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culture

Hot Docs Daily: Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, El Huaso, Oma & Bella

What to see today at Hot Docs.

It seems like just yesterday that Alison Klayman’s Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry () raised the curtain on Hot Docs 2012, and yet the third of the film’s three scheduled screenings is already upon us (4:15 p.m., TIFF Bell Lightbox 1). In truth, that was a whole 48 hours ago, but the fact remains: today is your last chance to catch Klayman’s much-acclaimed profile of the charismatic Chinese provocateur.

Never Sorry follows the activist-artist between 2009 and 2011, capturing his campaign to commemorate the child victims of 2008′s Sichuan earthquake, his subsequent beating at the hands of overzealous police, and his further, social media-driven efforts to expose official corruption and bureaucratic opacity. Throughout, Ai’s impish sense of humour never falters, but it becomes all too clear that Chinese authorities don’t see the funny side of his anti-establishment antics.

From a Chinese political dissident we move to a Chilean-Torontonian transplant confronting a possible diagnosis of dementia. That man is Gustavo Proto, subject of Carlo Proto’s complex paternal portrait, El Huaso ().

Despite finding financial success after moving his family from South America, happiness has eluded Carlo’s father, who has long suffered with anxiety. When he learns that he may be developing Alzheimer’s, he openly ponders the possibility of suicide, but not before returning to Chile in a bid to fulfill a childhood dream. El Huaso deftly balances respect for its subject with ruthless emotional honesty as Carlo and his family attempt to come to terms with Gustavo’s personal crisis. Its first Hot Docs screening is today (3:45 p.m., TIFF Bell Lightbox 3).

Meanwhile, the subjects of Alexa Karolinski’s touching Oma & Bella (, 6:30 p.m., TIFF Bell Lightbox 3) are nothing if not born survivors. Now in their 80s, both were concentration camp inmates during the Holocaust, and Karolinksi explores their shared, heart-wrenching recollections of that experience. But the film is also a celebration of the duo’s enduring friendship, and the pleasure they find in preparing the traditional meals that continue to link them, spiritually, to the communities they were once physically compelled to leave behind.

For our full index of festival reviews, head over to our handy Hot Docs hub.

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