Alan Zweig (Canada, Focus on Alan Zweig)
Friday, April 29, 11:15 a.m.
A Hard Name takes the rough-hewn, personal (and often confrontational) style of Alan Zweig’s previous docs and jettisons all the naval-gazing whinging that begins to grate after multiple viewings—especially when viewing them back-to-back-to-back in the festival format. The result is easily Zweig’s most accomplished film to date.
If all of Zweig’s films are studies of loneliness differently configured, in a way, A Hard Name is no different. Zweig interviews a handful of ex-convicts and recidivist criminals in order to examine the personal and institutional obstacles that stymie their re-integration into society. His cast is considerably winnowed down from the dozens of talking heads that populate films like Vinyl and Lovable, allowing recurring themes and patterns of behaviour to emerge more definitively. (Cycles of sexual abuse and the sheer stupid thrill of criminality crop up repeatedly.)
Though the film excises the personal interludes that we’ve come to associate with Zweig’s body of work, it isn’t as if he excises himself from the equation entirely. As ever, he proves an exceptional interviewer: asking pointed, thoughtful questions that challenge the comfort level of both his interview subjects and the viewer. A Hard Name is a thorough, disturbing, and very often moving look of life before and after prison. And in focusing some sympathetically on the lives of the alienated and downtrodden, it remains every bit an Alan Zweig picture.