Hot Docs 2023: Our Review of ‘Polaris’

Posted in Festival Coverage, Hot Docs 2023, Movies by - April 27, 2023
Hot Docs 2023: Our Review of ‘Polaris’

The camera in Ainara Vera’s Polaris goes from a high angle drone shot of a ship navigating the oceans near Greenland to a medium shot of a woman in that ship next to the icebergs she must avoid. Encountering those visuals, I said to myself ‘at least we still have icebergs’. But this documentary is not about my intrusive thoughts and more about the woman, Hayat Mokhenache, a French national who is one of the few female ship captains working today. It lets her discuss her experiences of sexism in the workplace as well as how she deals with pressures to find love.

Mother nature is abound in Polaris, as it shows shots of the ocean which in itself is majestic. Sometimes, it accompanies shots of the ocean with Hayat’s narration of the experiences Hayat has with some of the men she encounters on the job. The imagery here is beautiful but admittedly obvious, as the ocean represents her loneliness. It’s a loneliness that follows her even as she makes phone calls to her little sister, Leila, who brings up the fact that that she’s still single and childless when she visits. These scenes are not my favourite.

I felt the same experience while watching Hayat as she finally finds love. By this time, she speaks to a man whose voice we hear but Polaris never shows who this mystery person is. Again, nature follows her, but those scenes somehow save the documentary. She goes on nature walks with Leila and the latter’s child Inaya, both somewhat resolving their conflicts. What this documentary gives us is an impressionistic portrait of a woman who is fine even if she never fixes her neuroses. This documentary represents nature as a malleable concept. Again it represents loneliness but also one’s peace.

  • Release Date: 4/29/2023
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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watches 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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