Toronto
3 min

Join a cult

Hot Docs will rock ya

LIKE A WHEEL. Hitman Hart: Wrestling With Shadows is one of many fine films that delve into our collective obsessions. Credit: Xtra files

Hot Docs, the international documentary film festival, used to be geared to industry types. But now, according to CEO Chris Macdonald, the fest has moved to the College St strip in an attempt to increase the public’s attendance and appreciation of documentaries. Last year, 4,000 people attended; organizers hope to double that number this year.



So hang out, grab a cappuccino and check some of the 70 flicks screening at one of five cafŽs. But don’t be late. The festival might be more laid back, but late-comers will not be let in. Documentary makers and lovers take their work seriously.



The buzz is buzzin’ around Hitman Hart: Wrestling With Shadows, Paul Jay’s honest, funny and engaging biography of good guy wrestler Brett Hart. I have no interest in wrestling; the closest I got to a wrestler was in Florida when Hulk Hogan was shopping at a Wal-Mart close to my folks’ trailer park.



In the Hart family, all the sons are all wrestlers and the daughters all married wrestlers. And dad – he’s a piece of work. Check out his basement torture chamber and his sexy beefcake shots. (Showing at 1pm on Sat, May 8 at the Royal at 608 College St.)



There’s a large number of documentaries that deal with obsessions like wrestling – and cults. The Love Prophet And The Children Of God is about Moses David, whose followers felt lovemaking to be their Christian duty. That hot babe beside you in bed may be trying to convert you using the cult’s trademark “flirty fishing” technique. Alas, no same sex flirty fishing happens, but go learn how to flirty fish – also, there’s funky hippie fashions. (At 10am at Lava Lounge, 507 College.)



The Quebec documentary, Survivants de l’Apocalypse, takes on cults in general, everything from Jehovah’s Witnesses to Heaven’s Gate. It looks at their approach to the end of the world and has some cheesy reenactments, too. (At 10am on Sat, May 8 at the Royal.)



Hippies and marijuana used to go together, but times have changed. Hemp has replaced grass. And Stoned: Hemp Nation On Trial brings the drug into the new millennium. A small business man runs up against the big Canadian legal system; selling a few cannabis seeds in his London, Ontario shop leads to a possible life sentence. It’s ’90s reefer madness, Canadian style. (At 12:30pm on Sat, May 8 at Corso Italia at 584F College St.)



Stoned traces the legal history and silliness around wacky tabacky. Hard to believe hemp is such a big deal. I just thought it was for overpriced lip balm and no-style vests. After seeing this documentary, I’m enlightened.



Another Quebec documentary, Les Dames du 9e, highlights the ladies who have lunched and laboured in art deco heaven, at the ninth-floor Eaton’s restaurant in Montreal. It captures that time when ladies dressed for lunch and wore white gloves. Some have memories of working or lunching that go back to the ’30s. A couple of cheesy reenactments here, too. (At 11am on Sun, May 9 at the Royal.)



For those looking for strictly queer fare, there’s the much heralded doc, Let It Come Down, on the writer and curmudgeon Paul Bowles. Then there’s pINCO Triangle, a hometown look at queers from Sudbury that proves you can go home again and put on a big Broadway number in the barn, or a mineshaft. (At 9:30 am, Sun, May 9 at the College Street Bar, 574 College.)



A cult has developed around the Maysle brothers’ documentary, Grey Gardens. This ’70s documentary about two unstable and messy upper crust women takes a warped sense of mind to appreciate. I’m no fan, but the Q&A session, with clips of the brothers’ other documentaries, should prove interesting. (At 3:30pm on Sun, May 9 at the Royal.) The brothers are considered pioneers in documentary making and Albert is here to receive a lifetime achievement award.



The Maysle’s Gimme Shelter will be screened also. It captures Mick Jagger when he could still be considered a real rocker and not a grandfather. (At 9:30pm on Sat, May 8 at the Royal.)



The fest’s Chris Macdonald recommends you take your folks to see Alma. I agree. Alma is a twisted mother; Margie is her somewhat twisted daughter. Their relationship is totally out of whack. Unlike Grey Gardens, where the women seem cut off from the world, these two women are engaged with the world and each other. (At 9:30pm on Thu, May 6 at the Royal.)



Go, get informed, have fun, debate issues and maybe join a cult. No complaining, or you’ll have to deal with Hitman Hart. I’ve grown to love the big lug.





Hot Docs.

$5 per screening. $50 festival pass.

Till Sun, May 9.

Box office: Royal Cinema.

608 College St.

(416) 203-2155.

www.hotdocs.ca.