A Hot Docs International Documentary Film Festival addition, the Finnish import "Cheer Up" weirdly blurs the lines between funny and tragic, as viewers are subjected to hilarious cheerleader fails and broken noses and tears. Director Christy Garland ("The Bastard Sings the Sweetest Song") is known for creating films that are part observational documentary and fictional narrative techniques.
The documentary follows Finland's worst cheerleading team as they struggle with teenage angst and constant failure. "Cheer Up" focuses on two of the cheerleaders, Patu and Aino, and their head coach Miia. The three women are each dealing with their own personal, as well as cheerleading, struggles. Patu is grieving over her deceased mother while her father is expecting a new baby with his girlfriend. Aino is trying to decide whether or not discovering her identity coincides with being part of a team. Miia attempts to learn more from the best cheerleaders in Texas, but her personal life becomes complicated and the lessons from Texas do not quite translate.
"Much of reality TV has depicted relationships among young people (women in particular) in a competitive context, with mean and petty conflicts, stereotypical characterizations, jealousies and humiliating judgments and rejections," Garland says. "I've long thought of making a film that shows young people as complex, wise and compassionate as they are, in a film that doesn't appeal to base prejudices. We hear a lot about what it takes to win, to be the best, and why we should all work hard to achieve our dreams. Of course that message is important and inspiring. But life doesn't always deliver the ending of a Hollywood movie. Not everyone wins the trophy. So I made this film for the rest of us, who find other ways of defining a successful and happy life."
"Cheer Up" will receive its world premiere at the 2016 Hot Docs Film Festival.