Hot Docs Tuesday

Story of a Beautiful Country (South Africa/Canada, Director: Khalo Matabane) — This was a disappointment. Billed as a road movie through the new South Africa (and today marks ten years since the first democratic multiracial elections in the country), it ended up stranding us inside a taxi watching the director converse with people either a little crazy (like the unreformed militant Afrikaner with his M-16) or a little drunk (like the endless interview with an interracial couple it looked like the director met at a nightclub). There was some real insight from a few, and a lot of pointless jabber from most. The truth is that South Africa is a beautiful country, and so a lot of striking images were captured, even through the windscreen, but as a documentary, this failed to live up to my expectations. (6/10)

Army of One (Canada, Director: Sarah Goodman) — Canadian Sarah Goodman was living in New York around the time of 9/11, and noticed the long lineups at army recruiting centres after the tragedy. In this too-short film, she follows three volunteers for more than two years, through basic training and beyond. Of the three, only one is still in the army (and the director informed us at the screening that now-Sergeant Miller has returned home safely from Iraq). We follow the three as they try to find a purpose in their lives, one that the army promises but fails to deliver. The film ends a bit abruptly. I would have loved to see even more. It brought back my own brief experiences in the Canadian military, and sharpened the deep ambivalence I have about the way the army molds people to do a job nobody wants to talk about. There are a lot of good people in the military, and a lot of good things. But there are also many things that aren’t talked about in the recruiting centres, and this film uncovers and lays them bare. (9/10)