Doc Fest Stratford

For that last five days Stratford has been holding a documentary festival aptly titled “DocFest Stratford“. This is the second year of the festival (but the first year we’ve heard of it).
Firda and I decided to take in a couple of the documentaries, six in total. The six documentaries with a quick review are listed below:
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1) The Hangman’s Graveyard – This documentary was created for the Canadian History Channel. During an archaelogical survey of the Don Jail site in Toronto, Ontario it was discovered that several graves were located under the current parking lot. The graves were located and dug up. The documentary follows the forensic process of identifying four of the fifteen graves discovered.
The documentary was interesting – especially the reenactments of the crimes that were commited by the four men identified. Many of the reanactment actors were Stratford residence. The level of historic accuracy is quite phenomenal as well. The film-maker was present to take question after the documentary. My only complaint about the documentary were the unnecessary number of cheesey video effects.
2) How William Shatner Changed the World – This documentary from 2005 was originally going to be called “How Star Trek Changed the World” but since Paramount wouldn’t give them the rights to use the name it had to be changed to the current title. The documentary is narrated by William Shatner and discusses the impact that Star Trek had on the technology since the show was on the air. The technologies include cell phones, ipods, home and handheld computers.
Sadly we only saw the first hour of the doucmentary which covered the technology side of the documentary. I believe the second hour dealt with the social impact of the show. One of the film-makers was available at the end of the documentary to take questions – most of them around William Shatner and his personality. The documentary was very entertaining – as the majority of stuff that William Shatner is involved with is.
3) Found – This 6 minute documentary was played before Gonzo Ballet. A hauntingly beautiful documentary about Toronto poet Souvankham Thammavongsa discovery of her past (from her dad’s journal writings). She and her parents escaped from Loas to Thailand in the late 1970s. In the six minutes the film runs she conveys despair, loss, hope, love, sadness, redemption and acceptance. This documentary was one of the highlights of the DocFest.
4) William Shatner’s Gonzo Ballet – In 2004 William Shatner put out an album called Has Been. This album was produced by Ben Folds (of Ben Fold Five fame), and teamed Shatner up with Aimee Mann, Henry Rollins and Lemon Jelly (to name a few). The film covers the process of changing this album into a ballet by the Milwaukee Ballet and several of the ballet pieces. Shatner is interviewed throughout the show with back story.
William Shatner was in attendance and took questions following the show. He ended up taking questions and telling stories for around 15 minutes before excusing himself. I’m saddened that he didn’t talk for longer but I guess 15 minutes was still nice. The film was enjoyable – I’m not a big ballet fan so those parts were alright. The back story parts were what kept me interested, plus the music was pretty good.
6 minutes of Shatners post-screening discussion is on YouTube.
5) Waterlife – The film-maker for this documentary described this as a road movie about the affects that human beings have had on the Great Lake water system. The documentary starts with Lake Superior and follows through the great lakes in the order of the water flow. The cinematography and panoramic views of the great lakes were amazing. As expected the message of the film is that humans have been negatively impacting the great lakes water system and unless we do something about it soon the impacts to the environment and ourselves will magnify and may be irreversible.
Having lived within an hour or two drive from the Great Lakes for my whole life I’m familiar with all of these concerns. From the invasive species (i.e. zebra mussels, lamprey eels) to the chemical pollutants being pumped into the lakes by industry (see the Love Channel in New York state as a prime example). This film did an amazing job of summarizing what we’ve done to the great lakes, and is an excellent learning tool regarding fresh water supplies in general.
6) The Cove – In the small coastal town of Taiji in Japan an annual slaughter of over 2300 dolphins takes place. This film is an expose of this practice, which the general population of Japan does not know is taking place. A former dolphin trainer Ric O’Barry (who was the dolphin trainer for the 1960’s show Flipper) is the main focus of the film who has made it his lifes mission to free captured dolphins. He discovered this dolphin slaughter during his mission and brings together a team to expose this slaughter. This team ultimately setups up hidden cameras that allow them to video tape the dolphin slaughter for the first time in order to confort the Japanese officials, public and the International Whaling Comission.
The hidden camera portion of the film was the most gut-wrenching sad footage I’ve ever seen. There Japanese fishers slaughtering the dolphins while laughing and joking. The sea in the cove running red with the blood of the dolphins. The underwater sonar footage of the dolphins signaling each other until there are no more dolphin sounds. An amazing film which will hopefully force the Japanese government to do something about this slaughter.
The film makers were suppose to be in attendance for the showing but had to cancel two days before the showing since the film was accepted to a Japanese documentary festival (which is a really big thing due to the content).
7) Anvil, The Story of Anvil – Anvil is a heavy metal rock band formed in 1973. The band has played with metal giants and been sited as an influence by many other (including Metallic). Unfortunately through lack of representation and bad luck their celebrity fizzled and they never reached the level of stardom they felt they deserved. Fast forward to early 2000. The band still exists, with two of the original members, and they are still trying to make it. The film follows them through a disasterous European tour, the creation of their thirteenth album, and ultimately their redemption at a metal festival in Japan.
The main theme of the film is “hope”. Throughout the bands 36 years existence the lead singer (Steve “Lips” Kudlow) and drummer (Robb Reiner) have remained friends and determined in their goal of heavy metal stardom, which they seem to have achieved with the success of this documentary.
Steve “Lips” Kudlow and Robb Reiner were present after the documentary to answer questions. Lips did most of the talking and were amazingly hospitalible and thankful for the reception of the documentary. They even stuck around after the documentary to sell and sign merchandise in the lobby.
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The 3rd annual DocFest will take place next year at roughly the same time and we will likely partake in the viewings.

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