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Soundtracker follows Gordon Hempton on a mission to track down and preserve the noises of nature.
Soundtracker follows Gordon Hempton on a mission to track down and preserve the noises of nature.

Capsule reviews Add to ...

  • Country USA
  • Language English

The following short reviews of films screening at Hot Docs are by James Adams, James Bradshaw, Guy Dixon, Rick Groen, Liam Lacey, Gayle MacDonald and Dave McGinn. Films are rated on a four-star system.



A Drummer's Dream John Walker (Canada) *** A handful or so of some of the world's most exuberant, innovative and technically perfect drummers convene for a drumming clinic in rural Ontario. Nasyr Abdul Al-Khabyyr? Horacio (El Negro) Hernandez? Most, if not all, are not household names. These are drummers' drummers who have backed-up jazz and rock giants like Dizzy Gillespie and Carlos Santana. Non-drummers watching the film will be blown over by the joy in their virtuoso playing. But this is really a film for drummers to buy on DVD and study over and over until the rewind button breaks. G.D. May 7, 10 p.m. Royal; May 9, 1:30 p.m., Royal

Beyond Ipanema Guto Barra (Brazil/USA) ** An exciting topic, a less than exciting film. For anyone who came into record-buying consciousness in the Stan Getz/Joao Gilberto jazz era or with David Byrne's Brazilian compilation albums, the emergence of Brazilian music into the rest of the world is prime documentary territory. There are some wonderful insights here, such as Byrne talking about the first days he bought Brazilian albums at a San Francisco record store in the mid 1980s. Or rap-dance singer M.I.A. describing when she heard hard-hitting Brazilian sounds like funk carioca for the first time. If only we could see more of the performers and actually hear more of the music, instead of a contemporary Brazilian dance soundtrack grooving through much of the film. The end product is a pleasant mash-up of the music through different eras. But rarely do you feel transported to Rio or to the living rooms and clubs abroad where the music had its real influence. G.D. May 8, 9:15 p.m. Cumberland 3; May 9, 7 p.m., Royal

Bhutto Duane Baughman, Johnny O'Hara (USA) ** No matter how much the film's driving soundtrack and choppy editing distract from the story, the life and death of Benazir Bhutto is truly a modern Greek tragedy. The film is convincing when noting how much the Bhuttos were and still are the Kennedys of Pakistan. Their lives of high education, privilege and assassinations have ripped apart the family and the country. Benazir, a two-time prime minister of Pakistan, was pushed into the political spotlight at a young age by her father, the reformist former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who was forced from office by General Zia's military government and hanged. Years later, Benazir, returning to Pakistan from self-imposed exile, was killed by a gunfire and bomb attack, a case never solved. A fascinating story, retold well, though clearly from a pro-Bhutto perspective. Yet the fast-pace filmmaking, intended to build drama, only gets in the way. G.D. May 1, 6:15 p.m. Bloor; May 4, 11 a.m., Isabel Bader

Citizen Architect: Samuel Mockbee and the Spirit of the Rural Studio Sam Wainwright Douglas (USA) *** As one of the talking heads in this fine film says, "We spend almost all of our time in architecture." Yet when we think about architecture, our thoughts usually crystallize around famous, exceptional and expensive buildings. Samuel (Sambo) Mockbee thought differently. Which is why in the early 1990s, as an architecture professor at Auburn University in Alabama, he co-founded the Rural Studio to provide well-designed, smartly built houses, community centres, churches and the like to impoverished, small communities in the American South. Mockbee, a fifth-generation Mississippian, died in 2001 of leukemia but the Rural Studio persists as do similarly inspired organizations like Architects for Humanity and DesignBuildBLUFF. Sam Wainwright Douglas's doc is an absorbing, frequently moving, sometimes funny celebration of what can happen when architecture is practised as a social art concerned with creature and spiritual comforts. J.A. May 1, 7:15 p.m., Innis; May 4, 2 p.m., ROM

Complaints Choir Ada Bligaard Soby (Finland) * Finnish artists Tellervo Kalleinen and Oliver Koctha-Kalleinen have organized complaints choirs around the world for the past five years as part of their Complaints Choir Project. Everyone's got a gripe, and singing about it just might make it better. Here, the duo put together complaints choirs in Chicago and Singapore - but they fail to show much of the everyday people who want to air their grievances in song actually,you know, singing. The sense of fun and humour in such choirs is also missing here. This documentary gives other complaint choirs plenty to sing about. D.M. May 5, 9:30 p.m., Cumberland 2; May 6, 4:30 p.m., Innis

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