Dir. Ryan Mullins
This real life caper focuses on Anas Aremeyaw Anas, a journalist in Ghana who fights corruption and crime. His reputation has catapulted him to urban legend levels since he remains faceless to the public. In Chameleon, Mullins follows Anas in his various missions and a lot of these are on the scene dangerous situations. Anas goes undercover, or posits other undercover operatives in his place uncovering and arresting rapists, child kidnappers, and even dismantling a possibly dangerous religious cult.
Anas’ methods are eccentric and he faces a growing criticism of them. The film expounds upon that by giving the viewer and unflinching view into Anas’ heartfelt need to expose injustice, but doing so maybe at the expense of the people he’s trying to save. This is probably the first detective thriller documentary I’ve seen at Hot Docs.
Leaving Africa (2015)
Dir. Iiris Härmä
This touching film is a portrait of friendship and courage in the face of adversity. Ugandan Catherine and Finnish Riita, two sixty-something women, work together in a project in Uganda that gives sexual health centre. Both men and women attend the health centre where they learn about the inequalities in their culture and learn about the science and politics behind sex. Conversations on once taboo subjects are freely discussed and women are given a platform from which to talk to their partners. Riita and Catherine have given a huge part of their lives to their work and share household where they reminisce, dance, and discuss life like sisters. Unfortunately, an anonymous letter disrupts their quiet lives and their work. The conservative government threatens to end the program and deport Riita from the home she’s known for 25 years.
Iiris Härmä casts a conscientious lens into Riita and Catherines lives. There are no frills for every shot with the women is a realistic meditation of their simple every day. Although the women come from contrasting backgrounds their close relationship extolls a lesson in understanding and compassion. Scenes of their students reveal the progressive benefits that the centre provides. Couples come to realize that their poverty is, as Catherine puts it, “gender-based poverty.” That with family planning, women and men can help build sustainable homes with fulfilling lifestyles.
Härmä allows the film to unfold with caring patience for her subjects allowing for an endearing look at these uncomplicated and strong independent women.
The Queen Of Silence (2014)
Dir. Agnieszka Zwiefka
This film came in a pile of films that were sent to me by eager filmmakers from Hot Docs. The premise: a ten-year old Romani girl in Poland, Denisa, who’s severe hearing disability has never been diagnosed, finds a collection of Bollywood DVDs and become obsessed with the genre. The film is part documentary and part musical as Agnieszka Zwiefka attempts to externally illustrate Denisa’s only creative outlet.
Denisa is charming and communicates in her own way, through her demeanor and positive outlook despite her life as an outcast. There are heartbreaking scenes where her Romani peers call her names and her own family can’t relate to her. At times, most people find her a nuisance, but through her big smiles and dedicated focus on her dancing, Denisa shines like a star.
It is a beautifully filmed slice of life in a world that many are blissfully unaware of and while Denisa’s family might live an unrelatable life to most, her unrelenting spirit moves the viewer to see Romani in a compassionate light. Zwiefka takes a sensitive lens to Denisa and her plight. Audiences will leave the audiences wanting more of Denisa and a better life for her and her people.