Hot Docs 2017 Review: “Manic” (2017) ★★

Documentary as a genre is fascinating, educational and can be an eye opener. It can offer so many things and stories to learn from, which is just incredible. Just imagine, you follow a real-life story, real people and listen to what they have to say, oh, my dear reader what else can be better than this? You might cry or laugh with them at the same time. It is all great when you have that connection with that documentary subject. But with MANIC, I failed to find any part of the story to connect with. As I was watching, it lost me somewhere in the middle. I tried to find my way back to understand and justify the need of telling such a personal story… But I could not… Call me heartless, call me senseless… but that, unfortunately, may happen sometimes.

MANIC written and directed by Kalina Bertin follows her personal story of the search of the true identity of her father, who, believe it or not, had fifteen children around the globe. Just hearing that is almost like hearing a story from a horror movie, but the puzzle begins when Kalina Bertin makes a trip back in time to trace her father’s footsteps, learn who he was, talk to his ex-wives, followers, and his children who also have to go through mental issues.

“I was 24 and my family’s mental health was falling apart” claimed the filmmaker in the beginning. As you start watching her story from the beginning, you find significant proof of her statement. Her brother throws knives, Margaret and Kari, his ex-wives will talk to the camera, to share their special moments with the man, who had so many names that you won’t be able to track all of them. The story by itself sounds insane, doesn’t it? And don’t get me wrong, there was nothing wrong with what the filmmaker wanted to introduce to us. The problem was the way it was narrated…. And sadly, with so many unnecessary scenes it kills the entire impression of the story you could have had.

To add to what I tried to say above, MANIC is an important story to be told: it’s about a man who was the head of a cult. He called himself as the chosen one. He had great manners, sometimes harsh, and developed an ability to brainwash people with great fictional stories. But where the filmmaker fails to have me or even you connected is when it loses its pace somewhere in the beginning. She tries to cover so many things in one movie, that it will make no sense to you. Have you read a book where after a few pages you no longer want to continue as you got tired of the plot? Well, I am afraid the same happens with MANIC in a way I wish it never happened.

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