Escaping into the nearest cinema with the latest superhero blockbuster, poignant drama, swooning romance or clever comedy is a great way to repel winter's chilled fingers. Hollywood's fantastical adventures require you to suspend your disbelief. There is an alternative. The silver screen still offers delights for the lover of true stories, often more compelling and memorable than the exploits of comic-book characters.
Hot Docs is North America's largest documentary festival, screening 230 films to over 200,000 people in Toronto. In June, the annual Hot Docs Festival arrives at the Palace Cinemas in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra. Read on to discover 5 of the finest docos from the festival.
A new haven for documentaries, Flint, Michigan is the birthplace of Michael Moore (Bowling for Colombine, Fahrenheit 9-11) and Claressa 'T – Rex' Shields. At 11 years old, Claressa escaped poverty and violence in her neighbourhood when she began training to become a boxer. In a true story rivalling Rocky and Million Dollar Baby, she became the youngest member of the US Olympic boxing team, competing at the London Olympics in 2012. After Olympic success, she grapples with the influences of family, sponsors, the media and her public profile. Claressa's story is especially relevant to Australians, as we watch the struggles of many former athletes unprepared for the fame and wealth when they achieve their sporting dreams. Book tickets here.
Orion: The Man Who Would Be King (image by Hot Docs)
Orion: The Man Who Would Be King Elvis Presley, the King of Rock and Roll, is still heard and loved throughout the world despite passing away almost 40 years ago. Obsessed fans search for conspiracy theories proving he's still alive whilst others satisfy their craving with CDs, LPs, live impersonator stage shows and Elvis festivals, including the annual celebration in Parkes, NSW. Shortly after Elvis died, Sun Records, one of his recording studios, discovered Jimmy Orion, a singer with a striking physical, vocal and performance style closing resembling the King. For five years, Jimmy became Elvis to thousands of fans before the blue suede shoes became too big to fill. Orion examines the often unforgiving pressures in the music industry as studios and artists often clash to maintain the magic of their greatest hits. Book tickets here.
Gulistan, Land of Roses The exotic forests, mountains and deserts of the Middle East have enthralled travellers and armchair tourists with stories of centuries-old legends and religious parables. For women living in Kurdistan, stretching through Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria, life is far from peaceful, despite the magical landscapes. Contrasting the brief and violent news reports of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) conflict, Gulistan, Land of the Roses reveals the personal story of courageous Kurdish female guerrilla fighters, battling with pride and skill against male ISIS soldiers to regain control of their homeland. Book tickets here.
Diving into the Unknown The recent anniversary of the Beaconsfield mine disaster was a stark reminder of the hope, grief and joy felt when we push too hard against the natural world. In 2014, when 5 Finnish cave divers journey through a 5-kilometre long cave, dropping 130 metres underwater, an accident claims 2 lives with the survivors only narrowly escaping the cave. International investigations were cancelled in the dangerous environment, forcing the survivors to return under the icy waters to retrieve their friends. This tense real-life thriller in Norway captures the physical and psychological pressures on a very personal recovery mission.
Book tickets here.
Chuck Norris Versus Communism
Don't be fooled by the title. Chuck Norris is legendary as an Internet Meme, but the hero of this documentary is a brave female translator, dubbing Hollywood films smuggled into Romania and becoming the voice of freedom. Trapped behind the curtain of communism, Romanians were denied sight of the lavish cities and suburbs of the 'decadent' West, instead fed propaganda masked as news bulletins. These films, starring iconic 80's action heroes, including Chuck, Jean Claude Van Damme, Steven Seagal and Arnold Schwarzenegger, reached millions of Romanians, opening a window to a supermarkets, fashion and muscle cars in an unimagined new world.
Book tickets here.