Hot Docs 2024: Our Review of ‘Wilfred Buck’

Posted in Festival Coverage, Hot Docs 2024, Movies by - April 26, 2024
Hot Docs 2024: Our Review of ‘Wilfred Buck’

Lisa Jackson’s latest documentary Wilfred Buck captures several moments in the life of its subject, a Cree astronomer. Taking bits from his memoir, reenactments show moments like a wolf scaring him away so he won’t be part of the Scoop. The general segments showing his past life show him persevering through losing his family members. In the present day, he holds Sundances all over Turtle Island, reminding Indigenous people of their own scientific teachings.

There’s pressure for works dealing with BIPOC subjects to be representative of all the people that that work aims to represent. This documentary does enough of that while still fleshing out Buck as his own person. It chooses segments of his memoir that have an introspective dimension, that he did see himself as a victim. Wilfred Buck does follow its share of adages but those adages touch on things that most viewers can relate to.

The reenactments in Wilfred Buck, which feature some great cinematography, work well with archive photos and videos of its subject. The photos show him smiling with his children as his wife narrates about his passion for the stars. Sure, half of everyone’s pre-digital photos are candids, but there’s an authenticity here that also feels warm. This year’s Hot Docs have been depressing so it’s nice to see some genuine moments of hopeful levity here.

Wilfred Buck, both the man and the documentary about him, always thinks of the stars above him. To paraphrase what I wrote above, the documentary’s contemporary scenes have him driving all over Turtle Island, attending different Sundances. Cinematographer and executive producer Nicholas de Pencier’s work helps make those driving scenes compelling with their visual crispness. But on the forefront of course is Buck, a natural storyteller, reminding us of the pain he overcame.

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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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