Xavierpop does #HotDocs12 – @HotDocs Reviews : Part V (by @moviejay)
And with this post, we wrap up our capsule reviews that we have been presenting to you over the last few days. Fear not, we will be dropping full reviews of some of the documentaries as we check them out during the run of the festival. We look forward to seeing you back here for those reviews, however in the meantime please find below Part V of Xavierpop Does #HotDocs12, (this time provided by MovieJay (@moviejay).
We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists
No doubt you’ve seen those “V For Vendetta” masks around on the news. You know the ones, they kinda remind you of Zorro with the bedroom eyes and the lascivious grin. They’re worn in festive celebration of civil disobedience by self-described “hacktivists”, a small group of online individuals that casts a net the world over, who stand for freedom of information.
“We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists” is an absolutely riveting documentary essay that gets behind the mystery of the folks who wear these masks. Questions such as why they wear them, what their intentions are and why we should care about the kinds of information our governments keep classified from us are studied.
Do their ends always justify their means? That’s what we’re left having to decide. A U.S. soldier gets a hold of thousands of classified documents that will give the public insight into how their government works at its highest levels and how it communicates with its counterparts both friendly and not so friendly. The documents find their way to Australian political/internet activist Julian Assange and he publishes the stuff online. The U.S. government views this as a serious crime and now the soldier is awaiting trial. It is the largest breach of American information since Daniel Ellsberg made copies of thousands of classified documents from the Nixon administration that were later published as the Pentagon Papers - the result of that being the accelerated withdrawal of the U.S. from the Vietnam war.
We meet various hacktivists including one that FBI agents, after a raid at her home, were surprised to find was a teenaged girl. She’s on trial for helping to make websites crash as a means of interrupting that website’s service both in terms of philosophy and business. We sit in rapture as we learn what it is hacktivists actually do online. Like, did you know if you and me and a couple hundred other folks meet at a website at an exact time and just start going crazy with the “refresh” feature that it will cause a website such a terrible migraine that it will stop working? That girl is on trial facing a sentence that would be longer than what a pedophile gets on a sexual assault rap.
“We Are Legion” is told in a fairly classic talking heads style, and it includes a bevvy of online stuff that helps to paint a picture of the world hacktivists inhabit online and how they operate. Thought-provoking, urgent and indignant, this is one of the best documentaries you’ll see this year. Director Brian Knappenberger, whose credits previously include television work, takes a major step forward here showing he can play with the A-listers in bringing big ideas to the forefront in a compelling narrative.
Back to the Square
Fri, Apr 27 9:15 PM
Isabel Bader Theatre
Sun, Apr 29 2:00 PM
TIFF Bell Lightbox 1
Fri, May 4 1:30 PM
Isabel Bader Theatre
Director Petr Lom turns his camera on and then listens and follows 5 Egyptians in the year after revolution swept the streets and filled Tahrir Square, finally knocking over the 30-year hold on power of its dictator, Hosni Mubarak.
There’s the story of a self-reliant boy who took to his horse and went to Tahrir Square to press his case for the re-opening of the pyramids, which earn him money for his family. To his great misfortune, he is attacked by both Mubarak thugs and by people who confuse him for being a thug. He ends up without his horse and with a bruised pride. There is a taxi driver who recounts his time in prison for being falsely rounded-up by the country’s rampantly corrupt police. There’s a young woman who’s family name has been scorned in her rural village because she was the victim of rape. We’re informed that the arrests of young women for being assaulted by men continue to this day, as women continue to be scapegoated for the criminal actions of men.
The portraits add up to a sobering account of a revolution that persists to this day, even if the eyes of the world have moved elsewhere, and of the difficulties present in a country where making change is hard to do when its history is steeped in patriarchal traditions of the few with power dominating over the rest. There is an exasperating sequence where we see a tense debate take place between the victimized woman in the picture and with the head of the family, who resents that the filmmaker is in their small home without his permission being granted ahead of time. That scene distills the stubborn ways of the past with the hunger of the future generation and especially of women, to be heard and to be treated equally.
“Back to the Square” is sad at times, but it’s never depressing. It gets beyond the headlines and into the complexities of real people who continue to feel powerless in a system that is still being controlled by the Egyptian military, to the chagrin now of the people. “With the military in charge, civilians now get military trials while Mubarak receives a civilian trial”, one woman says, aptly. This is the kind of film like the “Up” series that would be fascinating to see updates of over time as these peoples lives evolve in a country that is still so very much unsettled in the direction it clearly is hungry to move in.
She Said Boom: The Story of the Fifth Column
Fri, Apr 27 7:15 PM
The Royal Cinema
Tue, May 1 9:00 PM
Fri, May 4 7:00 PM
The Fifth Column was an all-female post-punk Toronto act that formed in the early 80′s. The mainstays were G.B. Jones, Caroline Azar and Beverly Breckenridge, and they’re featured prominently in interviews and archival footage of the band. Along with Bruce LaBruce and Ms. Vaginal Davis, we are taken inside the beginnings of what came to be known as the Queercore or Homocore movement in the post-punk and post-new wave era in music with its focus on society’s distate and negative attitude to the gay, bisexual and lesbian communities.
The movement was a mostly underground one that manifested itself with fanzines, music, experimental videos, and other literature.
As a fanboy of the Fifth Column myself, I can assure fans as well as non-fans that it’ll whet your appetite for their music, but that it is made without much flare and is at times a timid talking-head piece that only skims the surface of the times they lived in, and more importantly, of that delicious experimental punk sound with the industrial edge that qualified them surprisingly as innovators in their field. The best stuff lies in the archival black & white films such as the video of the band’s “Where Are They Now?” by Marc de Guerre, in a song that is as good as anything put out at the time. Also enthralling, we are given the backstory on “The Fairview Mall Story” about the true events detailing police entrapment and the revelation of the names of men found out in the shopping mall’s bathroom.
We are taken through the band’s first release, “To Sir With Hate”, to their subsequent release “All-Time Queen of the World”, their getting picked up by an indie label in the early 90′s, the touring and then the infighting and overall disorganization of the members who finally just dissolved soon after.
“She Said Boom: The Story of the Fifth Column” is good intro of a doc to anyone unfamiliar with the band, but it’s a safe doc at about 65 minutes, with seductive sounds and social material deserving of a more riveting treatment.