HOT DOCS 2009: Reviews in 88 Words or Less – Pt.1

The HOT DOCS International Documentary Film Festival kicks off in Toronto this coming Thursday, April 30th and runs till May 10th. I’ve always loved watching documentaries because of the diversity of perspective and opinions on topic ranging from trivial to the provocative and controversial. This year, they shine a spotlight on documentaries made from South Korean documentary filmmakers in a programme called Made In South Korea, so check those out if you get a chance.

This is Part 1 of 3 of the films you can catch and which I’ve previewed for you in 88 words of less:

ACTION BOYS – Dir. Jung Byung-Gil – South Korea

Graduates from the 8th year of Seoul Action School are profiled in Action Boys, a documentary about stunt performers in South Korea’s movie industry. While quirky and fun, the doc is counter-balanced by the realities and ultimate limitations of what the body and spirit can handle. Many leave in the first few months of training, only a few stick around. It could’ve been a more interesting documentary but the lack of narrative structure felt like I was on a rig being pulled along for a ride.

GRANDMOTHER’S FLOWERS – Dr. Mun Jeong-hyun – South Korea
Told through the hardships endured by his maternal grandmother, Director Mun uncovers and touches upon many social issues faced by the complexities of Korean culture and ideology in Grandmother’s Flower. Tensions still remain from alliances forged during the Korean War and provide the basis of discrimination and Guilt By Association to those who stayed and those who fled during the war to Japan. It’s very tapestry-like storytelling where many different lives are interwoven by the choices they make and the ultimate consequences they suffer.


Tensions between the residents and the clubbing industry’s movers and shakers set the mood in Clubland. It’s an interesting look at the densely concentrated neighbourhood where politics has to strike the balance in pleasing their constituents while also maintaining the economic powers it has. In a ‘Tipping Point’ fashion, we understand better the stories coming from both sides and slowly realize the fault of tension doesn’t really fall onto the residents or club owners, but perhaps the party-goers who’ve had one too many drinks.

HAIR INDIA – Dir. Raffaele Brunetti, Marco Leopardi – Italy

An ambitious documentary in the structure of a feature, Hair India weaves the stories of the players in the lucrative business of Indian hair extensions. From rich to poor, religious hair donors to the fashionable consumer, the documentary is very tapestry like in an attempt to link all stories into one without having much of an objective. Despite its compelling characters and high production value, it was boring.

AFGHAN STAR – Dir. Havana Marking – UK

After years of Taliban rule that banned music and dancing, Tolo TV puts on their version of Idol singing competition called Afghan Star. Its producers are interested in creating art, entertainment and culture, while the contestants vie for the title for Afghan Star and $5,000 – over 10 times the average annual salary. Continuing tribal conflicts plus ideals still rooted in religion create obstacles for the production staff and contestants. It was a fascinating look into a culture where art and music were once a vibrant part of the culture now cling to every bit of freedom they get to express themselves despite the consequence.

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About Xxxtine

The main Canuck here I (sometimes) give a different perspective. I used to be 'read only' but you can actually hear me via POP 88 on 8Asians podcasting sister site Always trying to find that right balance between fluff and substance, I tend to focus my interests in discovering different perspectives. Look forward to hearing (and perhaps seeing) things you wouldn't anywhere else. Current vice and embarrassingly obsessed with: Kpop group AFTER SCHOOL
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