If you find yourself glued to UrbanToronto for stories about Toronto's changing urban form, new buildings, and the urban experience, then you're a pretty good candidate to fill seats at the Hot Docs international documentary film festival, set to hit Toronto over eleven days at the end of this month and the beginning of May.

The festival includes 197 selections this year from 43 countries covering a huge range of topics—essentially the best documentary films from across the globe made in the last year—along with some returning classics. There are particular spotlights on Danish-made docs this year, and Canadian ones of course, along with retrospectives of work by directors John Zaritsky and Adam Curtis. The documentaries inform, amuse, shock, and invariably take you to places you have never been, and some you have never even heard of before.

With so many films to consider, we will mostly let you do the work in finding ones that suit your unique tastes, but we can highlight certain films which are bound to hold particular interest for those who enjoy the themes that UrbanToronto typically concerns itself with. Many Hot Docs screenings—especially if you are able to go to during the daytime on weekdays—you may be able to simply "walk in" to, but if these shows appeal, and you find that they are playing on a weeknight or on the weekend, you definitely want to buy your ticket in advance. Students and Seniors with ID, by the way, can attend screenings that start before 5 PM for free. That's right, free.

Here are some urban issue and architecture films you may want to check out:

The Beijing Ants

Beijing is fast becoming the most expensive city in the world in which to live. Ryuji Otsuka is a filmmaker and house hunter out to find a place for her family to call home. The Beijing Ants tells her often hidden camera story of dealing with racial tension, unscrupulous landlords, unaccountable police, and more in a China that is grappling with rising capitalism and customer service issues (to put it mildly).

The Creator of the Jungle

Just outside a Catalonian village, a recluse has been building elaborate tree houses and more in a bid to life as he chooses, as Tarzan. Forced by local officials to tear down his architectural creations in the name of modernization, The Creator of the Jungle rebuilds as soon as he can. Years later an American curator discovers Garrell, our self-styled Tarzan, and his creations, and records them. Now, with the curator's footage and Garrell's homemade Tarzan films, director Jordi Morató explores the mind and creations of a man uniquely driven to build and inhabit a world of his own making.

Divide in Concord

If you've ever been to City Council, maybe to oppose or support a development near you, you'll know that planning issues are not the only motions that citizen activists take on with their Councillors. In Concord, Massachusetts, octogenarian Jean Hill wants single-serve plastic bottles banned; it's her contribution to making the world a less-littered place. Divide in Concord chronicles Hill's fight and those who oppose her in the name of freedom of choice. Will Concord make the choice that Toronto City Council did for water sales on its property? What can an individual citizen do to make the world a better place?

Everything Will Be

Vancouver has one of the most famous and bustling Chinatowns in North America, but the patrons that the Chinese grocery merchants depend upon are moving out to the suburbs as condos begin to replace the older homes in the area. Will Chinatown survive? In Everything Will Be by Eve & the Fire Horse director Julia Kwan, a new neon art installation in the neighbourhood assures EVERYTHING IS GOING TO BE ALRIGHT, but it is cold comfort for many in a gentrifying city.  

Penthouse North

Agneta Eckemyr, an aging Swedish actress turned fashion designer, lives in a roof terrace penthouse with a stunning view of New York's Central Park, $2500 rent to pay monthly, but no income anymore. Penthouse North tells the story of former tour-de-force now at a breaking point, trying to keep her piece of the city even as the cards are now stacked against her.

Sacro GRA

Rome is circumscribed by the Grande Raccordo Anulare, or GRA, a superhighway which connects through all of Rome's encircling suburbs. In Sacro GRA, filmmaker Gianfranco Rosi takes inspiration from Italo Calvino's book Invisible Cities and documents the lives of the people who live and work along the urban highway. The winner of a Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, Sacro GRA introduces its audience to surprising everyday goings on in the outskirts of the Eternal City.

Slums: Cities of Tomorrow

One in six people on earth now live in slums or shantytowns of some type. While these places are sometime bulldozed for apartment block neighbourhoods, Slums: Cities of Tomorrow argues that the slums themselves are often the better solution. This fascinating and thought-provoking film travels across the world and looks at what works and what doesn't, while considering the advice of planning experts and architects who do not accept the conventional wisdom on how best to deal with housing for the marginalized.

Tomorrow We Disappear

Speaking of slums around the world, there's one in New Delhi called Kathputli where 1,500 families of puppeteers, acrobats, painters, and magicians live. The life in this unique enclave is about to change though as the government sells the land it is on to private developers. In Tomorrow We Disappear, filmmakers Adam Weber and Jimmy Goldblum document the fight—and the in-fighting—to preserve a community threatened by the modern world.

Where I'm From

Where I'm From looks back at growing up on the working class streets of the Montreal neighbourhood of Verdun. Filmmaker Claude Demers revisits the place he grew up, experiencing it through the eyes of tweens Bastien and Cédric, who despite their families' poverty, find adventure on the banks of the mighty Saint Lawrence River. The city seems big from here, and considers the path to find a better future in it.

There are many more films you may be interested in. You can get all the screening times and other info you need, and indeed tickets themselves through Hot Docs' website. We will be back to look at more of what is on offer.