Hot Docs 2004 - UPDATE #3
Metallica: Some Kind of Monster
Directed by Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky
Unless one is a really big fan of the band, the idea of sitting through a two-and-a-half hour documentary about Metallica likely holds as much appeal as watching paint dry. But that's the incredible thing about Metallica: Some Kind of Monster; though aficionados will undoubtedly love the behind-the-scenes look at the making of their latest album, there's more than enough here to hold the interest of those that aren't necessarily into this kind of music. While the film kicks off with a lot of footage of the band rehearsing, it quickly becomes clear that these three guys - singer James Hetfield, guitarist Kirk Hammett, and drummer Lars Ulrich - have a lot of issues with each other, to the extent that they hire a psychiatrist to help them work through their problems (which their ex-bassist, Jason Newsted, astutely labels as "lame"). There's something inherently hilarious about watching a hard rocker, after several weeks of treatment, start spouting New Age buzz words during a session with his fellow bandmates. Similarly, Metallica: Some Kind of Monster contains its share of surprisingly private moments - ie a fight between James and Lars which culminates with James storming out of the room and slamming the door - along with several intriguing music-related tidbits, including a fascinating sequence in which we watch a song go from being named to completion. Though there are many equally interesting moments, the film works best during quieter scenes - usually involving the band members working out a problem or just hanging out. It's that sort of universality that makes Metallica: Some Kind of Monster the sort of film that virtually anyone can enjoy - heavy metal fan or not.
Directed by Yoav Shamir
Checkpoint is an eye-opening look at the mistreatment of Palestinians living in Israel, as they attempt to cross various borders within the country. Director Yoav Shamir, an Israeli filmmaker, uses his all-access pass to expose the casual indifference of the majority of the Israeli soldiers guarding the checkpoints. Palestinians attempting to cross into neighboring towns for benign reasons (ie a hospital visit) are forced to plead with the officers, and the majority of them aren't even allowed through. Witness a small boy forced to convince a soldier that he's sick, or a concerned father forced to watch his wife and children cross without him. The Palestinians are treated like cattle (one of the guards actually refers to them as animals), held at the whim of power-hungry kids (most of these soldiers don't appear to be much older than 20). We do get the impression that yes, these men are just following orders, but also that they enjoy the ability to toy with these folks without fear of repercussions. Shamir doesn't allow us to get to know any one person, choosing instead to move from one situation to the next. It's the sort of structure that could've become repetitive awfully fast, but all of the confrontations are fascinating - though none of them ever escalate into anything more than heated arguments. Shamir's attempts to humanize the soldiers prove fruitless, as their arrogant behavior is unlikely to win over too many viewers (this is particularly true in the case of a sleazy border guard that attempts to pick up a 17-year-old student). As a rare glimpse into the uneasy relationship between Israelis and Palestinians, there's no denying that Checkpoint excels. But the film is also tremendously entertaining, if occasionally infuriating.