Call it Shock Rock meets the Met.
Alice Cooper, the 66-year-old metal legend, will get the Metropolitan Opera treatment next month during the annual Hot Docs festival, when he appears at a special screening of a film about his life that will be simulcast to movie theatres from coast to coast.
The Canadian premiere of Super Duper Alice Cooper on the evening of April 28 will include a Q&A with the rocker and the film’s directors Sam Dunn, Scot McFadyen, and Reginald Harkema. Forty-six movie theatres, from Victoria to St. John’s, will participate in the screening produced by Cineplex Entertainment Front Row Centre Events.
More than two years in production, the film layers new audio interviews with principal characters – including John Lydon, Elton John, Bernie Taupin, Dee Snider, the Canadian-born music producer Bob Ezrin, and Cooper himself – atop archival video footage to create what the filmmakers are calling “the first doc opera.”
“You never see a talking head sit-down interview,” noted Dunn, in an interview Tuesday morning following a press conference announcing the full Hot Docs lineup. “We wanted the viewer to always feel like they’re in the moment of this historical tale of Alice’s career.”
Dunn and McFadyen previously produced Iron Maiden: Flight 666 and Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage.
“I think as Canadian filmmakers, we were able to approach the Alice Cooper story in a way that was open-minded, exploratory, and open to debunking certain myths about Alice,” Dunn said.
“When you see rock docs come out of the U.K., or the U.S., countries that have such a rich history, and often they’re telling the story of one of their own, it can’t help but have some promotional texture to it.”
Dunn promised that even die-hard Alice Cooper fans would learn new details about the rocker’s unusual metamorphosis from preacher’s son Vincent Furnier to a figure of terror for parents in the ‘70s, including Taupin’s role in Cooper’s drug addiction.
Other hot docs highlights include:
A Dangerous Game: after the success of the anti-Donald Trump doc You’ve Been Trumped, gadfly Anthony Baxter follows up with more of the developer’s misadventures in Scotland.
I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story, a heartwarming retrospective about the 80-year-old actor who has played Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch since the show’s creation.
In The Boy From Geita, Canadian director Vic Sarin tells the horrifically compelling story of a 12-year-old boy with albinism targeted by his superstitious countrymen, who call him Ghost and regard his appendages as good luck totems to be chopped off and claimed, like human rabbit’s feet. In Out of Mind, Out of Sight, filmmaker John Kastner returns to Brockville Mental Health Centre, which he visited for last year’s NCR: Not Criminally Responsible.
In To Be Takei, Jennifer Kroot follows Star Trek’s George Takei as he and his manager-husband Brad Altman try to mount a musical based on the actor’s experience in a Japanese-American internment camp during World War II. Takei will be in Toronto for the screening.
Tomorrow We Disappear is a profile of the Kathputli artist colony in New Delhi, home to a community of 1,500 magicians, artists, and circus performers who are threatened with expulsion when the government sells the land under their feet to developers.
Tough Love goes deep inside the New York State child welfare system to measure the human toll of parents separated from their children by a well-meaning bureaucracy.
Director Brian Knappenberger was already well-known among the Internet freedom community for his portrait of Anonymous, We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists, which played at Hot Docs 2012.
Like many films at this year’s festival, The Internet’s Own Boy got off the ground with crowdfunding, after Knappenberger raised more than $93,000 (U.S.) on Kickstarter. “Aaron had such a community around him that just wanted to help get this film made,” noted Hot Docs director of programming Charlotte Cook, in an interview. “I don’t want to speak on the filmmaker’s behalf, but I think it was as much a way to utilize that community to feel part of making that film, as it was to raise the money.”
She added that “documentary thrives on people who want to get these films made.”
Other crowdfunded films at Hot Docs 2014 include the world premiere of Children 404 (Indiegogo), Askold Kurov and Pavel Loparev’s first-person account of LGBT life in Russia after the passage of the country’s anti-gay laws last year; The Starfish Throwers (Kickstarter), a heart-tugging look at programs that feed homeless people in Minnesota, North Carolina, and India; Rich Hill, a Sundance Grand Jury Prize-winning portrait of life in a small, no-expectation Missouri town; and Above All Else (Kickstarter), a chronicle of an East Texas man who stages a sit-in at the top of the tree canopy on his property, through which the Keystone XL pipeline is slated to pass.
Cook suggested doc makers are more likely these days to jump on such breaking stories, helped along by new technology and techniques. “Filmmakers are able to react in a way that perhaps they haven’t been historically, and the ability to just collate the amount of footage they’d need, is much better,” she said.
Another crowdfunded beneficiary is first-time filmmaker Amar Wala, a Toronto director whose The Secret Trial 5 got a boost from Hot Docs’s Doc Ignite program. And while it has taken almost five years to reach audiences, its story remains depressingly contemporary, looking at five Muslim men imprisoned without charges under controversial security certificates approved by the government of Canada.
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