This Hot Docs specific episode of The Documentary Blog Podcast was recorded in collaboration with The Film Junk Podcast. Listen to more episodes of The Film Junk Podcast here.
0:00 - Intro
2:44 - Dragon Girls
13:17 - Shooting Bigfoot
28:48 - 12 O’Clock Boys
35:34 - The Unbelievers
43:29 - The Expedition to the End of the World
51:17 - The Great North Korean Picture Show
59:18 - We Always Lie To Strangers
1:06:17 - NCR: Not Criminally Responsible
1:13:21 - Aatsinki: The Story of Arctic Cowboys
1:16:21 - The Last Station
1:20:51 - Which Way is the Front Line From Here?
1:25:05 - Bending Steel
1:27:57 - The Crash Reel
1:31:56 - Caucus
1:33:42 - Blackfish
1:38:17 - The Circle
1:39:14 - 15 Reasons to Live
1:40:42 - Who Is Dayani Cristal?
1:42:57 - Searching For Bill
1:45:04 - Maidentrip
1:48:16 - Our Nixon
1:49:58 - Just the Right Amount of Violence
1:54:47 - Downloaded
1:58:30 - Outro
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Congratulations to Nathan of Little Rock, AR, Hillary of Astoria, NY and Brian of Los Angeles, CA! They’re the lucky winners of a DVD copy of Oscilloscope Laboratories’ Only the Young/Tchoupitoulas double feature DVD!
Also, a big thanks goes out to all of those who entered. This was one of biggest turn outs yet! Look forward to more giveaways here at The Documentary Blog and be sure to pick up your own copy of Only the Young/Tchoupitoulas on DVD today.
Thanks to Oscilloscope Laboratories for providing the prizes!
It’s probably fair to characterize director Morgan Matthews ‘Shooting Bigfoot’ as a bit of a freak show. Some of the people in this film come across as genuinely delusional. This is the dilemma I faced when I found myself laughing out loud at some of the truly hilarious moments throughout this doc that plays out like a real life Christopher Guest film.
I would lump Shooting Bigfoot in with such minor fare as My Date With Drew or Mansome, but at least this film is actually funny. Moments of genuine humour had me marvelling — sometimes suspiciously — at the comedic timing of some of these folks. The degree of self awareness amongst the subjects seemed to vary, but what began as a seemingly toxic director/subject relationship eventually transforms into a harmless, fun night out in the woods with a bunch of guys indulging in their strange hobby. It’s essentially one step away from live action role playing or fantasy football, seemingly focused more on the journey and less on the destination. It’s just an excuse to hang out with friends, crack open a few beers and scan the woods with military grade night vision goggles in search of 8 foot humanoid creatures. All in good fun!
I suppose the closest analog to ‘Shooting Bigfoot’ would be the number of A&E and History Channel shows focusing on swamp people and duck hunters. In this case, Duck Dynasty might be most comparable as I think the characters in that show share the same natural sense of humour and comedic timing that’s on display here. For example, in regards to a failed meat trap set to draw in a sasquatch, the following dialogue ensues:
“It just couldn’t be knocked off, it had to be jerked off.”
“So you think bigfoot has jerked off a piece of meat?”
“Yes I do.”
Some people are just naturally funny, regardless of how ridiculous they look or how insane their hobby may be. However, I do think an element of scripting is at play, particularly with one specific character.
This leads to the controversial ending of the film, and all I’ll say is that I think it’s perfectly in line with the spirit of the subject matter and more specifically, the history of the main character involved in the Blair Witch inspired set piece. ‘Shooting Bigfoot’ isn’t brilliant, but it’s a fun little comedy that made me wish I could spend a night hanging out with some of the folks in this film. — Jay C.
Only a day into my Hot Docs experience I already knew that The Expedition to the End of the World was going to be tough to top. Director Daniel Dencik provides further evidence that the Danes seem to have a real grasp on documentary cinema.
The film follows a crew of artists and scientists as they make their way through the melted massifs of North-East Greenland. Their mode of transportation is a three-mast schooner straight out of your favourite pirate film (mine would be Cabin Boy). As the men slowly traverse the winding, half-frozen rivers of the undiscovered country, they philosophize about the meaning of life and offer some unique commentary on the issue of climate change. One of them shrugs off the threat, suggesting that humans will adapt and simply move to areas of the world that aren’t flooded. A truly Scandinavian proclivity.
Moments of comedy are scattered throughout as the explorers beat their boredom by shooting off guns — sometimes accidentally — and flying around in their unique hybrid dinghy/power paraglider. At times, their mission is truly threatened by stubborn ice formations, resulting in some harrowing seamanship that, in combination with the Mozart on the soundtrack, reminded me of Werner Herzog and Klaus Kinski uncontrollably floating down river in a steamboat in Les Blank’s ‘Burden of Dreams’. In fact, much of this film could be classified as Herzogian and it would make for a great double bill with Herzog’s own ‘Encounters at the End of the World’.
One of the strongest aspects of Expedition is the inspired combination of imagery and music. The film is beautifully shot and the contrasting use of Metallica and Mozart is a lot of fun. There film is exciting, kinetic, and fresh and provides a completely unique take on the environmental doc that ignores numbers and graphs in favour of focusing on the personalities and philosophies of its unique cast of characters to illuminate and inspire. However, this is an adventure film first and foremost. The Expedition to the End of the World was undoubtedly my favourite film at Hot Docs and will remain one of the best films of the year. — Jay C.
Dave Carrol’s ‘Bending Steel’ exists in the same inspirational cinematic sandbox as Rocky and Rudy. Sure, strongman feats like horseshoe twisting and telephone book tearing might fall into the fringe category of what we traditionally define as ‘sport’, but strongmen are most definitely athletes. Their success depends upon their physical prowess, a strong mental constitution, and a natural ability to entertain a crowd.
Chris Shoeck has what it takes to be a professional strongman but he still struggles to prove himself to his peers and his parents, who are seemingly indifferent to his unusual ability. He and his mentor Chris Rider work towards bringing a traditional strongman show back to Coney Island, giving Shoeck a defined goal. Throughout the film we watch him bend various metals with ease, but it’s his struggle to bend a two inch bar — a metaphorical stand-in for his self-doubt and fears — which symbolizes his journey. Shoeck also attempts to conquer his fear of crowds by workshopping his act at open mic nights, resulting in a particularly awkward first performance. I loved watching his peers evaluate the particulars of his stage act, pointing out the various details that only a professional strongman would identify as problematic (the angle at which he stands, holding the successfully bent item up to the crowd, etc.) When the film finally reaches its Coney Island climax, you can’t help but root for Shoeck in the tradition of cinemas great underdog sports dramas.
Carrol and cinematographer Ryan Scafuro handle Shoeck’s story with a respect for cinematic craft, telling a beautifully shot, emotionally rich character piece that avoids the grandiose mythologizing that other filmmakers might give in to. ‘Bending Steel’ is a sincere and poignant look at a unique sub-culture who’s success is measured in pounds per square inch. — Jay C.
When I was seven my parents put me in a karate class at our local community centre and immediately quit after the first day. My breaking point? Push ups on my knuckles. I was a pussy then and I’m a pussy now and I wouldn’t last a second at the Shaolin Tagu Kung Fu school.
Director Inigo Westemeier’s ‘Dragon Girls’ follows a group of hardworking tweens who’ve dedicated their childhood to learning Kung Fu as a point of personal and national pride. In exchange for a strong body and strong will, they’re sacrificing a good chunk of their childhood thanks to long hours of intensive martial arts training. The whole ordeal makes Michael Jackson’s lost years in the Jackson 5 look like Disneyland (or Neverland, in his case). The meaning of Kung Fu is discussed throughout the film and while the masters loosely definite it as “Energy gained by hard work in the course of time”, the more telling answer comes from one of the young students who says “Kung Fu means to train and train and train again.”
The film starts with some stunning imagery of symmetrical martial arts routines performed with terrifying accuracy by an army of teenage girls who seem primed to take over a small country. While the dedication to the art and the extreme level of physical precision is initially impressive and inspirational, the oppressive work schedule and borderline abusive training regiment loses its charm pretty quickly. At one point in the film a group of girls compare battle scars, many of which are extremely impressive. It’s like a little girl version of the crew of the Orca exchanging war stories.
As much fun as tournament style docs can be, Dragon Girls’ more lyrical, contemplative approach was quite refreshing. It’s beautifully shot and edited and makes some interesting cultural observations that aren’t that far off from western ideals. China has the Shaolin Tagu Kung Fu school while we have toddlers in tiara’s and soccer Mom’s. — Jay C.