The 2012 Hot Docs Forum Report, part two

The Pleasures of the Scents and Inside Joke: How Humour Invented the Jews were pitched at the annual Hot Docs Forum, which took place earlier this month.

This report has been edited from the original to highlight Canadian projects in the Hot Docs Forum, which took place at Toronto’s Hart House earlier this month. The complete report in three installments, by realscreen‘s Adam Benzine, examines all feature doc projects pitched at the annual event, along with detailed commissioner responses and analysis.

See the first edited installment on Playback here.

The Pleasures of the Scents

Production company: Lowik Media (Canada); director: Patrice Sauvé, producer: Lucy Tremblay.
Budget: USD$385,000 already in place (Documentary Channel), $440,000 sought.

The penultimate pitch of this year’s Hot Docs Forum focused on the history of food and the emerging science of molecular gastronomy, which involves matching foods and wines based on their aromas.

It focuses in part on the story of renowned sommelier Francois Chartier, author of the book Tastebuds and Molecules, and his quest for “the pure essence of scent.”

Among the commissioning editors, there was some discussion about whether the doc was really a food/arts film, or a science title. SVT’s Persson offered that, “looking at the trailer, I think it’s not for arts and culture – it’s a science title.”

Producer Tremblay replied that she did not want to be too prescriptive in categorizing the film, stating, “I just don’t want to alienate part of the audience.”

Meanwhile, the BBC’s Fraser was again unimpressed, telling the pitch team: “I can’t tell you why, but I just can’t imagine any circumstances that the film would work in Britain – the British ones [food documentaries] are all about how to do it and how to get it.”

Less negative was ITVS International program manager Cynthia Kane, who suggested the team talk to her colleagues Kathryn Lo (at PBS Plus) and Tom Koch (at PBS International), who might be interested.

Finally, DR TV’s Hoffmann Meyer ended proceedings on a lighter note, jokingly asking the director: “At the end of the show, will we know exactly what to eat to have a big orgasm?”

Inside Joke: How Humour Invented the Jews

Production company: Cave 7 Productions (Canada); director/producer: Jamie Kastner, producer: Silva Basmajian.
Budget: $205,000 already in place (NFB, Cinephil), $706,000 sought.

The final pitch of the 13th annual Hot Docs Forum came from Jamie Kastner, the Canadian director behind docs such as Kike Like Me, Djangomania!, and the forthcoming The (Secret) Disco Revolution.

Inside Joke promises to deliver a “black comic globe-trotting road trip through unexpected landscapes of contemporary Jewish humor,” with history-of-the-world style reenactments, “God Himself” narrating and an animated Lucian Freud. Kastner described the film as being like “that feeling where you’re laughing but you don’t know if you should be laughing… for 90 minutes.”

With appearances from comics ranging from Sarah Silverman to Woody Allen, the film promises to be “funny and disturbing” in telling the story of Jewish humor “you think you know but actually don’t.”

Among those impressed by the doc were RTVC’s Claudia Rodriguez Valencia and SVT’s Persson, the latter of whom said: “I’m interest in seeing how it will develop – I think you have a nice thread with Woody Allen and some of the others.”

Meanwhile, NHK’s Okutsu said that jokes “are quite difficult to make work in Japan” – to much laughter from the room – “so I’m not quite sure about it. But I’d love to see the complete film.”

‘POV”s Cynthia López and TVO’s Jane Jankovic also wanted to see more of the project before making any decisions, but more positive was ZDF/Arte’s Martin Pieper, who told the team “it can definitely be something for ARTE.”

“People want to laugh – laughter can be a relief,” he said. “I think that this can make not only an entertaining film, but people can learn about how minorities are met on the outside.”

Pictured: Commissioners Tomoko Okutsu from NHK (left) and Claudia Rodriguez Valencia from RTVC (right) at the 2012 Hot Docs Forum. Photo: Joseph Michael

From realscreen