Hot Docs 2019: ‘Assholes: A Theory’

Assholes: A Theory (DIR. John Walker)

After being inspired by Aaron James’ book Assholes: A Theory, documentarian/cinematographer John Walker set out to make a movie of the same name that would explore the lifestyle of the supremely arrogant.  The results are fairly satisfying, more or less, but it’s hard to make a case that the film is focused.

Assholes: A Theory is a shotgun spray of topics, all using a common thread tracing these issues back to ignorant behaviour exhibited by different types of egotists.  Various professors, authors, and students are interviewed, offering their intellectual opinions to weigh in on the psychology driving this terrible behaviour.  Actor John Cleese chimes in as well and although his appearance is random, his diverse comic relief breaks up the doc’s mellow structure.  But overall, Walker’s project is less of a conventional doc and more of an open discussion captured on digital video – nothing too flashy, just the meat and potatoes driving the director’s curiosity.

Assholes: A Theory may have been a hit at Hot Docs and at Copenhagen’s CPH:DOX, but the film’s mainstream fate is still up in the air.  Considering that the film was produced by the Documentary Channel and the NFB, I suppose Assholes: A Theory will eventually find its way to television – a platform best suited for this modest movie.


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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie

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