The southwest corner of Bloor and Bathurst streets in Toronto's Annex area will be getting some twenty-something tall buildings over the next few years, but in the next few days, The Ted Rogers Hot Docs Cinema to the northeast of the intersection, will be getting TALL: The American Skyscraper and Louis Sullivan, a 79-minute-long documentary about the invention of the skyscraper and how it shaped our cities—especially New York, Chicago, and even Buffalo—in the first half of the 20th century.

 a still from TALL, image courtesy of Hot DoNew York and the World Trade Center: a still from TALL, image courtesy of Hot Docs Cinema

Opening on Friday, March 30 and playing nine times over the long weekend and into the first half of next week, the Manfred Kirchheimer-written and directed film is an impressive old-school documentary; sober, thoroughly researched, and stuffed full of archival film and photography of the great buildings that created our modern world. Comprehensively cataloguing the shift from fat masonry-walled buildings like Chicago's 13-storey Monadnock, to the glass-and-steel behemoths of today, TALL spends most of its time exploring Louis Sullivan's effort to create a new style for this new form of building, luxuriating in the intricate ornamentation that he lavished upon such exquisite landmarks as Chicago's Carson Pirie Scott department store (now renamed the Sullivan Center), New York's Bayard Building (now the Bayard-Condict Building), and closer to home, Buffalo's Guaranty Building (now called the Prudential Building).

 a still from TALL, image courtesy of Hot Docs CinemBuffalo's Guaranty Building: a still from TALL, image courtesy of Hot Docs Cinema

Neither the film nor 20th century architecture was all about Sullivan though, and the film details the shift of popular taste away from Sullivan's work to that of European architectural traditions following the Chicago World's Fair of 1893, dominated by rival architect Daniel Burnham and his likeminded colleagues. Images from that time, and from New York's race for the sky are gorgeous, enveloping you in the heady early days of one-upping the newspaper magnate next door.

TALL comes as a bit of a prelude for UrbanToronto readers to the 2018 Hot Docs Festival itself, running from April 26 to May 6, at theatres all over Downtown Toronto. We will be back for a closer look at what's playing this year, but we already have our eye on these three films that we expect you'll want to see:  

A still from Rush Hour, image courtesy of Taskovski FilmsA still from Rush Hour, image courtesy of Taskovski Films

Rush Hour is filmed in Mexico City, Los Angeles, and Istanbul, and chronicles the lives of those facing a lifetime of getting to and from work, and how transporting ourselves shapes our cities and ourselves.

A still from The Proposal, image courtesy of Hot DocsA still from The Proposal, image courtesy of Hot Docs

In The Proposal, conceptual artist Jill Magid attempt to explore the work of famed Mexican architect Luis Barragan, but finds that his archive is inaccessible, purchased by Swiss design company Vitra after his death, and now mostly out-of-reach. Should architectural legacy be tied up in intellectual copyright if the rights holder feels no responsibility to make the knowledge public?

The Trolley, image courtesy of the Stephen Low CompanyThe Trolley, image courtesy of the Stephen Low Company

And then there's The Trolley, a 45-minute MAX film presented for free at the Cinesphere on May 5. Filmed in cities around the world including Milan, Hong Kong and many more—and featuring Toronto—Trolley follows the streetcar through history, from the earliest carriages up through to the snaking multi-unit articulated vehicles that ply our roads today.

Tickets for the 3 PM screening are only available in person from the CraveTV Hot Docs Box Office at the Bloor Cinema, two per person. (Tickets for all other films can obtained online.)

Passes, packages, and tickets are on sale for Hot Docs 2018 as of today through their online box office.