Sunday, August 19, 2018

Same-sex, competitive ballroom dancing fills Gail Freedman's documentary, HOT TO TROT

If you are already interested in competitive ballroom dancing, particularly via the documentary format, you may very well love HOT TO TROT, a new movie from filmmaker Gail Freedman. If you don't have much interest in this, a word of caution may be in order. Even the gay hook the doc provides for those of us in the GLBT community may not be enough to make a "watch" worthwhile. The movie is certainly pleasant enough, as it skims the surface of the lives and interests of a half dozen competitive ballroom dancers, three male and three female. As the end credits roll, and we get some information on what has happened to these people, questions arise that suggest what the film might have achieved with more exploration and added depth.

Ms Freedman offers up dance partners Ernesto Palma (above, left), of Costa Rico, and Nikolai Shpakov (above, right), of Russia, and later Robbie Tristan (below, right), a former partner of Ernesto, who, due to health issues, must return to his home in Hungary.

On the distaff side, we meet Emily Coles (below, left), a diabetic who must wear an insulin pump 24/7, and her partner, Kieren Jameson (below, right) of New Zealand.

Later Emily adds a new female partner to the mix, Katerina Blinova (below, right). Along the way, we meet and/or learn about the families of some of these folk, and eventually of the dancers' life partners, as well. Nikolai misses his family in Russia, who he hopes will someday accept his being gay; Kieren's mom and dad come from New Zealand to see her dance.
And so forth.

Marriage eventually occurs, even a set of twin babies for which Ernesto and his mate arrange. We also view a couple of dance competitions, which generate a modicum of suspense and hope. But we never learn much about how all this works. Clearly the dancers must know a number of different dances -- rhumba to samba to whatever -- but as to what the judges look for or why one couple is held in higher esteem than another, go figure.

Ms Freedland, shown at right, has produced a pleasant, feel-good film with some fairly interesting characters on view. But it is all so surface and expected that I, at least, grew mostly bored.  And then, at the finale, with that end credit information regarding where these people are now and with whom, I couldn't help but think, "Boy, I'd like to know more about that!"

From First Run Features and lasting just 88 minutes, the documentary opens in New York City this Friday, August 24, at the Quad Cinema, and in Los Angeles on September 14 at Laemmle's Music Hall. For other upcoming playdates, cities and theaters, click here.

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