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Hot Docs 2004 - UPDATE #2

Super Size Me
Directed by Morgan Spurlock
USA/97 MINUTES

Morgan Spurlock's now legendary documentary, Super Size Me, features the filmmaker taking on a 30-day diet of nothing but McDonald's. It's quickly evident, though, that Spurlock has more on his mind than just this admittedly intriguing stunt. He uses the movie as a forum to explore the rising trend of obesity in America, while speaking with a variety of professionals and visiting different institutions (ie schools). By the time Super Size Me ends, it's unlikely most viewers will be able to look at a Big Mac the same way. Throughout the film's 97 minutes, we're pummeled with statistics and facts regarding how such food is bad for you; like Go Further (the Woody Harrelson clean living doc), Super Size Me promotes a healthier lifestyle. That's not a complaint, mind you, as Spurlock keeps things tremendously entertaining throughout mainly due to his off-kilter sense of humor. As the film progresses, we begin to see the effects of his McDiet - from weight gain to mood swings - and yet he approaches everything with the same good-natured attitude (Michael Moore he's not). Super Size Me is essentially the perfect documentary: it keeps the audience engaged and intrigued, while offering up a hefty dose of information on an important subject. And that Spurlock was able to keep going despite almost insurmountable obstacles - including some serious damage to his liver and kidneys, and the fact that his girlfriend's a vegan - is surely a testament to his passion towards the subject.

out of


Welcome to Holland
Directed by Sarah Vos
NETHERLANDS/100 MINUTES

Though Welcome to Holland's subject is clearly an important and relevant one, the film ultimately just isn't that interesting. The documentary follows the Dutch government's attempts to house teenaged refugees in a dormitory-like setting called Campus Vught, where they'll be given an education until they reach the age of 18 (at which point they are to be deported). Despite the best efforts of the institute's "coaches" (ie teachers), the kids quickly grow impatient with their lack of freedom and come to the conclusion that the place is really just a prison in sheep's clothing (one visiting journalist notes that it resembles a concentration camp). Though there are a few compelling moments - ie a sequence in which the kids lay out all their demands - Welcome to Holland is far too long to keep us completely engaged throughout. It probably doesn't help that director Sarah Vos takes a hands-off approach to the material, preventing us from ever really siding with the kids (one-on-one interviews would've been perfect). The same is true of the people in charge of Campus Vught, who are essentially portrayed as bumbling idiots without a clue as to how to deal with teenagers. Vos' puzzling decision to employ subtitles sparingly, even when folks with really heavy accents are speaking, proves to be a troublesome one, as it becomes increasingly difficult to understand what certain people are saying. Welcome to Holland would've been far more effective as a short, though viewers that are more familiar with this situation will likely get a lot more out of it.

out of

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© David Nusair