Arts & Entertainment
3 min

Film reviews: Hot Docs

Prostitution, parenting & chocolate

CONFECTION. A wacky lesbian couple channels Mozart and a Viennese diva in Hot Docs' Mozartballs.

Lesbians are hot these days and that rings true at this year’s Hot Docs festival running Fri, Apr 28 to May 7.

All Aboard: Rosie’s Family Cruise is a heartwarming tearjerker that follows queer families on a seven-day journey to the Caribbean. Anyone who is antichildren or antimarriage may want to stay home, though this doc might even melt the most strident cynic’s heart.

The film follows lesbian and gay mothers and fathers and their children as they talk about their experiences, attend seminars on parenting, disembark to homophobic protesters and enjoy the cheesy cruise-ship entertainment. Cruise founder Rosie O’Donnell is part of the onboard entertainment; she also shares her family’s story. Much to the director Shari Cookson’s credit, it’s not all about Rosie. All Aboard is really about providing a safe haven for queers and their families. As one dyke says to her cop girlfriend, “The other day I reached over and kissed you in line and didn’t have to worry about it.”

There is so much love in this film that sometimes you wonder if anyone could really be this happy. But this is a gay cruise, after all. Not to say they don’t talk about being gay parents. They do; the whole film is about it. Yet the doc glosses over implications of having mixed-race families; it’s obvious that most of the adults are white and the children black, Asian or mixed race.

True insight comes from the teenagers. The kids poignantly talk about parents, fears, the cruise, friends and dreams. All Aboard is a mainstream doc made for HBO that is quite radical in its own way, since it’s broadcast across the US (3:45pm on Apr 29 at the Bloor Cinema).

The Railroad All-Stars, a 90-minute Spanish doc, follows a group of women sex workers from La Linea, an extremely poor area in Guatemala who decide to form a soccer team to build awareness of the often violent reality of their daily lives. All-Stars alternates between individual stories and the controversy surrounding their team competing in a league. At one point they are banned from playing and they must fight for their legitimacy in the league and with the public.

Within five minutes of this gritty, insightful story you know this is not about the victimization of women. It is about women who earn $2 a trick who are fighting to survive against all the odds. It is about the women’s real lives as they play together and fight against poverty and prejudice. On the team are two lesbians, Vilma and Lena, and transsexual Kimberly. They reveal their stories and the film follows the lesbians’ relationship. A great moment occurs when Lena joins the team and Vilma jumps up and down saying, “I’m her woman,” while the rest of the team laughs. The queers are an integral part of the team and the story of the women of La Linea (9:30pm, Apr 28, Isabel Bader).

Song Birds is a hard-edged take on women in prison and the class and gender issues surrounding their imprisonment. Employing a wholly new genre, the documentary musical, Songbirds explores life behind bars in the Downview Prison in Surrey, UK. The women lip-synch their stories to rap, traditional folk and pop music.

Britain locks up more people than any other country in Western Europe. In the last 10 years, the female prison population has risen 173 percent. Not a huge amount of queer content but women acknowledge that many of them go gay while in prison. More than anything this revealing documentary explores poverty, sex, abuse and the cyclical nature of violence in most of these women’s lives (6:30pm, May 1, ROM Theatre).

Music and love, the enduring tango of passion in Mozart’s compositions, is the backdrop for Mozartballs, quirky stories told by the fans who carry on a love affair with the 18th-century master. Canadian director Larry Weinstein was commissioned to make a film in celebration of Mozart’s 250th birthday. He unearthed some pretty interesting people who speak to their dedication and obsession, most notably two lesbians from Oklahoma who believe they are the reincarnation of soulmates Mozart and famous Viennese diva Nancy Storace. They both speak in the first person as they go through Vienna remembering their lives so many years ago.

Other characters — an astronaut who brought mozartballs (chocolates) with him to space, a depressed man who talks to “Wolfie” at Mozart’s grave and a computer programmer who composes Mozart-like concertos — are all part of the eccentric and lovely ensemble. As the chocolatier sums it up, the Mozartball is a “sweet composition that gives every taste bud joy” (7pm, Apr 29 and 1:30pm, May 2, Isabel Bader).