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Hot Docs 2016 Review: Aim for the Roses

Aim for the Roses is far more focused and accessible than an especially odd opening would suggest. A bearded man in a yellow jump suit stands on a tarmac reciting a speech to no one in particular it seems. He’s in the background; in front of him stands a well-dressed gentleman playing the cello.

But it’s all connected in this Canadian documentary from John Bolton that looks at the life and successes of a daredevil, both illuminating and rightfully weird, and a subsequent musical tribute paid to him.

The focus is the charismatic Ken Carter, a Canadian daredevil who rose to some small regard in the 1960s and 70s. His most compelling stunt attempt called for a car jump of one miler over the St. Lawrence River, where upon successful completion, he would land safely in the titular bed of roses.

Decades later, a Vancouver composer named Mark Haney would create a concept record in honour of Carter and his career. These two seemingly disparate men are united in Aim for the Roses, a genre-defying musical docu-drama both fascinating and disturbing, drawing surprising parallels between the musician and the stuntman.

Recreations, archival footage, interviews, and random musical numbers comprise this creative intersection of the grave and the absurd, the human and the superhuman. It takes you to a time and space before the Internet created a celebrity out of everyone, and gave people a platform to boast and show off. There are few of Carter’s breed, yet still he wasn’t that well known.

More importantly though, Aim for the Roses is about dedication and drive, however ambitious and unnecessary those drives may be. A bed of flowers awaited Carter on the other side: neither practical for landing nor particularly rewarding. And that Carter’s story isn’t that well-known makes for an all more suspenseful story, well-executed and imaginatively crafted.

[star v=35]

Anthony Marcusa

A pop-culture consumer, Anthony seeks out what is important in entertainment and mocks what is not. Inspired by history, Anthony writes with the hope that someone, somewhere, might be affected.