Hot Docs 2016: ‘Cheer Up’ and ‘How to Build a Time Machine’

Cheer Up (DIR. Christy Garland)

By: Shannon Page

Miia is the coach of the Ice Queens, a teenage cheerleading team from Finland’s Article Circle that regularly places dead-last in national competitions.  Determined to win, Miia travels to Texas to learn the art of winning from the world champions, Cheer Athletics, and returns to Finland with the intention of turning her team around.  The pressure that she puts on her girls to become the best pushes the team to its physical and emotional breaking point, forcing both Miia and the young women she coaches to reconsider where their priorities lie.

Those seeking an uplifting tale of plucky underdogs overcoming adversity will have to look elsewhere.  Cheer Up is blissfully free of the usual sports documentary clichés.  Director Christy Garland (The Bastard Sings the Sweetest Song, Dual Citizen) leaves behind interviews and exposition in favor of a pure fly-on-the-wall approach that sheds as much light on the lives of Miia and the Ice Queens outside of their pastime as it does on their efforts to lift, flip, and tumble.

Expertly paced and beautifully subtle, Cheer Up reveals how these young women use cheerleading in order to cope with the pressures and challenges of relationships, family, and growing up.

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

Sunday, May 1 at 7:00 p.m. @ Scotiabank Theatre

Thursday, May 5 at 7:00 p.m. @ TIFF Bell Lightbox

Saturday, May 7 at 6:30 p.m. @ TIFF Bell Lightbox


How to Build a Time Machine (DIR. Jay Cheel)

By: Addison Wylie

With past documentaries centring on eccentric subjects and farfetched ambitions, most filmmakers find its easier to swing towards broad targets.  With How to Build a Time Machine, Jay Cheel decides to stay on the outside of his film’s fascinating obsessions, and project it in a way that’s exciting and insightful.

How to Build a Time Machine is based on two primary thinkers: animator Rob Niosi and theoretical physicist Ron Mallett.  Both men – strangers at first – latched onto the concept of time at a young age through H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine, and both have built obsessions based around that scientific, enigmatic concept.  Niosi’s goal to build a replica of the machine seen in George Pal’s film adaptation has spanned to nearly a decade’s worth of effort towards his labour of love, while Mallett grew his career around the possibility of reuniting with his deceased father.

At first, the audience is pitched with a film about romanticizing time travel, but are then treated to a deeper premise involving being absorbed by sci-fi culture to an extent of lifelong consummation.  However, Cheel pulls the rug from under us again and gives movie goers a balanced offering of both nuanced approaches.

Jay Cheel also carries over some signature filmmaking from his crowd-pleasing doc Beauty Day, including effective head-on interviews which allow distinguishing details to fill the negative space around the interviewee.  He also exhibits his knack for montages and meditative slow motion – a tool that works to a universal degree when dissecting time.

Audiences walk away from Cheel’s mind-melting, eye-opening doc having their own concepts of time and passion redefined.  How to Build a Time Machine is a rare type of perfection.

Catch How to Build a Time Machine at Toronto’s Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival on:

Monday, May 2 at 6:30 p.m. @ Isabel Bader Theatre

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

Saturday, May 7 at 8:45 p.m. @ TIFF Bell Lightbox


Click here for more festival details and to buy tickets.

Do You Tweet? Follow These Tweeple:

Shannon Page: @ShannonEvePage

Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie

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