of enthusiasm and panic when we’re at our most confused state, and we will go to great lengths for our satisfaction.

– Addison Wylie 

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

Tuesday, May 2 at 7:00 p.m. @ TIFF Bell Lightbox

Wednesday, May 3 at 3:30 p.m. @ Hart House Theatre

Friday, May 5 at 11:00 a.m. @ TIFF Bell Lightbox

Saturday, May 6 at 12:30 p.m. @ Fox Theatre

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Click here for more festival details and to buy tickets.

Do You Tweet? Follow These Tweeple:

Shahbaz Khayambashi: @Shakhayam

Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie

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