The 21st annual Hot Docs film festival is in full swing this week, showcasing some of the world’s finest documentary features and shorts from April 24th through May 4th in Toronto. There are so many options to choose from that it may even feel a bit overwhelming, so I have provided a brief look at two fantastic choices that have stood out to me so far this year in the hopes that they may pique your interest!
Doc of the Dead (USA, Dir: Alexandre Philippe)
This bloody-fun doc explores the increasingly popular zombie genre from its earliest roots in ancient folklore and the silent era of cinema through to the unexpected “second life” that the genre has found in recent years, where it has grown into a nearly unstoppable pop-culture phenomenon. Philippe hosts interviews with some of the genre’s most iconic filmmakers and stars, including revolutionary director George A. Romero, cult hero Bruce Campbell, and British actor Simon Pegg, to name a few. The film offers a unique insight into the development of one of cinema’s greatest monsters, and examines its role in modern society where events such as “zombie walks” pull together thousands of fans for a unique community experience that is unlike anything else. Whether you prefer zombies of the slow/shambling variety, fast ones that run at full speed, smart ones that use tools, or those nearly unstoppable Return of the Living Dead versions that just want your “Braaaains!”, this doc leaves nothing buried in its attempt to dissect our undying love for all things zombie.
Doc of the Dead screens at the following times and locations:
Saturday, April 26th @ 11:59pm (Bloor Hot Docs Cinema)
Sunday, April 27th @ 9:30pm (Hart House Theatre)
Saturday, May 3rd @ 9:45pm (The Royal Cinema)
The Sheik (Canada, Dir: Igal Hecht)
The life of Khosrow Vaziri – best known by his WWF stage name The Iron Sheik – is one of many ups and downs, from his roots as one of Iran’s most promising young athletes to his height of fame as one of the greatest “heels” (bad guys) ever to appear in American pro wrestling, and finally through his struggles with addiction and eventual transformation into a renewed pop culture icon. Despite being a proud Iranian athlete who positioned himself as the ultimate villain to American wrestling fans, The Sheik successfully camel clutched his way into our hearts with his undying showmanship, good spiritedness, and unique (often abrasive) personality. His later years became slowly ruled by depression, health and financial troubles, and addiction, until he thankfully found the strength to turn his life around and carve an unexpected new place for himself in modern pop culture with the help of social media. This touching film shines a new light on an old wrestling icon, and is sure to make you cheer for the bad guy one more time.
The Sheik screens at the following times and locations:
Saturday, April 26th @ 9:15pm (Bloor Hot Docs Cinema)
Sunday, April 27th @ 4:30pm (TIFF Bell Lightbox)
Saturday, May 3rd @ 6:30pm (Bloor Hot Docs Cinema)