HotDocs 2019

by A.J. Lam

From dystopia to utopia, these films immerse the viewers in a world full of dystopia with the hopes of arriving at a utopian world.

The Rest
director: Ai Wei Wei

With the famous activist artist Ai Wei Wei’s latest exhibit in Toronto, following exhibits at the Art Gallery of Ontario, Nuit Blanche, and the current wide-ranging artistic endeavour Unbroken at the Gardiner Museum,   The Rest, in its North American Premiere, and as the lead film of the Big Ideas presented by Scotia Wealth Management, at the Ted Rogers Hot Docs Cinema, presents a provocative view of the refugee crisis through the tragic lens of the dispirited lives of the individual refugees who are escaping the dystopia of war-torn homelands in search of the peace of utopian Europe.  With their hopes and fears exposed through the brilliant eye of Ai Wei Wei, who himself was a refugee from persecution in China, finally being accepted by Germany to settle in Berlin, some of the refugees still yearn for their homelands despite the dangers lurking there.  The Rest,  as the sequel to Ai Wei Wei’s Human Flow, shows us the refugees considered as “leftovers” in the treacherous flow of people in the pursuit of sanctuary of Europe fleeing from war, poverty and persecution.

Alla Salute
director: Brunella Fili

Fun-loving charismatic celebrity Italian chef, Nick DIfino, of the cooking series, Breakfast Club, unexpectedly gets the bad news that he has lymphoma and needs extensive chemotherapy to survive.  With his humour, and the help of his many chef, poet, and philosopher friends, he lives by his motto, “Happiness can be found everywhere…It’s better if you find it at the table.”  Along with his favourite foods, eggplant parmesan and golden panerotti, he also shares with the audience the taste of the joy of life despite cancer.

The Pickup Game
directors: Matthew/Barnaby O’Connor

Using psychological manipulation techniques, the secretive and despicable pickup industry, spawned by Ross Jeffries’s 1992 self-published book How to Get the Women You Desire into Bed, preys upon socially-awkward males and unsuspecting female victims.  With the promise of making shy men into alpha males desired by women, this underground billion-dollar industry, became exposed via a viral video of one of its proponents committing serial sexual assault on unwilling  women on the streets of Japan.   In the hopes of exposing this male subculture as a misogynistic cult during the onset of the Me Too movement, this film empowers others to counteract this misogyny.

Hi, Ai
director: Isa Willinger

With the advent of robotics and artificial intelligence, technology is advancing at a rapid pace, but is it possible that artificial intelligence also has its downsides if its implementation is not properly planned?  Through the stories of Chuck, an socially-isolated man with his female companion robot, and Grandma Sakurai, with her custom-built household robot, we see how robots with artificial intelligence can build relationships with human beings.  The potential dark side of artificial intelligence if consciousness and full internet access were bestowed upon robots is hinted upon.  As science-fiction may become possible science-fact, the future of a world with artificial intelligence may not be what we envisioned.

Stieg Larsson: The Man Who Played With Fire
director: HenrikGeorgsson

Stieg Larsson, of the hit movie The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo fame, is shown to be a pro-democratic crusader against Fascism and Neo-Nazis in Sweden.  As a superhero himself, Larsson worked tirelessly to fight evil, despite adversity, ultimately to succumb to a heart attack at the age of 50.   Drawing liberally on his research on neo-Nazism in Sweden, his best-selling crime novels, were actually based on true murders.  Ultimately, in Sweden, though viewed as a socialist utopia, an underlying dystopia is exposed.