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Hot Docs 2017 Over on Cinema Axis

This is going to be a short post to draw attention to the eight screeners from the 2017 Hot Docs Film Festival I was fortunate enough to review over on CinemaAxis.  Below, I’ll link to all of the reviews once they’re posted, but for now I’ll just introduce each film and give a quick synopsis.

69 Minutes of 86 Days

This purely observational film follows a refugee family on a journey to Sweden, shot on the level of the family’s 3-year-old girl Lean.  Mostly, this means the camera is a mere 3 feet off the ground, and captures a lot of adult legs and worried faces.


This is a cinephile’s wet dream (in a good way):  filmmakers and critics discuss Alfred Hitchcock, Psycho, and the infamous Shower Scene.  The cinematographers and editors provide technical analysis of composition and cuts, the actors discuss performances, and the critics provide historical context.  Everyone geeks out.

Birth of a Family

A family of indigenous Canadians caught up in the notorious “Sixties Scoop” meet for the first time, now in their fifties and sixties.  They were each taken from their birth mother and fostered in white homes.  Now, they discuss their upbringing, the loss of their native culture, and finally becoming the family they always could have been.

Integral Man

This film follows the story of modern renaissance man Jim Stewart, publisher of mathematics textbooks, concert violinist, an architecture aficionado.  The film focuses on Integral House, a residence that Stewart commissioned and oversaw that has been heralded as one of the most-important pieces of residential architecture of the new century.

Let There Be Light

This science documentary focuses on the field of nuclear fusion, and the scientists that are working to bring it to fruition.  Most of the time is spent on the international megaproject ITER, but smaller labs also get some of the spotlight.


To help cope with her family’s deteriorating mental health, the director investigates the bizarre story surrounding their father’s struggle with mental health, a story that includes a harem, cult-leaders, and a seedy trip to Southeast Asia.

Ramen Heads

A good old-fashioned food doc, on a good old-fashioned Japanese comfort food.  This film focuses on the most accomplished ramen chef in Japan, then dabbles in different stylistic approaches to the broth-and-noodles dish.

Still Tomorrow

A middle-aged Chinese woman with cerebral palsy works on her parents’ farm, and passes the time writing poetry.  Once her blog is discovered by a poetry critic and one of her poems is shared over a million times, her life undergoes some incredible changes.

That’s all of them!  Be sure to visit to see all of the other Hot Docs reviews, as this is one of the preeminent documentary film festivals in the world.  And keep your eyes open here, where I will re-blog each of my reviews as they are posted.

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Derek Jacobs

Chicago,IL 60606

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