HotDocs Film Festival – Day 2: Mermaids, Blurred Lines, Brimstone & Glory

Mermaids (Canada, 2016): A fascinating phenomenon per se, women who find personal fulfillment by becoming “mermaids” are a lot more common than expected. Mermaids focuses on three of them, each one going through a challenging journey: A transgender woman, a grieving sister and a bipolar Latina coming to terms with a history of abuse. Each one has discovered that rubber tails free them from all their burdens, however briefly.

Mermaids does a good job humanizing a potentially ludicrous practice: Midway through the film, director Ali Weinstein digs deep on what makes this women tick and finds gold. The documentary could have used some professional insight, but as it stands, it’s quite entertaining. 3/5 planets. 

Blurred Lines: Inside the Art World (Canada, 2017): This academic doc by Barry Avrich (Stratford Festival’s mainstay director) is a good example of a compelling topic comprehensively researched. The matter at hand is the business of art: Billions of dollars change hands with little regulation and often with merely speculative purposes. The result is a mercenary market that shapes artists’ output and not for the best.

Avrich spares us any lecturing about how art and money are mutually exclusive. The filmmaker puts together an impressive array of interviewees, including contemporary figures like Marina Abramovic and Julian Schnabel, collectors, consultants, gallerists and museum directors. You won’t find any dealers, but there is a good reason for that. Blurred Lines benefits of a visually enthralling subject and delivers an agreeable experience, if a notch sterile. 3.5/5 planets.

Brimstone & Glory (USA, 2017): There isn’t a better format to register collective madness, in this case, the National Pyrotechnic Festival in Tultepec, Mexico. The entire town lives for this event, even though very few have the education to create fireworks (most of the instructions come from tradition and trial and error) and many have lost limbs, if not their lives.

The event itself is at a whole other level of crazy. Most of the fireworks go off at eye level and in the middle of the crowd. Embers landing in people’s eyeballs are a common occurrence. Not surprisingly, the film is visually enthralling (director Viktor Jakovleski uses traditional and GoPro cameras to capture the action), although it could have used more research or characters to follow. 3/5 planets.

2 thoughts on “HotDocs Film Festival – Day 2: Mermaids, Blurred Lines, Brimstone & Glory”

  1. Thank you for nicely written article on #mermaids. I am the Latina in this film, where as it does focuses on 3 mermaids, they’re are 5 mermaids in the film, with different journey’s to share. I feel they (director/producer) accomplished such a great deal of insight interviewing and doing research on each one of us individually through out 2 years on us professional mermaids and our tails, which some are made like wetsuit rubbery material’s but the vast majority are made from Silicone and beginners tail are made from spandex fabric. I hope to continue to share our love of mermaiding and of the ocean with your readers. thank you Harlem Mermaid

  2. Thank you for the clarification. I oversimplified the making of the mermaids’ tails, which is an artistic endeavour in its own right. While it’s true the film features five mermaids, I felt the three I mentioned had the most emotionally satisfactory journey . Lastly, because of the festival’s magnitude, I’m only able to do capsule reviews. Hopefully, Mermaids will have a commercial run and I’ll have the opportunity to write a longer critique of the film. Once again, I appreciate you reaching out.

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