Hot Docs 2011

There’s nothing more likeable than a Muppet. I’m pretty sure that’s a proven fact. Whether you were a Sesame Street kind of kid, a lover of The Muppet Show or a fan of Fraggle Rock, chances are any show involving Muppets had the ability to bring a smile to your face – and hopefully it still does.

Constance Marks’ delightful documentary takes you beyond the foam heads and wacky personalities of the Muppets to get to know the people who bring them to life, specifically Kevin Clash, the man behind the most loving 3 ½ year old of all time, Elmo.

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This may come as a surprise, but Donald Trump is a bully. A mean spirited megalomaniac who doesn’t give a rat’s ass about anyone but himself and his bottom line. If there’s any doubt in your mind, or if you just want another reason to dislike him, this is the movie for you. Anthony Baxter’s You’ve Been Trumped explores the controversy surrounding Trump’s plans to build a huge, opulent golf course on a scientifically unique spot of land in rural Scotland. The plan for the massive development was originally rejected due to the very legitimate environmental concerns, but in an unprecedented move the Scottish government intervened and gave it the go-ahead. Apparently the economic advantages were just too tempting to give up. The plans would clearly destroy the ecosystem around the UK’s last remaining sand dunes, but no matter – Trump wants to have a luxurious place for him and his uber-wealthy cronies to golf. Doesn’t matter that the land will be forever ruined.

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Does a man who burned down a couple of buildings to try to stop the destruction of the earth really deserve a prison sentence of life plus 335 years? Even though he took great pains to see that no one was in the buildings and no one would be hurt should he still be labeled a terrorist? If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front doesn’t really answer these questions, but no matter what you believe, this movie will pull you kicking and screaming out of your comfort zone and force you to consider the other side of the story. Marshall Curry (Street Fight, Racing Dreams) and Sam Cullman’s documentary follows former ELF member Daniel McGowan as he awaits trial for arson and other crimes he committed in the name of saving the planet. The movie uses Daniel’s story as a jumping off point to explore the Earth Liberation Front and how and why it became such a radical organization.

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The subject of sex offenders is pretty heavy stuff and it has a way of provoking people to take action. But what’s really interesting is the subject of what happens once a sex offender has served his (or occasionally her) time and is released back into society.

No Entry No Exit explores this topic by observing what happens when convicted rapist Karl D. moves in with his brother’s family in their rural German town. It hits pretty hard in the beginning by explaining just what Karl D. went to jail for. A horrific crime that would be near impossible to forgive (he denies committing the crime). But family is family so Karl’s brother, Helmut, takes him in to live with himself, his wife and his young son (they believe his innocence). The villagers find this understandably upsetting and organize daily protests to let their feelings be known. They’re convinced he will reoffend and they want him gone. This is where things get interesting.

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Gather ’round dear readers. I have wonderful news. There’s a new Christmas movie about to make its way into your hearts, and this one doesn’t involve Tim Allen (thank God).

No, this one is about Jack Sanderson, a portly, 40-something gentleman who’s lost his Christmas spirit after the death of his parents. Without a family Jack finds little reason to find joy during the happiest time of year. But instead of complaining and grumbling ‘ba humbug’, Jack decides to try to get it back by becoming a professional Santa Claus. Sounds easy enough, but as Jack soon discovers, becoming Santa is no easy feat.

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Chaz Bono is a pretty regular guy. He plays a lot of video games, he fawns over his pets, he gets into domestic squabbles with his girlfriend, and does pretty much everything else your typical 30 or 40-something guy does. But unlike most men, Chaz is the child of 70s superstars Sonny and Cher and, oh yeah, he was born a woman. Chaz (nee Chastity) grew up feeling like an alien inside of his body. Complicated struggles that lasted throughout his life led him to finally make the decision to transition into a man. As he went through the process he allowed cameras into his home as well as follow him to the various clinics, hospitals and seminars that helped him throughout the process. But this is just the anatomy of the film.

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Anyone who thinks mixed martial arts is just a vicious, bloodthirsty sport where grown men beat the crap out of each other for fun might think differently after seeing Michael Tucker and Petra Epperlein’s Fightville, an in-depth and beautifully shot look at the world of MMA through a group of fighters, trainers and promoters in Southern Louisiana. Fightville follows a cast of characters in and around the Gladiators Academy in Lafayette, a small local gym where philosophy-spouting veteran UFC fighter, “Crazy” Tim Credeur trains amateur and rising professional fighters. Far away from the bright lights of the big time promotions like the UFC, the movie takes a look at what essentially amounts to the minor leagues of MMA – where guys are fighting to prove themselves and learn what it takes to become champions. Glamorous it ain’t (the fighters have to mop up their own blood after fights) but what it lacks in luster it makes up for in heart.

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