Whether you’re new to documentaries, or one of Toronto’s many self-confessed cinephiles, Hot Docs Film Festival is a must-have experience.
Having attended for the first time in the bygone era of 2003, I can say that the festival and its audiences have grown exponentially over the last decade as documentaries have finally gained mainstream popularity through theatrical releases and online streaming. A well-crafted documentary can not only have the pacing and story strength of a traditional movie, but as technology access and the medium evolves, the supporting visuals can go far beyond a ‘talking-head’ interview.
Earlier this week I had the opportunity to catch a Hot Docs screening of Rodney Ascher’s “The Nightmare”.
Focused on the condition known as “sleep paralysis”, The Nightmare had a profound visual challenge—how do you show something only the dreaming subjects can see? In this challenge the director also had an opportunity many associate with fiction—he could create a dream world from scratch. Using a soundscape fit for Nightmare on Elm Street and macabre reenactments of the subjects at different ages, the audience is exposed to the sensation of sleep paralysis as experienced by those who have endured it and not separated by a clinical distance. The visuals swing from true scares to horror kitsch (as do the stories), but the overall blend works and is far more memorable than a news magazine format.
If you love horror or are intrigued/frightened by the words “Sleep Paralysis” (no shame either way), you have two more chances to check out “The Nightmare” at Hot Docs:
Saturday, May 2 at 9:15 PM – Revue Cinema
Sunday, May 3 at 9:30 PM – TIFF Bell Lightbox
If horror isn’t your thing, there are over 150 options to check out at this year’s festival before it ends on Sunday, May 3rd.
Be forewarned: attending one good documentary screening will hook you for life.0