Hot Docs 2018: ‘Golden Dawn Girls’ and ‘Transformer’

Golden Dawn Girls (DIR. Håvard Bustnes)

Håvard Bustnes’ Golden Dawn Girls is a feature-length interview-of-sorts with several female relatives of Nikolaos Michaloliakos, the head of the far-right, Greek “social nationalist” party known as Golden Dawn.

This doc ultimately serves as a prototypical study of right-wing argumentation wherein the semantics are far more important than the actions.  This makes it particularly eye-opening, due to the times in which we live, between the rise of fascist parties in parts of Europe and Asia and the rise of right-wing Trump support in the United States.  In fact, some of Trump’s greatest hits are on full display here: from blaming the media and fake news for your bad actions being made public, to alleged support for the working-class people who “belong” in your country, to rampant conspiracy theories.  Golden Dawn members refuse to identify as Nazis, but they also refuse to renounce them or to stop using their slogans or their gestures.  When a racist white man with a shaved head and a “Seig Heil” tattoo throws a Nazi salute in the air, is the difference between him and a Nazi really something that needs to be questioned?  The women behind this party sure seem to think so, as they repeatedly ignore proof by blaming the media or photo manipulation or just plain old goalpost moving.

There is not much of an opposing voice present in the film, mainly because the Golden Dawn-affiliated individuals do a very good job of making themselves look bad.  That being said, the occasional dissent from the filmmakers or people on the streets shows the fear that the people of Greece and Europe have for the potential of a return to fascism, which seems a more likely possibility every day.

– Shahbaz Khayambashi 

Catch Golden Dawn Girls at Toronto’s Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival on:

Tuesday, May 1 at 8:30 p.m. @ Scotiabank Theatre

Thursday, May 3 at 12:45 p.m. @ Scotiabank Theatre

Sunday, May 6 at 12:45 p.m. @ TIFF Bell Lightbox


Transformer (DIR. Michael Del Monte)

Gender is not a binary.  However, even on a spectrum, it is wholly possible to take things to the outer reaches of masculinity or femininity.  In a way, this is the phenomenon at the centre of Michael Del Monte’s Transformer, a biographical documentary about record-breaking weightlifter “Matt” Kroczaleski who was outed as transgender before she reintroduced herself to the world as Janae Kroczaleski.  While there is an increase in stories about trans women in the media, there are fewer about trans women who lived their previous lives as the epitome of masculinity.

It is this phenomenon, Janae Kroczaleski’s struggles to be feminine, while still holding on to some of her more masculine qualities;  namely her large muscular body that subverts the expectations of the usual trans narrative: an individual who goes out of her way to appear more feminine, all the while refusing to give up the biggest obstacle to her “passing.”  The fact is that she needs to see both in order to truly feel like herself.

Of course, when dealing with such a subject, even without the nuance, you do have to deal with the culture surrounding the individual and this doc is no different.  Janae’s relationship with her kids may be wholesome, but it is just one among many relationships in her life, with many of these people being overly masculine individuals who are set in their ways.  With the subject at the centre, even this trope seems somehow unique.

Transformer may not be visually remarkable, but it does tell a unique story that has not been told before – it should be commended for that.

– Shahbaz Khayambashi 

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

Friday, April 27 at 6:00 p.m. @ Scotiabank Theatre

Sunday, April 29 at 12:30 p.m. @ Scotiabank Theatre

Thursday, May 3 at 8:15 p.m. @ Scotiabank Theatre


Click here for more festival details and to buy tickets.

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Shahbaz Khayambashi: @Shakhayam

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