Hot Docs review: The Hottest August

Canadian expat Brett Story evocatively captures NYC and its boroughs in the throes of socioeconomic and political change

THE HOTTEST AUGUST (Brett Story, Canada/U.S.). 95 minutes. Rating: NNNN

If you’ve been to New York City in the summer, you know it’s disgusting – and it’s only going to get worse as climate change creates thicker heat waves and more intense storm cycles. Canadian expat Brett Story took her camera around the five boroughs in August 2017, capturing a portrait of a city already in the throes of socioeconomic and political change.

As in her excellent 2016 doc The Prison In 12 Landscapes, Story doesn’t steer us toward specific conclusions her points gradually shape themselves as people express the same basic concerns: rent is expensive, jobs are scarce, the future is uncertain. A mother says she wants to buy a house so her kids have some security, but we’ve already seen the wreckage of Hurricane Sandy. Is a total solar eclipse a sign of the apocalypse, or is the end of the world already underway?

The Hottest August creates an evocative picture of systems breaking down and a city bracing itself for whatever comes next. But at least the ospreys have come back to Staten Island. 

April 29, 3:15 pm, TIFF 1 May 2, 6 pm, Scotiabank 13 May 3, 12:30 pm, TIFF 2

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