Television personality and science educator Bill Nye is in town for the 2017 Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival. Appearing for his Documentary Bill Nye: Science Guy (premiering Wednesday, May 3, 2017) and also as part of the Scotiabank Big Ideas program, in which he spoke at tonight at Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema. Just released last week was his new 13-episode Netflix series, Bill Nye Saves the World.
Our David Baldwin attended the talk which saw Nye really make a call to action for climate change. “We have to fight this for the betterment of human kind”, he says. “We can power Canada renewably right now if we just do it.”.
Gilbert Gottfried has built a brand around foul-mouthed insult comedy over the years as a stand-up comedian. On that same note, he also has become part of our cultural fabric, addressing boldly issues of race, religion and sex which can be heard on his podcast Gilbert Gottfried’s Amazing Colossal Podcast!. His unforgettable performance in Disney‘s Aladdin as Iago the parrot and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as Kraang Subprime have gifted generations with timeless memories and he’s currently the subject of an eponymously-titled Documentary, Gilbert, from Filmmaker Neil Berkeley which premieres at the 2017 Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Film Festival.
We think we know Gottfried from his outspoken public persona, but Gilbert portrays him as a loving husband, father and brother. We get a private, reserved man, not just the larger than life persona we are so used to seeing.
Our David Baldwin and Siobhán Rich had the pleasure of meeting with the comedy icon earlier and he speaks very candidly about his experience being followed by cameras to cracking jokes in light of tragedy, to the upcoming live-action version of Aladdin.
Why give us such intimate access to your life in this Documentary?
Gottfried: “Because I’m an idiot and a masochist”, he jokes. “Filmmaker Neil Berkeley, came up to me over two years ago and said ‘I’ve always had a dream to make Gilbert Gottfried Documentary.’. I told him, ‘You should really set your dreams much higher!”. “And then he started following me around and it made me uncomfortable every single second. I hated it and I’m too much of a wimp to tell him to go get away from me.”. “In revealing myself, it always seems like that scene from TheWizard of Oz. Don’t look at that man behind the curtain!”.
Having seen the Documentary, what do you think of it?
Gottfried: “The Documentary to me feels like what my vision of hell is. They put a big movie screen in front of you and you’re forced to watch your whole life. The reviews are surprisingly great but boy, it’s torture!”. He adds, “I’m happy to watch myself as Pierre the chef. I don’t want to watch myself as myself.”.
What inspires you?
Gottfried: “The fact that I have low intelligence and no class whatsoever.”.
Tell us about your involvement with Autism Documentary Life, Animated and also St. Jude Children’s Hospital.
Gottfried: “More of it happens by accident. I can do wonderful things as long as I’m not directly involved. If I’m involved there’s always a lawsuit and a scandal.”. “For Life, Animated, the son had a puppet of my character from Aladdin. His father would put a puppet (of Iago) on his hand and started talking to his son and his son reacted like a old friend.”. He recalls, “My wife and I got in touch with the father and had me surprise his son at the school for autistic children. They had a Disney club and they were re-enacting Aladdin. I walked in and they went crazy.”.
“St. Jude Children’s Hospital is a hospital for little children and I thought, I was gonna get in trouble. People were tearing-up and I got up there and think, this is really officially gonna end my career. I go up there and my joke starts with ‘This blind guy goes to a hooker…’ and the audience is laughing. They loved it.”. “And I look over at the man whose daughter had cancer and he was smiling with a glow around his face. And I thought, this is what comedy can do in a tragic situation.”.
“The first thing in tragedy no matter how poor taste it is, is crack jokes. I got a standing ovation.”.
What are your thoughts on the upcoming live-action adaptation of Disney’s Aladdin?
Gottfried: “They haven’t asked me to do it, but I think any Film that doesn’t use me is making a major mistake.”.
Anyone with a passing acquaintance to this writer could tell you that the opportunity to spend 11 days in a series of darkened theatres watching nonfiction programming is one the highlights of my year which is why Hot Docs remains one of my favourite Toronto Film Festivals. This year’s Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival will feature 230 Films including 53 Canadian productions and co-productions. Filmmakers, 48% of whom are female, representing 58 countries will share stories on topics ranging from science to Syria and media to mermaids.
Hot Docs will open with the world premiere of Canadian Filmmaker Lana Šlezic’s Bee Nation, which follows students in Saskatchewan’s First Nations community as they compete in a provincial spelling bee and prepare to compete nationally. First Nations subjects will be front and centre this year with several strong titles including Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World, a music Documentary which shines the spotlight on First Nations musicians who helped shape popular music.
Some other titles to fit into your schedule include:
Algorithms seek to predict future crimes before they happen in the world premiere of Pre-Crime. Matthias Heeder and Monika Hielscher look at the frightening future of law enforcement as science fiction melds with modern technology.
Bill Nye: Science Guy looks at the man who helped generations of kids learn to love science. The Scotiabank Big Ideas screening of the Film on Tuesday, May 2nd will include a talk from Directors David Alvarado, Jason Sussberg, and Mr. Nye himself.
The Media are examined in several Films this year including Nobody Speak: Trials of the Free Press, City of Ghosts and Joshua: Teenager vs. Superpower. These disparate Films are all part of the Scotiabank Big Ideas program and will feature in depth Q&As at specified screenings.
Fans of the Festival always turn out in droves for the Nightvision selections. 78/52 looks at the iconic shower scene in Hitchcock’s Psycho. Florian Habicht’s Spookers will be the Movie of choice for horror lovers as it looks at a former psychiatric hospital turned “scare park” in New Zealand where zombies and chainsaw toting clowns are the main attraction.
Deadheads are sure to be thrilled with Amir Bar-Lev’s Documentary Long Strange Trip, which looks at rock icons the Grateful Dead through the lens of archival footage, and rarely seen live performances.
Long before Beyoncé was declared Queen, Whiney Houston was thrilling fans around the world with her incredible voice. Whitney “Can I Be Me” looks at the rise and tragic fall of this brilliant star.
Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival will run from Thursday, April 27th through Sunday, May 7th. Tickets are already on sale. Ticketing and schedule information can be found on Hot Docs website, https://www.hotdocs.ca.