The Hottest August


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

The Hottest August
"In the background, in the heavy air, one can almost hear the words of TS Eliot. Is this how the world ends?" | Photo: Courtesy of Doc/Fest

What are your hopes for the future?

It's August 2017. In and around New York City, in the streets and shops and galleries, out on the beach, people are going about their daily lives. Some are aware that the climate is in crisis; others don't seem to have given it much thought, though there's general agreement that one never knows what to expect of the weather these days. There are other things going on. The country is in a state of political turmoil. Documentarian Brett Story asks them that question about the future. In the city there is constant clamour. Is it possible to see it clearly through all this now?

In the background, in the heavy air, one can almost hear the words of TS Eliot. Is this how the world ends? Humans are nothing if not adaptable. Every year, flooding seems to hit the coast a little harder. Those once in a hundred years storms are getting more frequent. So they build the piles underneath their homes a little higher. They write letters to officials to say that something needs to be done. Some of them think that their prospects will improve if Donald Trump gets proper control of the economy and restores the country's productivity. Others see his regime as an obstacle or as a contributor to the problem. And yet the problem itself is something that few people are willing to address directly.

The one thing you can still rely on, they say, is that August will be hot.

The film is beautifully lensed by Derek Howard, capturing distinct qualities in natural light, in the quantity of water in the air, which speak to its subject. Troy Herion's score gives voice to what is unspoken, filling empty skies with lingering melancholy. In between we hear people's thoughts about work, retirement, the homes they live in, their relationships (or lack thereof) and their children. All these ordinary aspirations in the face of something overwhelming.

It's a slight thing, but that's the point. In the grand scale of things, so is humanity.

Reviewed on: 19 Nov 2019
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The Hottest August packshot
Seven months after Donald Trump assumes the US presidency, filmmaker Brett Story journeyed to all five boroughs of New York City asking people a simple question: what are your hopes for the future?

Director: Brett Story

Year: 2019

Runtime: 95 minutes

Country: US, Canada


Doc/Fest 2019

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