The 17th Annual Hot Docs festival wrapped up a week and a half ago, so I should probably wrap things up as well. After 28 features and 4 shorts, I’m starting to see double…Here’s the last batch of films I caught:
AMERICAN: The Bill Hicks Story (2010 – Matt Harlock, Paul Thomas) – Like many people (at least two thirds of the audience at the screening of this film for example), I missed out on Bill Hicks’ entire career while he was alive. My introduction to him was via the liner notes to the album “Aenima” (1996) by the band Tool which was dedicated to him and released shortly after his death by pancreatic cancer at the age of 32. Hicks was the type of stand up comedian who had opinions – strong opinions – and he built up a dedicated following who appreciated his philosophies. He railed against what he saw as injustice, the mediocre, the irrational and the plain stupid. The documentary traces his arc from a teenage school clown through his early stand-up performances in Houston (where he was too young to legally be admitted to the club) and then on to the larger clubs, TV appearances and wider recognition at comedy festivals (the Montreal Just For Laughs fest was a big turning point for him) and in Europe (particularly England). The documentary mostly tells his story through old clips as well as many photos that were used in a sort of animated collage form. You don’t actually see the talking heads of the people from his life (who do much of the narration) until the last 10-15 minutes of the film. Some people weren’t enamored with this approach, but I felt it really focused the story on Hicks. Whether you agree with his stance on the wide range of topics he covered (and there is bound to be something he did or said to offend most people), he had razor sharp timing, cutting barbs and many insights. Anyone who can deliver a comedy routine and use it to encourage the use of logical thinking in our children is OK by me.
A Drummer’s Dream (2010 – John Walker) – The drummer’s dream of the title is initially wrapped around the idea that Nasyr Abdul Al-Khabyyr had of bringing together some of the best drummers in the world to a remote summer camp to teach and inspire other student drummers. So for a whole week, in Northern Ontario, Al-Khabyyr gets to hang out with Dennis Chambers, Kenwood Dennard, Horacio “El-Negro” Hernadez, Giovanni Hidalgo, Mike Mangini and Raul Rekow (people who have played with Santana, Miles Davis, Tito Puente and many others) and realize his dream. As it turns out, his dream was shared by many others too…The students have the time of their lives learning at the feet of these experienced musicians, the pros themselves find the camp to be a revelation and the audience in the theatre are treated to some astounding drumming. As many tricks as they show off (Mangini’s incredibly fast rolls, the multiple different time signatures being played at once, Dennard’s voice/drum/keyboard mix, etc.), these guys never lose sight of the musicality of what they are doing. Their passion for what they do is contagious and it makes you wish you had attended the camp yourself.