1st time filmmaker earns Hot Docs opening slot
Strip club tale one of 205 films to screen at Toronto festival
Posted: Mar 19, 2013 2:09 PM ET
Last Updated: Mar 19, 2013 4:04 PM ET
A story of family life by the owners of a strip club, created by a first-time filmmaker from Guelph, Ont., will open the 2013 edition of Hot Docs, North America’s largest documentary film festival.
Shawney Cohen’s The Manor follows the journey of his parents, who bought The Manor, a strip club attached to a seedy 32-room motel when he was just six years old. He examines his father, whose weight has ballooned over the years to 400 pounds and his mother, who struggles to survive at 85 pounds, over a three-year period in an attempt to see what became of their dreams.
“I think my father is just an incredible character,” Cohen told CBC News.
“And, I think in many ways an audience can learn from our dysfunction and our family life and see a little bit of themselves and who we are. And I think there's a lot of love in the film as well, so. I think it'll surprise people. It's not really a film about a strip club, it's a film about a family struggling to run a strip club.”
Cohen, who still manages the strip club a couple of days a week, earned a grant from the Shaw Media-Hot Docs Fund grant (2011), and the Tribeca Film Institute Documentary Fund to complete the Manor, which Hot Docs director of programming Charlotte Cook calls an “incredible story and a stunning film.”
It’s one of 205 titles from 43 countries to screen at the Hot Docs festival, to run April 25 to May 5 in Toronto.
Docs on oil workers, mentally ill
Canadian filmmakers bring a strong slate of docs to the festival. Charles Wilkinson’s Oil Sands Karaoke follows oil workers assuaging their loneliness at a local karaoke bar and John Kastner’s NCR: Not Criminally Responsible looks at stories of the mentally ill within the justice system.
Michelle Latimer’s Alias looks at the lives of five Toronto rappers, while Nimisha Mukerji’s Blood Relative is the story of a man’s fight to obtain life-saving medical treatment for young people in India.
Kastner, who's been making non-fiction films for more than 30 years, has examined breast cancer sufferers and pedophiles in earlier films.
He said he welcomes the chance to humanize the mentally ill.
"You can actually come to care about somebody by getting to know them on film in a way that is impossible if you just read about them in print. This is a power and it's a great privilege to have," he said.
"There's a human being behind this label that you've stuck on these people. I'm going to show you this human being and I'm even going to try to make you incredibly feel for this person. That's what film can do, that's what documentaries can do."Anita Hill's 1991 sexual harassment case changed working culture in North America. (Associated Press)
Cook also announced a new speakers series that will accompany some hot-button docs about issues involving science and human rights. The speakers planned:
- Evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins and theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss, subjects of The Unbelievers, Gus Holwerda’s doc about science and religion.
- Lt.-Gen, Roméo Dallaire, subject of Fight Like Soldiers Die Like Children, Patrick Reed’s examination of war-affected children, an issue close the heart of the former soldier.
- Anita Hill, subject of Anita, filmmaker Freida Mock’s exploration of how Hill’s 1991 sexual harassment case changed culture and shaped the way we think about relations between men and women.
This year’s festival includes a special focus on Polish films, part of a program that zeros in on films from a different country each year.
The lineup for Made in Poland includes Bartosz M. Kowalski’s A Dream in the Making about young people determined to escape the confines of an impoverished and violent Warsaw neighbourhood and Wiktoria Szymanska’s The Man Who Made Angels Fly, about an extraordinary artist puppeteer.
Other international entries:
- German filmmaker Inigo Westmeier’s Dragon Girls, about young female warriors-in-training at an ancient Shaolin Kung Fu school outside Beijing.
- Finnish filmmaker Jessica Oreck’s Aatsinki: The Story of Arctic Cowboys, in which she follows reindeer herders in Lapland for a year.
- Chinese director Zhu Yu’s Cloudy Mountains, about a father and son working in the toxic cloudy mountains of Western China.
- Israeli director Ran Tal’s Garden of Eden, focusing on a diverse group of vacationers in an Israeli national park.
- Horror tale Haunting Melissa targets app audiences by Jessica Wong May. 16, 2013 4:40 PM If you're seeking the weather, the news or a pic of what your buddy had for lunch, there are apps for that. What about an original, Hollywood-calibre ghost story from a producer of The Ring and Mulholland Drive? Now, there's an app for that, too. Haunting Melissa ventures into the burgeoning realm of digital storytelling as a traditional ghost story with a modern twist -- namely a tale that unfolds through an iOS app.
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