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HOTLINE (#HotDocs14 Review)

Hot Docs 2014

Directed by Tony Shaff

As we listen to a woman speak about her darkest moment, about how she once tried to kill herself, she shares about how she might have been successful if it weren’t for the voice on the other end of the phone when she called a suicide support hotline. There is no clear tangible connection between two people speaking over the telephone but sometimes, within the context of how the caller came to call a particular number, a connection can happen. It is this phenomenon that Tony Schaff’s documentary, HOTLINE attempts to define.


Of course, hotlines are not exclusive to suicide or crisis management. Hotlines exist in a number of forms, from the obvious, like phone sex lines and psychic hotlines, to the less expected, like hotlines for the latest news on boy bands or for educational tutoring. Shaff looks at the full gamut of options and wants to decipher what about this particular kind of connection fosters the kind of intimacy that allows for people to share so openly and to connect with what seems like less restriction than in face to face interaction. One key factor would seem to be the anonymity involved in the act itself; with no previous context and no relationship to worry about troubling, the caller can feel free to express whatever is on their mind to someone whose sole purpose is to listen. To be listened to is to be validated; validation can then in turn alleviate fear.


In lieu of exploring connections made over the phone from any expert psychological perspective, Shaff keeps his focus on the people working the phones themselves. These are people who dedicate their time to helping other people who sometimes don’t know where else to turn. As commendable as their work is, most of their experiences are similar, which makes HOTLINE a tad repetitive at times. Regardless, the topic itself is interesting enough to keep the audience on the line.

3.5 sheep

#HotDocs14 Screenings

04.28, 7:15 PM, Hart House Theatre

04.29, 1:00 PM, Scotiabank Theatre 3

05.02, 9:45 PM, Scotiabank Theatre 4

Click here for tickets.

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