What to See at Hot Docs 2011

Hot Docs 2011 began last night, and runs until May 8. In the next week Spacing will be posting reviews of some urbanist-relevant films. In the meantime, here are some films we’ve got our eye on (and an observation: lots 0f people from the rush line usually get in; don’t be afraid to line up!):

Battle for Brooklyn “After searching for more than five years, graphic designer Daniel Goldstein finds the perfect place to call home in Brooklyn. Within months of moving in, however, he discovers that a new arena for the New Jersey Nets is slated to be built where his condo stands. The densest real estate development plan in US history, the Atlantic Yards project seeks to replace the existing neighbourhood businesses and residences with 16 skyscrapers and a sports complex…”

The Interrupters “From Academy Award-nominated director Steve James (Hoop Dreams), The Interrupters is a powerful story of three ‘violence interrupters’ who return to their Chicago neighbourhoods to stand in the middle of violence and mediate the complexities stemming from gang and territorial fighting…”

St-Henri, the 26th of August “On September 5, 1962, Claude Jutra, Michel Brault, Don Owen and Arthur Lipsett roamed the streets of St-Henri with other emerging National Film Board filmmakers, cinematically capturing a day in the life of a working-class Montreal neighbourhood…Nearly 50 years later, a new generation of 12 established and emerging Quebecois filmmakers takes to those same streets with cameras in hand…”

Newcastle “Xinbu—translated into English as New Castle—is a remote mountainous village in Shanxi province, China, where most of the inhabitants make their living in the surrounding lime and coal mines. It’s said that the village was first inhabited during the Ming Dynasty over 800 years ago. Now, its ever-declining population of 100 is being forced out, the ancient village destroyed…”

My Barefoot Friend “Ten thousand rickshaws are still pulled by hand in Kolkata. Running barefoot through the chaotic streets, 55-year-old Shallim’s dreams of escaping the desperate cycle of poverty fuel this poignant look at the pothole-filled ride of life…”

Danger “Kushtakuan, the Innu word for ‘danger,’ adorns the signs that border the open mining pits pockmarking a once pristine northern landscape. Spoken entirely in Innue, this candid portrait gives voice to a community divided by a sense of responsibility to their environment and a desire to financially provide for their families…”

4536545365 explores the congruities of daily life in an American town. From the patrol car to the courtroom, the playground to the nursing home, the parade to the prayer service, it explores relationships and interactions – with people and their environment….”

Grande Hotel “Once a magnificent monument to Portuguese colonial hubris, today a shattered shell, Mozambique’s Grande Hotel tells the story of the country. Built in 1955 as the largest, most opulent hotel in Africa, its 4.5-acre complex was once a luxurious enclave for the ruling elite; their nostalgia-drenched memories serve as narration over the lives of the 2,500 squatters who now call the hotel home…”

All for the Good of the World and Nosovice “A small Czech farming community is forever transformed by the arrival of big business, as its inhabitants face pressure to sell land to make way for a South Korean Hyundai plant. One by one, farmers buckle from the pressure and death threats, giving up their food-producing fields for an assembly line of cars…”

Chance Encounter “Meet Shelley and Kevin. Their story seems familiar: two people meet in highschool, fall in love and get married. But they share a dark understanding of something few can relate to. As TTC subway operators, they’ve each experienced someone committing suicide by jumping in front of their train…”

At the Edge of Russia “Hundreds of miles from the nearest town or tree, a smooth-faced young recruit arrives at his Arctic post. Here, etched somewhere into the endless white, is a border. The boy, Aleksey, joins five men, together charged with the absurd task of patrolling the invisible border for invisible enemies….”

Shibuya – Tokyo “Following in the sequence of Tokyo – Ebisu, filmmaker Tomonari Nishikawa presents Shibuya, an experimental short film showing views around the exits of 20 subway stations on the JR Yamanote line, from Shibuya station to Tokyo station in Japan…”

Surpriseville “Welcome to Surprise, Arizona, a study in irony. Make yourself at home in a master-planned, gated community of strict standards and rigorously maintained bylaws. Finally, a community for people who think the grass is greener on their side of the fence and the rest of the world should keep out…”

A Candid Eye: Early Shorts of Terence Macartney-Filgate “In the late 1950s , Macartney-Filgate directed seven of the NFB’s thirteen groundbreaking Candid Eye documentaries. Emphasizing ordinary events and ordinary people, these three shorts follow tobacco harvesters in southern Ontario, Salvation Army worker and Montrealers preparing for Christmas…”

The National Parks Project “Stunning and inspired, this ambitious omnibus film barely fits the big screen. Fifty-two filmmakers and musicians explore our country’s rugged wilderness, translating the landscape into cinematic form to mark Parks Canada’s centennial…”

Abendland “Master visual essayist Nikolaus Geyrhalter (Our Daily Bread), returns to Hot Docs with lucid observations of Europe at night, collecting images of those who work and play under the cover of darkness…”

Position Among the Stars “Against a backdrop of rising Islamic fundamentalism and increasing globalization, three generations of an Indonesian family are torn between traditional rural values and urban pressure to prosper. After 12 years of filming, this is director Leonard Retel Helmrich’s third film about hard-working Christian grandmother Rumidjah and her family.”

Foreign Parts “Tucked behind Citi Field, home of the New York Mets, the neighbourhood of Willets Point looks like an industrial eyesore. With no sidewalks or green patches anywhere, “neighbourhood” even feels like a stretch for this rusty sprawl of scrap yards and chop shops. But it’s bustling…”

Uprooted “Tobacco farmer Joe Vanden Elzen was happily tending the land, just like the five generations of farmers who’d come before him. But in 2005, in an effort to curtail the tobacco industry, the Canadian government requested that hundreds of farmers relinquish their crops and say goodbye to their livelihoods forever.”

The BlockDas Block captures a reality particular to East Germany. Far above Sachsen Anhalt, the sky bears mute witness to the passage of history. Close-up, four residents of a drab concrete building in Gräfenhainichen tell their personal stories. The building connects these dramatically different, individual narratives.”

Highway Gospel “No guts, no glory! B.C. renegades race mountain highways on customized longboards, while a middle-aged skateboarder fights to keep his Ottawa skate park – and creaky knees – operational. These dudes make the X Games look like child’s play.”

Grinders “A colourful cast of professional poker players lays their cards on the table in this high-stakes journey through their often bizarre world of Toronto’s underground clubs, online gambling sites and Vegas tournaments.”

Farenheit 7-Eleven “On a fateful night in 1985, Burton Cummings of The Guess Who fame entered a 7/11, and left bloodied and battered, scorning his hometown as ‘Negativipeg.’ This urban legend is retold by an eclectic group of Winnipeg residents, participating in dramatic re-enactments that bring humour and hubris to a city that is its own worst enemy….”

You’ve Been Trumped “When Donald Trump sets out to build the world’s most luxurious golf resort in the bonniest village in Scotland, residents chafe at his particular brand of American know-how. David meets coiffed Goliath in this scrappy exposé.”