Hot Docs 2013 Daily: Pussy Riot — A Punk Prayer, The Life and Crimes of Doris Payne, and Interior, Leather Bar.
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Hot Docs 2013 Daily: Pussy Riot — A Punk Prayer, The Life and Crimes of Doris Payne, and Interior, Leather Bar.

What to see today at Hot Docs 2013.

Pussy Riot A Punk Prayer 3

A portrait of the women of Pussy Riot. Image courtesy of Hot Docs.

And we’re off! Last night, Hot Docs 2013 opened with The Manor (3stars), director Shawney Cohen’s personal portrait of his family and their strip club in Guelph, Ontario. The film, Cohen’s feature debut, has been well received, and it added a local feel to the festival’s opening night. Today, viewers have the option of going a bit further afield, with docs about Russian feminist punks and octogenarian jewellery thieves. But we suggest staying away from James Franco.

Mike Lerner and Maxim Pozdorovkin’s debut doc centres on the women of Pussy Riot, the feminist punk group, members of which are currently serving time in a Russian prison for their acts of defiance against the state. Pussy Riot—A Punk Prayer (3stars, 2 p.m. Bloor Hot Docs Cinema) is slickly made (it was backed by HBO). It’s clear Lerner and Pozdorovkin knew their subjects well, and were trusted by them. While the doc largely rehashes many of the facts that have already been reported about the trial, the footage that the directors capture prior to the arrest—of the women rehearsing, performing, and holding secret meetings—casts the collective in a fresh light.

If you want more films about strong women—and who doesn’t!—another happens to be playing today: The Life and Crimes of Doris Payne (3stars, 7 p.m. Scotiabank Theatre). Though Payne once dreamed of being a ballerina, racial discrimination at the time didn’t allow for her to make it on pointe. So, she turned to jewellery theft. While Payne is a feisty subject—the doc finds her living in a halfway house, facing five years in prison—Life and Crimes is a conventional courtroom drama. Go for the story, not necessarily the visuals.

We feel it’s our duty to point out one film that should be avoided today: James Franco and Travis Mathews’ Interior, Leather Bar. (stars 1, 11:59 p.m. Bloor Hot Docs Cinema). After what seemed like Franco pulling a fast one on Hot Docs last year, when he snuck his clearly fictional Francophrenia into the festival, the actor returns with more mind-numbing indulgence. Here, he takes on heteronormativity (no, really) by trying to re-envision the lost footage from William Friedkin’s Cruising.


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