Hot Docs 2016 Review: ‘Wizard Mode’

Posted in Festival Coverage, Hot Docs 2016, Movies by - April 29, 2016
Hot Docs 2016 Review: ‘Wizard Mode’

Wizard Mode

Canadian Spectrum.

You need no introduction to the intricacies of pinball machines and the subsequent competitions for Wizard Mode, which is good, because you don’t really get one. While this Canadian documentary immerses itself in the pinball world – the title refers to a much sought after and elusive phase reserved only for the most elite gamers among us– the focus on is Robert Gagno, the talented autistic player who has found a singular love in life.

This sentimental, intimate doc uses pinball as a means to understand the life of Gagno, a bushy-haired, bespectacled, and almost always smiling young man whose diagnosis with autism at a very early age never hindered him from becoming one of the world’s best pinball players. The gaming, which is hard to understand exactly – we figure out from players’ reactions as to how they did – eventually takes a back seat as Gagno, nearing adulthoods, must mature.

There is joy, in part from his excitement when talking about pinball, something that is both invigorating and calming, and something at which he excels and finds worthy challenges. There is also sadness, as he tries to understand, with the help of his family, that there are many who see and treat him as different, further complicated with Gagno struggles to accurately access social situations. His candor with the audience and honesty with the camera never cease to amaze.

The film grows up and evolves, as does Gagno, and more serious conversations with his mother and father take place, and life dedicated to pinball opens up the world. Intimate and sweet, Wizard Mode is a worthy look at the changing life of a notable, inspiring young Canadian.

Wizard Mode plays three times at Hot Docs

Mon, May 2 7:15 PM Scotiabank Theatre 4

Wed, May 4 1:00 PM Hart House Theatre


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Anthony is a lover of a good story in any form, on any subject. Tirelessly navigating filmdom, he is equal parts an unbridled idealist and stubborn curmudgeon, trying to strike a balance between head and heart when it comes to pop culture. He pens stories about television, music, the environment, lifestyles, and all things noteworthy and peculiar.