Hot Docs 2016: Obit – Vanessa Gould


Having its international premiere this evening at 9:15 at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema, is what may be my favorite documentary at the festival so far. With additional screenings on Tuesday May 3 at 3:45 at the Isabel Bader Theatre, and again at 9:15 on Saturday May 7, with a final screening at the Regent on Sunday, May 8 at 1pm, director Vanessa Gould takes into the story of our deaths, and loves celebrated.

She takes us into the obituaries of the New York Times.

We get to sit down with a number of reporters, including William, Peter, Margarit, as we are taken through a day in the offices of one of America’s most illustrious papers. There are the assignments, the layout, the lede, the refer, and trying to capture not someone’s death, but a celebration of their lives, in 500 words or less.

As they are given their assignments, they dig into their research, chatting with family members to gather facts, consulting the paper’s ‘Morgue’ – a massive collection of newspaper clippings, covering everything. There to tell the facts, and paint an honest picture of the deceased, the obit isn’t always met with love from the bereaved family, but paints a picture of a life lived well, and sometimes, cut too short.

I’m a sucker for a good newspaper movie, or documentary, I love how stories come together, how they are researched, put together, and the race to the deadline. There’s a wonderful pulse to newspaper journalism, even now, in the time of the 24/7 ‘instantaneous’ news cycle, and Gould and her subjects convey that as we learn how everything comes together even as their deadline draws closer .

Don’t be put off by the perceived subject matter, this one is a must-see, it’s smart, entertaining, educational and fantastically enjoyable as we celebrate life in all it’s forms, all printed up within the confines of columns, paragraphs, sentences, and words.

I loved it.


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