Saturday, May 9, 2009

Hot Docs - Sundance

Sat through more than a few films at this year's Hot Docs that were overly long, meandering, or self-indulgent. But I also had the pleasure of seeing some phenomenal gems that will leave long lasting impressions.

Here are two that are probably going to end up on the shortlist for the Academy Awards 'Long Documentary.' Both also opened to critical acclaim this year at Sundance.

The Cove is about a group of impassioned activists that risk their lives to bring awareness to the plight of dolphins in Taiji Japan. The main protagonist is the dolphin trainer for Flipper, who now feels somewhat responsible for popularizing dolphin tricks and SeaWorld and looks to undo the damage by spreading the word on the cruel realities of the industry. The film makers end up capturing atrocities on film that made the entire theatre weep, but at the same time the story didn't leave me feeling powerless to act.

Big River Man is a portrait about a 53 year old, overweight alcoholic that attempts to swim the Amazon. And succeeds. Along the way he goes insane, taking a few people along for the trip. (As an interesting aside, the film was financed by Olivia Newton John because of its environmental angle). It makes me wonder how could such a heroic feat could have received such little media attention. Glad Martin Strel's crazy journey down the Amazon was captured on film for posterity.

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