DOXA 2016 Capsule Reviews

May 5th marks the return of DOXA, Vancouver’s Documentary Film Festival. Over two weeks, select theatres in the city will host the screenings of over 80 films from around the world (that’s a whole lot of documentaries). We here at dutil. have a special sneak peek of some the films you should absolutely check out.

How to Build a Time Machine
Jay Cheel | Canada | 2016 |  82 minutes

Ever since H.G. Wells’ sci-fi novel The Time Machine was released in 1895, the idea of time travel has struck the imagination of countless scientists and artists. The film follows two men, Rob Niosi, an animator/filmmaker, trying to build an exact replica of the H.G. Wells’ Time Machine, and theoretical physicist, Ronald Mallett, and his decades of work trying to make time travel a scientific reality. Canadian filmmaker, Jay Cheel’s Kurbik-esque visuals and trippy synth track blurs the line between fiction and reality, showing us how art inspires people to create in both the sciences and the arts.

In Pursuit of Silence
Patrick Shen | USA | 2015 | 82 minutes

Have you ever wanted to get away from the city and just bask in the silence? In Pursuit of Silence is a mind-opening documentary, detailing the differing views science, religion, and scholars have on the subject of silence. Patrick Shen’s film is filled with picturesque visuals that really bring sound to the forefront. From John Cage’s seminal “4’33” performance, to visits to monasteries, the film is a joyous exploration of aural spaces and their spiritual and physical effects on human beings.

The Infinite Happiness
Ila Bêka and Louise Lemoine | France/Denmark | 2015 | 85 minutes

This quirky documentary peaks into the life of the staff and residents of the 8 House, a retail, rowhouse, and apartment complex built in the shape of a figure eight. Bjarke Ingels design is a little bit of a social experiment, mixing the ideals of a traditional mountain village with the setup of a stacked urban neighborhood. This film reveals more than just the building’s architectural achievements. It reveals the pros and cons of living in such an eccentric place, examining its effects on the environment and the over 500 residents living there.

Jonas and the Backyard Circus
Paula Gomes | Brazil | 2015 | 80 minutes

Jonas is a Brazilian 13-year-old boy with dreams of one day working in the circus. In the backyard of his house, he gathers his friends to put up a circus show, complete with musical performances and acrobatic acts. Though his mother and teachers believe he should be focusing on school, Jonas is set on making his backyard the best circus in town. More interesting than its subject is the filmmaker’s involvement in the narrative.  Rather than taking a back seat and observing her subjects, Director Paula Gomes injects herself into the narrative, offering advice to the young Jonas in his moments of self doubt. Gomes’ filmic gaze is more nurturer than mere observer and her final advice to Jonas at the end of the film is both inspiring and poignant, making the film a bittersweet view of youth and the pursuit of dreams.

Of Shadows
Yi Cui | Canada/China | 2016 | 80 minutes

Yi Cui’s film follows a small Shadow Theatre Troupe as they tour around China, from small villages to large festivals. Cui’s focus on the performers offers a glimpse of this fading art form, and its importance in this modern age. However, the most intriguing parts of the film are simply watching the shadow performances, seeing how the puppeteers synch up with the musicians, creating worlds and narrative out of mere shadows.  The film is a love letter to performance, gushing with beautiful visuals and passionate performers.
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Wizard Mode
Jeff Petry and Nathan Drillot | Canada | 2016 | 102 minutes

Vancouver gamer Robert Gagno has had to overcome many obstacles to become a World Pinball Champion.  As a child, he was diagnosed with autism and couldn’t talk until the age of seven. The film follows Robert as he travels across Canada and the US in his quest to be the best in the world of competitive pinball. Ultimately, this film is an underdog story, very much in the vain of King of Kong, that will no doubt make you feel warm and fuzzy inside because of its optimism and Robert’s own lovable personality.

Yallah! Underground
Farid Eslam | USA/UK/Germany/Canada/Egypt/Czech Republic | 2015 | 85 minutes

Filmmaker Farid Eslam’s look into the alternative Arab music scene is an empowering view of how music can be thought-provoking and political. We follow numerous artists including Zeid Hamdan, the godfather of Lebanese alternative music who is imprisoned for writing a song about General Suleiman. In harsh political climates, it is music and art that is used to make change, and this film shows how the reappropriation of music styles and pop iconography has created a new underground music scene in the Arab world.

View the full festival’s schedule and reserve tickets here

-Michael Nevada