Hot Docs, North America's biggest documentary film festival, kicks off its 2011 run on April 28 in Toronto. Jam-packed with documentaries running through May 8, Moviefone Canada will be there from start to finish, offering up looks at some of the festival's noted films.
What hasn't been said about Ron Sexsmith? The musician's musician, this Canadian singer/songwriter (and damn fine guitarist) is a favorite of the greats. Elvis Costello, Steve Earle, Chris Martin, Feist and Sir Paul McCartney think he's one of the world's great melody makers and lyricists. Critics prop him up and industry types listen to his records, but every honest-to-God fan has been hard-won for the shy troubadour. Will Sexsmith ever be a household name, or will he always be an acquired taste?
This is what documentary 'Love Shines' tries to find out. Director Douglas Arrowsmith follows Sexsmith while he makes his most recent recording, 'Long Player Late Bloomer' in Los Angeles. At the helm -- a guy usually reserved for the Metallicas, Bon Jovis and Motley Crues of this world –- producer Bob Rock. The hope is that these two talents can force the industry to recognize the pop genius of the Sexsmith discography.
'Love Shines' does a nice job at editing together vintage Super 8 footage of his youth alongside present-day commentary. Raised in St. Catharines, Ontario, Sexsmith was every bit the daydreamer that his fans might imagine he would be. He was a father early and has since gone through several relationships. One short scene interviews his grown son, who comments with subtle melancholy about growing up with a father who spent most his time on the road.
Sexsmith's personal life is a distant second-place winner in the race for real estate in 'Love Shines.' At the heart of this doc is the odd mix of his personal songwriting footage and interviews about his anxiety about wanting a successful record. Tension is felt when fellow Canadian Michael Bublé calls Bob Rock out of the blue during one of the recording days. It is easy to see the mixed emotions Sexsmith must feel about the mega-success Bublé is currently enjoying. Kiefer Sutherland also makes an appearance, offering Sexsmith a spot on his Ironworks label and a high-profile Los Angeles showcase -– but the results fall flat.
As songs take form in Rock's studio and a record starts to come together, there is an excitement about the prospect of success, but insecurity about Sexsmith's motivations. Can you force popularity? Does Rock have a Midas touch to match his golden price tag? Perhaps musician Steve Earle explains it best when he points out that Sexsmith is lucky to have any kind of recognition at all.
Regardless of the conclusion, 'Love Shines' is a journey worth taking, a must for fans, and already a musical favorite, winning the audience award at this year's South By Southwest Film Festival.
Friday, May 6, 9:45PM - Isabel Bader Theatre
Saturday, May 7, 9:45PM - Isabel Bader Theatre
Sunday, May 8, 4:00PM - TIFF Bell Lightbox 2
For complete schedule and movie listings, visit the Hot Docs website.