Hot Docs 2011: The Future Is Now!

The Future Is Now! isn't really a documentary in the traditional sense. Instead, it's a series of conversations with contemporary artists and thinkers — philosopher Alain de Botton, poet Christian Bök and architect Shigeru Ban among others — all bound together by a ridiculous fictional conceit about a journalist (The Woman Of Tomorrow, played by New Waterford Girl's Liane Balaban) trying to convince a cynic (The Man Of Today, played by Quebec actor Paul Ahmarani) to have more faith in the world. It's a modern re-telling of a French film from 1949, La Vie Commence Demain, which did the same thing with Picasso, Sartre, Le Corbusier and others.

The conversations are fascinating. Bök explains his project to turn a poem into genetic code, insert it into a bacterium and have the bacterium produce another poem in response. Ban discusses both his modernist mansions for millionaires and the low-cost, paper housing he builds for victims of natural disasters. Artist Marlene Dumas shares her views on how to connect to and fall in love with modern art. Unfortunately, far too little time in the film is devoted to these conversations and far too much to the intentionally silly narrative. The Man Of Today's journey from cynic to slightly-less-cynical-cynic, told with the aid of painfully clunky dialogue, does help frame the interviews, but the journey isn't anywhere near as interesting as the people he meets along the way. During the Q&A after the screening, the directors — Gary Burns and Jim Brown, the same team behind 2006's suburban sprawl doc Radiant City — admitted that they had a hard time cutting the interview footage down to the few minutes they used from each. It's a shame they didn't take that as a sign: they'd have been better off cutting the crappy parts instead.

Photo: Paul Ahmarani and Christian Bök in The Future Is Now!

You'll find all of our Hot Docs coverage here.

Posted by Adam Bunch, the Editor-in-Chief of the Little Red Umbrella and the creator of the Toronto Dreams Project. You can read his posts here, follow him on Twitter here, or email him at


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