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THE WRITER WITH NO HANDS (#HotDocs14 Review)

Hot Docs 2014
 
THE WRITER WITH NO HANDS

Directed by William Westaway

In 1997, a reasonably successful screenwriter, Gary Devore, drove off a bridge for no apparent reason after being missing for days. More importantly, how did he do so without any hands? It was reported that this was the condition his body was found in and the crime would eventually be considered unsolved. Across the pond and a dozen years later, another writer, Matthew Alford, author of Reel Power: Hollywood Cinema and American Supremacy, which details how involved the government is in controlling the image of America on film, takes it upon himself to solve this mystery. The question THE WRITER WITH HO HANDS asks is whether this is passion or just plain obsession.

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That question is posed by Alford’s cameraman, William Westaway, who would essentially become the director on the film Alford had originally hired him to shoot. Alford is convinced that Devore was killed by the CIA because of a controversial screenplay he was working on at the time. His conspiracy theory is not without its merits and proving it would mean exposing the American government as actually having killed an American citizen to protect its own interests. Westaway cannot comprehend what is driving Alford so hard to solve this case though, especially when he is alienating his girlfriend and three young children for something that genuinely has no connection to his life whatsoever. And so he hijacks Alford’s documentary and makes the film as much about Alford’s quest (ionable decisions) as the mystery itself.

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Alford is certainly not the first person to become inexplicably wrapped up in something, nor is he the first to do so while neglecting his loved ones, so I’m not sure why Westaway felt it was his right to judge Alford for his choices. Regardless, the results are pretty compelling as we watch Westaway’s interests swing back and forth between solving the Devore murder and exposing Alford’s motivations. In the end, the film is as at times as beguiling as the mystery it is trying to solve.

3.5 sheep

#HotDocs14 Screenings

04.28, 9:45 PM, Scotiabank Theatre

04.29, 8:30 PM, TIFF Bell Lightbox

05.02, 11:15 PM, Bloor Hot Docs Cinema

Click here for tickets.

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