Marley Review

Marley (2012)

Starring Bob Marley, Ziggy Marley and Jimmy Cliff

Directed by Kevin Macdonald

For many of the younger generations with the advent of the internet and the iPhone/iPod that are permanently installed in everyone’s ears, music has become a bit of a shapeless and valueless commodity.  Despite the disposability of a lot of today’s music there are some artists that stand the test of time and they will be listened to long after all of us are dead.  After a successful run at this year’s Hot Docs festival and out now for an exclusive run at the Hot Docs Bloor Cinema until the end of the month is a documentary about one of the musical trailblazers of the 20th century.  It’s time for Marley.

Marely examines in great detail the universal appeal, impact on music history and role as a social and political prophet that Bob Marley had on the global community. Marley is the definitive life story of the musician, revolutionary, and legend, from his early days to his rise to international superstardom. Made with the support of the Marley family, the film features rare footage, incredible performances and revelatory interviews with the people that knew him best.

Bob Marley is one of the 20th century’s most iconic and important musicians, and in this documentary we go deep into his life and experiences that form the musician that is loved the world over.  This family-approved documentary features interviews from the likes of his family, including his wife, son, and daughter, as well as collaborators such as Jimmy Cliff, Chris Blackwell, and Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry to name a few.  Macdonald treats the story with an incredible amount of care, from the early days with the Wailers to his later political activism and his complicated relationship with his wife’s kids; seemingly nothing was off limits.  It’s to Macdonald’s credit as a director that he managed to explore the man’s life without making him seem bigger then he actually was. He was simply a man and when his life was in turmoil he always had his music to fall back on.

If you’re simply a fan of his music and honestly don’t care about the back story, then there is more than enough to keep you happy as well.  Through the use of archival footage and songs, Macdonald keeps the audience engaged by tracing the roots of the music and its emergence on the global stage due in large part to Marley’s own acknowledgment of needing to adapt the sound to make it more commercially viable.  In many ways this made Marley a real forward thinker and that is essentially the crux of the entire film.  You’ll be glued to the screen for this film’s entire 144 minute run time – you won’t be able to look away.

Marley is simply a fantastic experience as it is an emotionally satisfying film that envelopes you into the story of this man’s life, and if you weren’t a fan of the music before you will be afterwards.

Marley is playing exclusively at the Hot Docs Bloor Cinema until May 31st, click here for show times.

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HOT DOCS 2012 (Toronto) – Festival Wrap-up

Subscribers to Entertainment Maven have had their inboxes and Facebook pages barraged over the last ten or so days with our coverage of Toronto’s massive documentary film festival, Hot Docs 2012. Despite our feverish reviewing, we still only managed to scratch the surface of this incredible festival. Below are three different wrap-ups of the festival from three different writers who attended.


Hot Docs 2012 marks my first full fest for Hot Docs, my first festival doing coverage for Entertainment Maven, and my first media accreditation for a fest. That’s a lot of firsts, and it will hold a special place in my memory because of this. This also marks the last time I will ever see a movie at the Cumberland Four, more on that in the upcoming days. I was excited to get back into fest mode but wary of how I would enjoy a fest of only docs, well the answer is that I enjoyed it very much and saw some great films. Thanks go to the staff and volunteers of the fest and the guys over at VKPR for all the help on the media side. While the day job prohibited me from seeing everything on my list, I did get to see a fair amount of the films I had earmarked. Among the notables were Affair of the Heart, Love Story, Radioman and just missing the top five list, the excellent Inocente and Despite the Gods. That said here are my five faves of the fest

5 – Indie Game: The Movie

4 – Ping Pong

3 – Marley (you’ll see more about that soon)

2 – Tchoupitoulas

1 – Bones Brigade: An Autobiography (I admit bias in picking this as #1 because of my love for Dogtown and Z-Boys, but I’m picking it anyways) 


Fascinating. That’s probably one of the words I abused while talking to you guys about the movies I’ve seen at this year’s Hot Docs. And most of them do deserve the words in the best of sense, since the filmmakers scoured the earth for the most well…fascinating and creative and innovative and intelligent people to put in front of their cameras. As for favourites, the first thing that comes to my head is Tchoupitoulas, with its bare bones depiction of New Orleans in the eyes of three – but really one – working class child. But that’s my brain speaking, that movie’s in the top five. My real favourite is Scarlet Road, which had the breezy tone of meeting the friends of a woman struggling to find change of the statuses of sex workers and differently-abled people in all of Australia and the world. There’s Soldier Citizen, showing me that I don’t have to like the people in them, whose political views range from radical to moderate, as long as I can understand and see the complexities within their views. It portrays the debates between Israeli soldiers and their teacher, but the movie also mixes those heated moments with the mundane, as young people are allowed to be young. Then there’s We Are Legion, absorbing the electric pace fitting for their hacktivist subjects, reminding me of the dreaded time I stepped into 4chan and /b and the other time the bad boys and girls turned good. And lastly there’s the devastating Call Me Kuchu with its occasional moments of bright faces and objects fighting oppressive homophobia in Uganda. I’ve also witnessed some sad moments on the big screen but there’s a bittersweet realization that these people, both posthumously or still moving and shaking, will be remembered by these films. I can’t wait until next year when the filmmakers responsible for these movies will come back and tell us about more of their passionate subject. And I’m sure the screens will dazzle us with more of their work.


As Hot Docs 2012 is officially in the books, the one thing that strikes me from previous years was the excellent attendance at this year’s version of the festival – which was a new record.  The reopening of the Bloor Cinema as the Hot Docs Bloor Cinema certainly added to the curiosity and while there weren’t necessarily as many high profile films this year as compared to last, it has to be considered as one of the finer festivals in recent years given the incredibly strong lineup.  Films like Detropia, The Imposter, The Invisible War and The Queen of Versailles made incredibly strong impressions on this critic personally and I have no doubt that they will all be making appearances in Toronto theatres in the weeks and months to come.  Music documentaries played a big role this year as Marley packed both screenings at this year’s festival and tickets to Shut Up and Play the Hits, Charles Bradley: Soul Of America, Beware of Mr. Baker and An Affair of the Heart were hot commodities as each of these films delighted audiences and created some new fans for these bands and artists.  Films like Beauty is Embarrassing, Ping-Pong and Radioman provided some uplifting moments. The Ambassador and Despite the Gods had a few crazy moments and then there were films like McCulin, Only the Young and Tchoupitoulas that just sneak up and their audiences and surprise them.  That is ultimately the magic of a festival like this as it allows you to take chances and support some incredibly interesting films.

As a pure ranking of favorites I would have to rank my favorite five films as the following.

5 – Despite the Gods

4 -McCulin

3 -The Queen of Versailles

2 -The Imposter

1 – Tchoupitoulas

HOT DOCS 2012 (Toronto) – ChickFlicking – Francophrenia (Or: Don’t Kill Me, I Know Where the Baby is) Review (Nadia Sandhu)

HOT DOCS 2012 (Toronto)

Francophrenia (Or: Don’t Kill Me, I Know Where the Baby is)

Directed by James Franco and Ian Olds

James Franco.  General Hospital.  James Franco. Three reasons that experimental doc Francophrenia (Or Don’t Kill Me, I Know Where the Baby Is) requires closer examination on ChickFlicking (Full disclosure – I have in fact met James Franco and I have been completely charmed).

Franco is famously busy: film star, soap star, post-graduate student, and artist.  The list goes on and on, so it is no surprise that while filming a stint on General Hospital as the villainous artist and serial killer “Franco”, James Franco thought it would be a great idea to foray into the world of documentary filmmaking.  He hired a three camera crew to follow him on set as he filmed a climactic showdown scene for the soap at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles (a setting that was incidentally his own idea).

Everyone has an opinion about James Franco since his memorable stint as Oscar co-host in 2011, and this film goes a long way towards redeeming him in my eyes.  Handing over the raw footage to filmmaker Ian Olds, Franco gave him carte blanche to assemble a story.  Apparently Franco is fascinated by how others perceive and project onto his celebrity persona, whether it is the producers of GH or Ian Olds, and project Olds does.  As Franco stands around looking handsomely intense, Olds creates a narrative using a whispered voice over.  Paranoia. Drugs. Insecurity. Megalomania.  James Franco as Franco as Ian Old’s whispered internal monologue.  It is all here and it is impressive just how far James Franco lets the filmmaker go.

Francophrenia is playing in Toronto as part of Hot Docs, Canadian International Documentary Festival and I counted 11 walk outs before the third chapter had even begun.  This is not a film for everyone, but it is a fascinating look at a  celebrity and marketing genius.

And make no mistake, a marketing machine is what James Franco really is. I have followed his career with great interest, having begun my own foray into showbiz as an entertainment publicist.  Of course James Franco starred in this documentary and of course it is avant garde, and bizarre, and over achieving.

I left the film charmed by James Franco yet again. He can laugh at himself!  He doesn’t take his celebrity seriously!  Another branding coup in a long line of coups that have catapulted James Franco, actor, onto the A-list.

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HOT DOCS 2012 (Toronto) – The Record Breaker/Ping Pong (Double-bill) Reviews (Kirk Haviland)

HOT DOCS 2012 (Toronto)

The Record Breaker

Directed by Brian McGinn

Ping Pong

Directed by Hugh Hartford

In my last official Hot Docs review of the 2012 festival I will look at this double-bill devoted to athletes in their mature years still executing at the highest competitive levels. One film follows a man with the most Guinness Book World Records currently, the other is about the World Championships of Table Tennis and the competitors in the over 80 division.

Ashrita Furman is a health food store owner who has one very encompassing obsession, he is obsessed with the Guinness Book of World Records and setting as many of them as he possibly can. To date, Ashrita has set over 300 world records and holds the record for owning the most records at one time, a staggering 144. As a teen Ashrita seemed destined to become a lawyer like his father, until a decision as a teenager led him to become a Buddhist. It was his decision to follow the teachings of Guru Sri Chinmoy and his belief that enlightenment can be achieved through sporting achievements that started Ashrita on the path of his first world record. After that he was hooked, setting record after record and becoming one of the most prolific of the record setters in Guinness history. Oh and the film documents his quest to climb Machu Picchu…on stilts.

Ping Pong introduces us to its eight focused characters through a sequence that takes us around the globe, introducing us to each of the characters through their pre-tournament training, or lack thereof. We meet the UK contingent, Terry, the reigning over-80 world champion who also happens to be fighting cancer throughout his entire body, and Les, the 89 year-old doubles champion who still trains full out with weights every day. We head to Sweden to meet Rune, who’s very interested in what Les has been doing to prepare. Rounding out the men is Sun from Inner Mongolia, participating in his first world championship, who feels no need to prepare because Ping Pong is an Asian dominated sport right? On the women’s side comes a duo from Germany. Ursula Bihl, the reigning women’s champ, a cantankerous and hilarious lady whose son has decided to join her to see firsthand what this Ping Pong Championship is all about. Then there’s Inge, participating for the first time, Inge has managed to use ping pong to work her way out of a dementia ward at her nursing home. Over in the US we meet the ultra-competitive Lisa, determined to win at any cost. And last, but most definitely not least, we are introduced to Dot at her 100th birthday party. Dot becomes a minor celebrity at the tournament because of her age and the fact that she needs her wheelchair to get her to and from the table. We follow all eight through the qualifying rounds all the way to the finals, for some. We witness the triumph and defeat, but mostly the determination of these athletes to whom age is merely a formality.

Ping Pong is a rousing crowd pleaser that delivers in so many ways. Terry’s health issues are heart wrenching, especially when they make their presence known during the tournament. Lisa and her competitive edge could easily make her the villain of the piece, but the filmmakers wisely allow her story to unfold without this context and you end up rooting for her in the end.  The German Duo of Inge and Ursula almost steal the entire film though, as Inge’s story is heartwarming and Ursula’s acerbic wit will have you rolling in the aisle. Les and Rune’s friendship shines through and despite being rivals they clearly have each other’s support. Dot and Sun’s stories end early, but they clearly enjoyed the experiences. Without spoiling anything, what happens to the German Duo at the end had me standing and applauding.

Easily the most accessible documentary I saw at Hot Docs 2012, it also stands out as one of the best. As rousing and effective as 2007’s excellent Young at Heart, but a lot lighter in tone, Ping Pong is a Must See for lovers of that doc. Without any context, Ping Pong is still a strong recommend. We can only hope that the Hot Docs Bloor Cinema or TIFF Bell Lightbox pick up this gem for a proper theatrical run.

Till Next Time

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HOT DOCS 2012 (Toronto) – Love Story Review (Paolo Kagaoan)

HOT DOCS 2012 (Toronto)

Love Story

Directed by Florian Habicht

A modelesque young brunette holds a piece of cake on her hand, walking from the financial district of New York City and eventually taking the F or the Q train southbound to Coney Island. A few stops before the last, the woman catches the eye of a tall and slender post-hipster man, the kind who wears the same Bert and Ernie T-shirt and pastel coloured jeans which are so in this season! He asks her out on a date, she tells him to take the subway back one stop and walks towards her and if they find each other or not, it’s meant to be that way. He returns to the area days later and when that doesn’t work he puts up signs asking for her. She answers the ads, they meet at a dive bar and a fake-real romance is born.

The movie is comprised of two interweaving sections – the first is their titular Love Story, shot in a more polished manner and mostly takes place in the apartment of Florian, the hipster man who is German by way of New Zealand. The second is shot through a more basic handheld camera, as Florian interviews random people off the streets and ask them about finding, maintaining or destroying relationships. These random New Yorkers, nice on the outside, reveal their nihilistic streaks and tell him about weird things that could happen to him with his new girlfriend. He also asks his grandfather for filmmaking advice, the latter giving him ideas from movies he’s seen, Florian giving a wonky translation of secondhand fiction to his documented real life.

This is like a choose-your-own adventure kind of movie that technically counts as a documentary because the filmmaker plays themselves in a more heightened, ridiculous version of their real life scenario. One particularly memorable scene is Florian running out to a convenient store to buy condoms while wearing Grinch-looking pyjama tights. He lucks out on that one-in-a-million chance to see the woman again and date her, but I don’t think the genre eh works and has the same standings.

The first few scenes evince such whimsy reminiscent of Truffaut and the rest have the same old-timey jazz songs of early Woody Allen films. I also admire how fearless he and his new girlfriend are in front of the camera, their sexual humiliations – mostly the woman’s whose name is Masha – are used for cheap laughs. I just wished that it sustained the same tone that it had in the first scenes. Too bad it doesn’t know what kind of movie it wants to be.

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