2017 Hot Docs ‘Motel’

Motel, directed and photographed by Jesse McCracken, is the story of an unusual motel called the Continental Inn located in Niagara Falls, Ontario whose business model is addressing a pressing social issue, providing affordable housing to people who need it. 

When you come to think of it, how can it compete for tourist dollars against a plethora of upscale hotels like the Sheraton on the Falls, the Marriott Fallsview or the Embassy Suites by Hilton located down the road and which offer a plethora of amenities and services.  It can’t.  Motel is about the people who manage the motel, Brian, the night manager who lives at the motel and is a former journalist, and Linda, the day manager, who put their heart and soul into their work caring for the well-being of the residents, and the residents who call it home.  Their hard luck stories are told against a backdrop of an iconic city whose breathtaking views of the falls were immortalized in the film Niagara, a 1950s Hollywood film noir, and when motels like the Continental Inn had their heyday.  

McCracken weaves together many visual elements to create an intriguing film where tourism meets misery set against the glitz and gaudiness of the city and the iconic falls.  The film opens with a wide angle night shot of a spry elderly man, Brian, holding a flashlight making a security check of the motel grounds.  It dissolves into a kaleidoscope of flashing coloured lights followed by fireworks and, than, cuts to an image of Brian facing away from the camera looking up at the fireworks.  The film features first person interviews of Brian, Linda and several residents.  Close ups and medium angle shots of Brian, Linda and the residents are interspersed with wide angle shots of the motel, the falls and the city.  The film is narrated by Brian, Linda and the residents.  The film incorporates footage shot over several seasons, shot at different times of the day and at night, and includes time lapses which give the film a richness and complexity.  Some of the most powerful images in the film are scenes of the staff and residents sitting alone in their room.   

I liked Motel for it is, in essence, a film about second chances not only for the residents who call it home and the staff who manage it but for the motel itself and tell me, who doesn’t need a second chance at life.  McCracken has succeeded in creating an intimate portrait of the motel, its staff, and residents craving out an existence and sense of place against the backdrop of an iconic city.  I highly recommend it.

Motel will be playing at various theatres:
Innis Town Hall 4 on May 6 @ 8:30 p.m.

Tickets can be purchased here!

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