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culture

Hot Docs Daily: The Queen of Versailles, Smoke Traders, The Betrayal

What to see today at Hot Docs.

American excess: You don't build a 90,000 square ft. home without it.

Hot Docs 2012 may be winding down, but it’s by no means cooling off, and the festival’s closing weekend will feature a host of first-rate selections. Topping our recommendation round-up today is Sundance award-winner The Queen of Versailles (, 8:45 p.m. The Bloor Hot Docs Cinema), an extraordinary look at the lifestyle of one rich and feckless family, from celebrated photographer and documentarian Lauren Greenfield.

In 2007, Greenfield befriended Jackie Seigel, a former Miss Florida and the wife of a billionaire timeshare mogul. Together with their eight children, the couple planned to construct the largest private residence in the United Sates, until 2008′s mortgage crisis put their literally palatial undertaking on hold. As their empire of excess begins to crumble, Greenfield’s candid access inspires plenty of eat-the-rich schadenfreude, but also, surprisingly, a modicum of sympathy.

You may experience a similar sense of ambivalence while watching Jeff Dorn and Catherine Bainbridge’s Smoke Traders ( 3:45 p.m., Cumberland 2), which documents the impact of grey market cigarette-running within eastern Canada’s Mohawk Nation. The RCMP deem the practice illegal, but the traders dispute the validity of anti-contraband laws, and point out that the tobacco has provided a crucial source of income to otherwise poverty-stricken communities. Focusing on an enterprising factory owner, and a runner who hopes to leave smuggling behind, Dorn and Bainbridge invite viewers to draw their own conclusions.

In The Betrayal (), Norwegian filmmaker Karen Winther’s focus is herself, and her capricious history of political extremism. Once a member of an Olso-based faction of leftist radicals, she later became mole for a rival group of militant neo-Nazis. This unsparing self-portrait sees Winther confront her troubled past. Her confessions suggest that, for some, hatred may be as potently addictive as anything peddled by the subjects of Smoke Traders. The Betrayal screens at 9 p.m. at the ROM Theatre.

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

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