I love documentaries. Through them, I learn about all sorts of things, places and people I might otherwise never know anything about — perfect for someone who’s curious, like me.
So needless to say I’m thrilled to live in a city with a theatre (Ted Rogers Hot Docs Cinema) devoted to screening nothing but documentaries — seven days a week, 365 days a year. I’m even more thrilled to live a 15-minute walk away from said theatre — or a 5-minute subway ride if I’m pressed for time, lazy or the weather’s very bad.
Although you can buy single tickets, I have an incredibly inexpensive annual membership, which entitles me to advance ordering and discounts on regular film screenings and special events, invitations to free members-only screenings, discounts on selected merchandise, discounts and early window on ordering festival tickets, passes and packages, no fees for online ticket purchases, a couple of free tickets to regular screenings and two free large popcorns a year. You can’t ask for better value for money.
In the early days, they only presented documentaries. Now they’ve added lectures, authors’ talks and films followed by guest speakers. I go to as many as I can, there are some months when I’m there seven or eight times, sometimes more than that. And I’m not alone in my support for them — it’s a rare occasion when the theatre isn’t at least 80% filled.
There’s so much of interest going on there at all times, I really look forward to their email newsletters and updates. Without them, I simply couldn’t keep up. It’s great to know what’s coming, so I can plan ahead and try to fit as many films and events as possible into my schedule.
This season, they have a Curious Minds series running every Thursday morning, from 10 am – 12 pm, from January 24 through February 28. The theme is Designing the World: The Global Starchitects. To be honest, even though I’m really interested in architecture, and even though I’m freelance and pretty much in control of my days, I was hesitant to commit to the entire series. I do have to leave time for work and clients.
So I picked one — last Thursday, February 14 — which I thought was about some of my favourite trailblazing visionary architects, including the late Zaha Hadid. I’m a real fan of her work.
Boy did I get that wrong.
First off, I thought it was a documentary followed by a talk. Nope. This series is strictly a lecture series. No film. Next, the topic wasn’t about some of the world’s star architects — it was about new materials and techniques.
Sure messed that up, didn’t I? I thought maybe I’d misread the write-ups but that’s not the case. What I saw was just the overview for the series. I must confess, at first I was kind of pissed off. It didn’t help that the lecturer (Peter Harris, former Assistant Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Science, University of Toronto) got off to a rather slow, rambling, sort of off-topic start. I looked around the sold-out theatre to see if anyone else seemed miffed. Other than me, everyone seemed enthralled. I cursed quietly to myself, sighed and fidgeted through his opening spiel.
Then he showed his first slide and I was completely hooked. Among other things, he showed us how, with Virtual Reality, architects can now “walk” clients through their ideas, making changes as they go … how they can (and are) 3D-print building components, whole houses, even a bridge … and how “CLT” (Cross Laminated Timber) is now being used in large-scale commercial buildings, a few of which are being built right here in Toronto.
Wow. It was fascinating and he was interesting, very knowledgeable and funny. As soon as he was done I checked my calendar for this Thursday, saw that my morning was free and rushed to the box office and bought a ticket. I guess I didn’t blow it after all, although I can’t tell you how sorry I am that I missed the first three.
But that was just the start of what turned out to be a day filled with very pleasant surprises.
When I looked at the schedule for this month there was a documentary about a guy who walked every street in the five boroughs of New York. It piqued my interest, along with several others. But somehow, while I did order tickets for the other five or six films and speakers’ events I was interested in, again, I messed up. I missed The World Beneath Your Feet.
Not a huge deal, in the grand scheme of things, but it would have been interesting, don’t you think?
Well, it turns out I got to see it after all.
As luck would have it, it was being screened right after the architecture lecture was over and there were still some tickets available. I just had time to dash to a nearby restaurant, pick up a container of soup and dash right back.
The documentary didn’t disappoint and I am so happy I got to see it. The 37-year old man (Matt Green) it’s about, walked more than 8,000 miles — a trek that lasted well over six years! Along the way, he met all kinds of people, saw things you would never see from a car or bus window, and had the most incredible experiences — all good. He had no home of his own, obviously, so he bunked with friends, cat and house sat and was even invited by strangers he met on his journey to stay the night, have meals and catch up on his laundry.
What a fabulous adventure he had; and while the thought of it is daunting to me, I loved being a voyeur and living vicariously through him, following along from the comfort of a theatre seat.
What a spectacular day I ended up having, rather unexpectedly too. Probably couldn’t have planned it nearly as well.