Hot Docs: Part I

Toronto's Hot Docs film festival is nearing its end (the last screening date is Sunday May 8), and the first trio of uploaded reviews are up, starting with Lotte Stoops' film debut, Grande Hotel [M] (2010). The director was in attendance at the seccnd screening, and I've incorporated some of her comments into the lengthy review.

Named after the once elegant Grande Hotel in Beira, Mozambique, things started to go bad for the building when it was shuttered, given limited use, and was later victmized by squatters who sold whatever they could - glass, metal, etc. - which explains its current state as a skeleton.

Stoops focus was trained on the society that thrives within the disintegrating structure, and she rightly pointed out that what most (western) audiences will see is the building rather than the people. The film actually offers a balance of both, as the two are interrelated, but urban explorers and fans of things old and crumbly will undoubtedly want more - namely images of the past glory, and the present physical horror of the streamlined Grande.

My suggestion is read the review first, and tomorror I'll have a special series of links that should satisfy a hunger for the Grande, plus similar erections of colonial folly.

Also reviewed in tandem (and in the same review body as Grande Hotel) is Robert-Jan Lacombe’s short documentary Goodbye Mandima [M] (2010), which was actually screened before Stoops' film as part of a double-bill.

Lastly, there's Stefan Kolbe and Chris Wright's doc Das Block / The Block [M] (2007), a very flawed work where style and a rather opressive film technique create muddle of a potentially intriguing concept.

Mark R. Hasan, Editor


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