Monday, May 07, 2018

Rounding off the Hot Docs fest

Where was I? Ah, yes, getting woozy in the middle of last week...

On Thursday I did another Docs for Schools shift. We had something like 600 kids in the morning to see Matangi/Maya/MIA. Once upon a time a Tamil young girl left Sri Lanka and went to Britain where she grew up. She wanted to be a filmmaker, and in the early 2000s returned to Sri Lanka and filmed her family when a cousin went missing in the war. She had friends in London who were musicians and rappers, and she wrote songs about the war in Sri Lanka. She started performing and became quite a star, and talked about genocide and politics, generally got in trouble by making people uncomfortable. I knew nothing about her or about all the controversy around her, but the kids were engrossed in the film. The post-film Q&A was really interesting, too, and MIA actually went out on the sidewalk after the movie and let the kids get pictures with her.

The Docs for Schools crew, me in green hat, no pop stars

The afternoon movie was Time for Ilhan, about a woman in Minnesota who ran for a seat in the state government. She is a Muslim, originally from Somalia, running against a 43-year incumbent who seemed to take for granted that she would just continue to get elected forever. Ilhan Omar seems to be smart, determined, down-to-earth, clever, kind... and a black immigrant woman who is taking her place in America. The kids cheered as she won.

On Friday I worked in the volunteer office, and didn't see a single movie! The beginning of the end, winding down.

There is a thing on the waterfront called Ontario Place. It is a crazy "modern" park from the 1970s, inaccessible, awkward to get to, uncared for now, yet iconic and somehow beloved by people who grew up here.

There is a big dome -- an Imax theatre -- and Hot Docs showed one film there, a 45-minute thing about trolley cars and streetcars.

The Cinesphere

Metallic foamy wall in the Cinesphere

I thought it would be fun to volunteer for that, so found myself walking a kilometre from the last streetcar stop, taking the wrong bridge over to the park, ending up at the wrong side of the sphere... and so on!

So much maintenance is needed inside and out

It was such a popular screening (it was free, as well as in the sphere and about streetcars) that there were no seats available for the volunteers and I found myself standing and watching the film from the very edge of the theatre. The kids and the streetcar buffs enjoyed the movie, but I thought it was just exactly what one might expect. So mainly I had time to grumble about the out-of-date building!

Somehow I was moved after that shift to request just one more, on the last night of the festival, from 6 pm to midnight, at the TIFF Bell Lightbox, where we use four cinemas. It all fit together because we had tickets to a movie there that afternoon. I'd have an hour or so for dinner!

We saw Manufactured Landscapes, a blast from the past instead of a brand new movie. (The director lives down the street from me and we recognized each other as I was leaving the washroom and she was going in just before the movie.) The photographer Ed Burtynsky was taking pictures of how people had changed the physical landscape, concentrating on China. The film opens with scenes inside a factory. Actually, it is one long (long, long) shot of aisle after aisle of people putting a thing on another thing, tightening a screw and passing it on, manually building millions of irons or switches or widgets. He takes amazing photos, and the filmmakers shared his concerns and his aesthetics. Wonderful to see on the big screen!

After the film I had a sandwich in a coffee shop and then put on my red volunteer shirt and worked in the atrium, where we set up the lines before the cinemas open.

I wondered if I would be able to watch any of the movies, but I was seduced into working the atrium by the suggestion we'd be out earlier than those working in the actual cinemas.

There were four films, two of which were full to bursting. We let them all in by 9:15; we carried away the stanchions marking out the lines, took down some signs and hung around. By 10 or so we had closed up shop and gone home, leaving the volunteers in the theatres to get the people out again.

All week long this space had been full of people

And so another film festival comes to an end. I knit six dishcloths and made another batch of muffins that I haven't told you about yet! So there's still lots to tell you.

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