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.
Comedian David Cross once said: "Watch the parade of the deluded. Right now there are a million people in Hollywood who are 'All going to make it' –- they have the dream and the desire."
Take that cynical look at every actor's dream and lay that transparency over a legion of kids aged three and up, and there you have 'The Hollywood Complex.' This documentary is, by far, one of the most watchable films at this year's Hot Docs festival. The personalities jump off the screen and the subject matter is utterly compelling.
Spring in Hollywood is known as 'pilot season.' Of the fifty-or-so TV projects that major networks try out, thousands or children line up to fill the several dozen acting parts available. Movies and commercials are up for grabs too, but a youngster's chances at landing any of these jobs is kind of like winning the lottery.
Despite all of the odds stacked against them, they still come. 'The Hollywood Complex' gleefully examines half a dozen kids and their parents, who range in age and character. Home base for many of these families is a housing complex known as Oakwood. The rent is high and the living space modest, but it is the place to be for aspiring young actors. The hefty price of Oakwood gets you a busy roster of training, expert consultations and a direct line to some of Tinseltown's most powerful agents.
Shanna is 13, a little late to be just arriving to town, and she is accompanied by her supportive but admittedly naïve mother. Straight off the Colorado ranch and diving head first into the Hollywood meat grinder, it's this pretty and well-behaved young woman who best symbolizes the sacrificial lamb of a cruel industry. She has some talent, but as the months go by, it is clear that she faces an avalanche of competition. The well-knowing industry has seen a thousand Shannas, and will gladly take her dream-soaked money.
The other highly entertaining member of this super-cute cast is Megan. Alongside her zany mother, this inseparable pair have made Hollywood their permanent home. Dad pays for the whole rotten affair working in Missouri, but we never meet him –- at one point he even sells the family vehicle to pump more cash into their strange quest. Megan is the opposite of Shanna; she's loud, confident and not afraid to let it all hang out. No matter how small the part or how sleazy the casting agent, Megan shows up with a wild outfit and brash delivery.
Shy or outgoing, there is no easy fix for this game. A slew of other kids make up the rest of this doc, representing the various angles needed come pilot season. James is your classic dramatic thespian type and 6-year-old Julia is in demand due to her age. The Casa kids have arrived from Las Vegas and are doing auditions regularly. Their tiny apartment forces one child to sleep under a table.
For all the 'wrong' in 'The Hollywood Complex,' for some of these kids, it is the right fit. It's easy to pick apart the dishonesty and money-grabbing going on here, but amidst the legions of uncertain and lost little children in this story, there are some who are absolutely in their element.
Regardless what you come away with after viewing 'The Hollywood Complex,' the filmmakers surely struck gold when choosing to cover an environment that is so fantastic, its almost seems alien.
Sunday, May 8, 1PM - Cumberland 2
For complete schedule and movie listings, visit the Hot Docs website.