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Chinese activist and artist Ai Weiwei is the focus of a new documentary, “Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry.” Photo courtesy of Alison Klayman

Hot Docs 2012

Interested in movies about faith, poverty and activism? Why not check out these films as part of the 19th annual Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival.

By Observer Staff

Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry

Directed by Alison Klayman
Produced by Alison Klayman and Adam Schlesinger

This Sundance-winning film reveals the relentlessness of Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei. China’s most celebrated virtuoso and outspoken critic, Weiwei consulted on the Beijing National Stadium for the 2008 Olympics but gained worldwide attention after his assault, arrest and two-month detention by Chinese authorities last year. Still, against a backdrop of strict censorship and an unresponsive legal system, he manages to fully express himself and organize protest through social media.

A dissident for the digital age, Weiwei successfully chips away at the wall between politics and art. And first-time director Alison Klayman provides audiences with unprecedented access to the artist. Her story is a nuanced exploration of one of contemporary China’s most captivating figures.


Finding North
Directed by Lori Silverbush and Kristi Jacobson
Produced by Julie Goldman, Ryan Harrington, Kristi Jacobson and Lori Silverbush

Forty-nine million people in the United States — one in four children — don’t know where their next meal is coming from. Directors Kristi Jacobson and Lori Silverbush closely examine the issue of hunger in America through three people struggling with food insecurity: Barbie, a single Philadelphia mother who grew up in poverty and is trying to better her lot and those of her two kids; Rosie, a Colorado fifth-grader who depends on handouts from friends and neighbours; and Tremonica, a Mississippi second-grader whose asthma and health issues are only worsened by her consumption of junk food, the only kind her mother can afford. From hard-working families surviving on food bank handouts to children of low-income households facing obesity, everyone deserves access to affordable healthy food, as this new film makes abundantly clear.


The Revisionaries
Directed by Scott Thurman
Produced by Pierson Silver, Daniel Chalfen, Orlando Wood and Chandra Silver

Once every decade, the Texas State Board of Education revises the teaching and textbook standards for its nearly five million schoolchildren. In recent years, though, it has endorsed Adam and Eve over chimpanzees. Following some of the most controversial figures in American education as they battle secular critics, this must-see documentary takes viewers to the front lines in the battle between the longstanding theory of evolution and the staunch belief in creationism.


Directed by Freida Mock
Produced by Freida Mock

According to Jesuit priest Greg Boyle, “Nothing stops a bullet like a job.” It’s a world view that’s been adopted as the mission statement of Homeboy Industries, the Los Angeles organization Boyle founded in 1992 to help ex-gang members and felons reintegrate into society. In this examination narrated by Martin Sheen, Boyle — who's affectionately referred to as “G” — is seen helping out at AA meetings, a silkscreening shop and a tattoo-removal clinic, among other places. But most evident in the film is the profound impact his message of acceptance has had on the lives of former gang members.


Where Heaven Meets Hell
Directed by Sasha Friedlander
Produced by Sasha Friedlander

Giving a voice to an Indonesian community plagued by poverty and a lack of education, this documentary profiles four miners and their families at different stages in their lives. Each day, the workers trek up a treacherous four-kilometre path out of Kawah Ijen, an active volcano that is home to a labour-intensive sulphur mining operation. Engulfed in sulphur dioxide gases, making slightly more money than they would on a farm, they continue mining in hopes of achieving financial security for their families. But it’s never enough, as seen in the film. This is not only a look at the sustaining power of faith and love during desperate times, but also a portrait of endemic poverty and the overall price of modernity.


We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists
Directed by Brian Knappenberger
Produced by Brian Knappenberger

This original documentary takes viewers inside the world of Anonymous, the radical “hacktivist” collective that has redefined civil disobedience in the digital age. It traces the historical roots of early hacktivist groups, such as Cult of the Dead Cow and Electronic Disturbance Theater, before examining Anonymous and its ability to mobilize thousands worldwide. As current members, online pundits and academics all point out in the film, the Anonymous movement has become one of the most transformative in history.


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