Wylie Writes @ Hot Docs 2014: A Different Type of Doc

To movie goers who may not be doc-savvy, they may instantly think a documentary has to be a film where talking heads flap away while being accompanied with relevant b-roll.  That’d be unfortunate because that’s not always the case.

The Hot Docs International Documentary Festival tries to provide audiences with documentaries that set out to portray the genre from a different angle.  The festival does a solid job at providing plenty of examples.

However, there are risks.  Sometimes departing from the beaten path works wonders for the filmmaker.  Other times, this new route serves as too much of a challenge with muddy results.

Joy of Man’s Desiring (DIR. Denis Côté)


By: Addison Wylie

For every filmmaker who understands the fundamentals of a documentary, there’s an unyielding boob who feels as if he needs to “spice things up” using stubborn strategies.  In this case, that alleged documentarian is Denis Côté.

Côté hit my moviegoing radar in 2010 when I was subjected to Carcasses, a “documentary” that felt the need to change the genre’s tempo.  What began as a ponderous doc about an enigmatic subject turned into an even more ponderous experience by adding in needless elements like supporting characters and weapons.  Almost as if Côté didn’t trust his original vision or had a change of heart halfway through the production.

There’s more of that in Joy of Man’s Desiring.

I’ll give the frustrating filmmaker the credit he deserves.  Denis Côté at least has a concept this time.  The film’s handling of monotony in an industrial workspace and those trapped in it is deliberately repetitive and raucous to create confining results.  There’s no escaping the clanging tedium.

However, Joy of Man’s Desiring is too staged to give the doc its indispensable naturalistic credibility, and is too much of a cyclical trudge to watch as an old fashioned movie.

Some will label Denis Côté’s definition of a doc as daring.  I’d love to hop on that arthouse bandwagon as soon as Côté figures out how to find a worthwhile voice within this new fangled way of making a documentary.  Joy of Man’s Desiring is daring in the same way a failing high school student skipping his final exams is daring.  All the filmmaker wants to do is show audiences that he’s rebellious.  Ok….so, what else d’you got?

Joy of Man’s Desiring is hardly worth talking about.  As Denis Côté was in Carcasses, the filmmaker becomes so lost in his own pretentious game changers, that he forgets he’s making a movie.  Whoops!

Catch Joy of Man’s Desiring at Toronto’s Hot Docs International Film Festival on:

Saturday, April 26 at 9:45 p.m. @ TIFF Bell Lightbox

Sunday, April 27 at 7:30 p.m. @ Scotiabank Theatre

Saturday, May 3 at 7:30 p.m. @ TIFF Bell Lightbox

Click here for more details and to buy tickets.


A Dress Rehearsal For An Execution (DIR. Bahman Tavoosi)


A Dress Rehearsal For An Execution is a fine example of how a filmmaker can take on an unconventional approach correctly.

Tavoosi’s doc inhabits a billowy structure as viewers are escorted through the artistic process of recreating an affective photo taken by an anonymous Pulitzer Prize winning photographer.  However, it’s Jahangir Razmi – the photographer himself – who wishes to recapture the tragedy.

The photo, which features a execution of blindfolded individuals in Iran during its post-revolution era, is an artifact that has set off a collection of chills.  It’s an image that easily becomes embedded in our brain.  It’s a type of haunting fascination that drives Razmi to emulate every detail.  Using a variety of actors – who are also dedicated to the project – and months of location scouting including rebuilding landscapes, Razmi is finally ready to shoot the photograph after two years of preparation.

A fair amount of pre-determined choreographing has been put forth in Tavoosi’s production to capture alluring shots and articulate theatrics.  However, the staginess nicely blends in with the passion being shown in the development of Razmi’s recreation.

Tavoosi chooses his moments to get involved.  For the most part, he allows the artistic loyalty and persistent integrity to take the spotlight and speak volumes.

Occasionally, A Dress Rehearsal For An Execution takes detours that don’t initially feel as if they contribute a lot.  For example, whilst her story is interesting, one interview in particular with a daughter of an actor has a hard time fitting in.  However, the one-on-one ends up making a central statement as to how a labor of love has the power to consume.

A Dress Rehearsal For An Execution leaves you thinking of more than what you thought Tavoosi’s doc was about.  It may be one of the shorter films at the festival, but it’s messages are just as dominant.

Catch A Dress Rehearsal For An Execution at Toronto’s Hot Docs International Film Festival on:

Friday, April 25 at 8:30 p.m. @ TIFF Bell Lightbox

Sunday, April 27 at 5:00 p.m. @ Scotiabank Theatre

Click here for more details and to buy tickets.


Gun Porn (DIR. Brahm Rosensweig)


By: Addison Wylie

What happens when a school bus gets blown up real good?  Brahm Rosensweig’s short form doc Gun Porn shows us.  Unfortunately, he shows us too much of the lead-up and skimps out on the film’s meaty discussion piece.

I suppose Gun Porn should be a guilty pleasure before its big reveal.  I mean, who wouldn’t want to see five good ol’ boys annihilate a vehicle using various firearms?  I bet a few will object since seeing a school bus as a target is never something that sits well.  I just found it a bit boring after a while watching other people have their fun.  But, the professional shooters and the doc’s filmmaker aren’t out to offend during the conception of what’s to come.

Within the final moments of Gun Porn, we see what Rosensweig is wanting to do with his documentary.  He and Toronto-based artist Viktor Mitic use the shambled bus as a provokingly grim but relevant message.  It’s powerful to look at in its context and the comments we hear from onlookers are just as interesting.

It’s too bad that Rosensweig spends a ballooned amount of time on the doc’s mindless creation – which could’ve been taken care of with quick cutaways – instead of using his film to provide additional support behind Mitic’s art and the opinions that followed.  The ratio should’ve been: 25% focused on prep, 75% on the reflection period.

Gun Porn is “OK”, but Rosensweig’s film is certainly a case where its intentions are better than the film as a whole.

Catch Gun Porn with A Dress Rehearsal For An Execution at Toronto’s Hot Docs International Film Festival. The doc precedes the feature film.

Click here for more details and to buy tickets.

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