Hot Docs 2017 Review: Shiners


Opting for nothing less than an examination of the purpose and philosophy of 21st century labour – in short, how and why do we work in an era of automation and disposable consumerism? – Stacey Tenenbaum’s re-evaluation of the humble shoe shiner smashes any and all Dickensian or Jim Crow notions of the trade with smiles and (mostly joyful) tears.

She travels the globe, from Times Square to La Paz, Bolivia and from Sarajevo to Etobicoke to assess the evolution of the most local of services: cleaning and burnishing shoe leather in a public space. Shiners addresses socioeconomic hot buttons issues of the day, such as race, class, ecology, automation of labour, addiction, politics and human dignity. But, it is first and foremost a character study in a waning trade that has always attracted interesting characters. Combine this with Van Royko’s low-f-stop cinematography and you almost smell the oil, leather, and Kiwi.

Tactile close-ups of fingers and cloth, skin on skin, are mixed with medium shots to emphasize the ‘power-difference’ between the person ‘in the chair’ (which is not always a literal chair) and the shiner, which the film then smoothly undoes. Finally, a healthy mix of wide shots to show their labour employed inside the context of their city. Shiners has a craftswoman’s ebb and flow as Tenenbaum effortlessly flits back and forth across their stories.

Would you like to know more…?

Bloom Goes Indie

Orlando BloomOrlando Bloom seemed to come out of nowhere in 2001 when Peter Jackson cast him in the role of Legolas in the first Lord of the Rings film. Bloom had little chance to really act but that didn’t stop girls from fawning over the handsome Brit. It’s fair to say that when Bloom popped up again in 2004, people were disappointed. For the most part, Troy was considered a disappointment and outside of a few good performances, one of which was not Bloom, the film is forgettable trash.

Among the other disappointments (Haven, Elizabethtown and his flat performance in the Pirates films) there have been a few minor successes. Granted, he may not be a great actor, but Bloom does have a little talent that goes further than just a few sultry looks. The low budget Australian film Ned Kelly, which also starred Heath Ledger, was much better than I had anticipated in large part due to the performances from both actors. And then there’s Ridley Scott’s much disliked Kingdom of Heaven. The final cut of the film was a disaster but it did showcase strong performances, including one from Bloom, and the director’s cut of the film really is worth a look.

Regardless of the good, Bloom is generally considered a poor actor and though that could mean career suicide for some, Bloom isn’t ready to sit back and let Hollywood cast him as the pretty boy. It was recently announced that Bloom would be stepping away from Hollywood and focusing on smaller productions, namely a new film by the talented Andrucha Waddington who impressed me with 2005’s House of Sand. The film is based on Bill Carter’s “Fools Rush In” which tells of Carter’s experiences living in the Bosnian capital Sarajevo during the 1992-95 siege.

It will be interesting to see how this project turns out. Waddington is a visionary director and I have no doubt the film will look fantastic but I’m on the fence as to whether Bloom’s acting abilities will meet the director’s talent. It’ll be a while before we see if he’s more than just a pretty face and until then, I’m happy to visit Legolas.