HotDocs ’16 – Day 3: Gulistan, Land of Roses/Spaceship Earth

Spaceship Earth
Spaceship Earth

Gulistan: Lands of Roses (Canada, 2016): Proof that a great subject doesn’t necessarily make for a good documentary, Gulistan, Land of Roses has numerous opportunities to rise above the genre and squanders them all. In theory, the film is about female Kurdish squads battling ISIS, but you never see any fighting taking place. This is not necessarily a problem if the portrait of the guerrilleras were fascinating enough. Unfortunately, director Zayne Akyol never comes close to discover what makes these women tick beyond boilerplate answers.

Some morsels of valuable information do come across: The battlefield helps the female fighters avoid their expected fate in Kurdish society (subservient, hopelessly dependent). Another source of motivation is that if ISIS soldiers are killed by a woman, they’ll never get to (their idea of) heaven. These valuable bits of info get lost among a lot of waiting around, training sequences and pointless dialogue. The virtual absence of a dramatic arch seals the deal: Gulistan: Land of Roses is a bore. 1/5 prairie dogs.

Gulistan Land of Roses will also play on Wednesday, May 4th, and Sunday, May 8th.

Spaceship Earth (Canada, 2016): The problem with climate change documentaries is that after a while, they all look the same. The “we are doomed” narrative has become so repetitive is not actually helping the cause any longer. Spaceship Earth tries to distinguish itself by using the Marshall McLuhan metaphor of the planet as a shuttle and us as the crew, but it’s not enough.

While the film covers a fair variety of issues (melting glaciers, water acidity, the Koch brothers), it all comes down to energy. Sustainable sources cover less than 2% of the population’s needs (coal is still 30%!) and lack of political will is stalling progress on this area. Spaceship Earth is filled with interesting data presented in a cohesive fashion and in a pretty package, yet it misses the “wow” factor that would have allowed the film to break from the pack. 3/5 prairie dogs.

Spaceship Earth will also play Sunday, May 1st, and Saturday, May 7th.

Author: Jorge Ignacio Castillo

Journalist, film critic, documentary filmmaker, and sometimes nice guy. Member of the Vancouver Film Critics Circle. Like horror flicks, long walks on the beach and candlelight dinners. Allergic to cats.