Hot Docs 2021 Review: The Big Scary “S” Word

Written by Maria Manuella Pache de Athayde


The Big Scary “S” Word, is Yael Bridge’s first full length documentary feature. This documentary is incredibly timely given Bernie Sanders’ recent promising presidential campaigns,  the rising stars in the progressive-wing of the democratic party including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, and IIhan Omar,  Amazon’s recent union busting campaign at warehouse workers in Alabama, the 2018 Oklahoma teachers strike, and the role of big money in politics. There is a laundry list of items and examples that the documentary provides. The premise here is that capitalism is not working just fine and, in fact, it is creating a less humane society.  

On the other hand, you have conservatives, moderate democrats, journalists, and pundits that insist that capitalism is the only way forward for America. In a clip featured in the documentary, MSNBC contributor Donny Deutsch states “I find Trump reprehensible as a human being, but a socialist candidate is more dangerous to this country as far as the strength and well-being of our country than Donald Trump.” How is it possible that Americans are so scared of socialism? How is it possible that there is so much inequality in the richest country in the world? These questions inform the crux of this doc as Bridge explores what socialism means for ordinary people, scholars, and politicians. 

There is nothing incredibly innovative to see here. Although, I have to admit that, a quarter of the way through, we are provided with beautiful visuals that trace the history of capitalism, the transition of capitalism into an economic system and a way to organize the production of goods and services, up to its modern form. In the end, it asks more questions than provides answers. This approach is completely okay but at times it “reads” a bit too academic.

The Big Scary “S” Word Trailer

The Big Scary “S” Word screened as part of the Hot Docs 2021 Film Festival. You can visit their website to check for a screening near you.

You can follow Maria Manuella Pache de Athayde on LetterboxdTwitter, or Instagram and view more of what she’s up to here.

The Dissident

Written by Taylor Baker


Bryan Fogel’s follow up to Icarus is a sprawling reduction of its subject with enough drone footage and shiny Twitter animations to make sure you don’t forget it was made at some point in the last three years. Investigative Journalism at it’s best boils down essential pieces of data as well as general facts and research then presents them all coherently in a digestible way. Unfortunately this documentary about an investigative journalist is a far cry from that standard. Like a microwave meal it is more manufactured than created, and once you’re done with it you feel worse than when you started. Not because it was impactful, but because it was vapid.

The Dissident presents us with a lot of emotions. Then it recreates unimportant events, throws in images of the ever polarizing Trump whenever it can, queues up some CG tweet recreations, and doesn’t focus itself squarely on anything but some circumstances Fogel is aware of. It goes for cheap emotionality instead of unwavering truth. 

I’m increasingly exhausted at these glossy documentaries with talking heads that have no purpose and are clearly just padding their resumes and attempting to create a positive image. The definitive Khashoggi documentary has is not yet made. I could have just read this in an article, what a waste of all of our time.

The Dissident Trailer

The Dissident is currently available to rent or purchase digitally.