Hot Docs 2021: Our Review of ‘World Showcase Shorts: Look Don’t Touch’

Posted in Festival Coverage, Hot Docs 2021, Movies by - May 07, 2021
Hot Docs 2021: Our Review of ‘World Showcase Shorts: Look Don’t Touch’

Hot Docs bills one of its World Showcase Shorts programs as one about spying, but I see is more as one about the crossing of borders. The first two shorts about people making that crossing or trying to. But then animals become subjects in these docs too, making this complex.

Indonesia and Norway are three plane rides away but that’s the ride that Audun Kvitland is willing to take. He’s the main subject in Audun Amundsen and Petter Heggen Help, I’ve Gone Viral! Sounding like a young Werner Herzog, he becomes a viral sensation in both countries as he sings a song about an Indonesian dish. The short itself is a hilarious examination of human behavior in both sides. But Kvitland grounds it as he reveals his fear about taking his celebrity to the next step.

It’s easy for Kvitland to cross those borders. However, that’s a harder ordeal for the mother and daughter in Anna Artemyeva’s Don’t Hesitate to Come for a Visit, Mom. The subject in more on the daughter. At first, she is hesitant to learn English because that’s what they speak where her mom is. But she learns anyway. They communicate via FaceTime since the mom can’t get a visa for her daughter yet. And that distance is heartbreaking. Best short in a good crop.

The next short documentary is Antelopes, showing footage of the titular animals who look like they can’t process the fact that cameras are following them. It contextualizes that footage with a story. One about how some antelopes gather from all over Africa to eventually dive into the Mediterranean like lemmings. But the fact that this is an experimental film makes viewers doubt that context. What follows next will haunt whoever sees this film.

Mobility is an equally important subject in Sebastian Mulder’s Naya. The titular subject is a she wolf from Eastern Germany who zaps her way out of the country to Belgium. Strangely, there hasn’t been a wolf in a century. The documentary then shows footage all over different Belgian forests with the implication that those cameras are anticipating her appearance. The next minutes feel like there’s a metaphor it attaches to Naya which feels appropriate.

The last documentary is Maija Tammi’ The Problem of the Hydra. And it feels surprisingly straightforward because its titular subject is direct in its enigmatic nature. It shows microscopic footage of a hydra. And with that comes narration about scientists puzzling over whether it’s a plant or an animal. It divides and lives, therefore it’s a plant, but it feeds like an animal. Humans study the world around them, but what we study is mutable, like good doc subjects usually are.

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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watch movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
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