Hot Docs kicks off tomorrow for another year, ten days at various theatres throughout Downtown Toronto, with over 200 films to choose from. There is what feels like a limitless number of issues represented, but as always, we are here to highlight films that should be of particular interest to UrbanToronto readers; those that look at architecture, urban issues like transportation and housing, and even one where housing is an issue for an entire country. Some of the screenings listed below will have "gone rush" already, but if you don't have tickets, just get to the theatre early enough for the rush line: some tickets are held back for every screening.

The Trolley is a love letter to what we Torontonians know as the streetcar, and there's maybe never been a more UrbanToronto film ever shown at Hot Docs. This one is a 49-minute IMAX film, and it's showing just once, during the last weekend of Hot Docs, at the world's first IMAX cinema, the Cinesphere, for free on Saturday May 5 at 3 PM. (If you miss the Hot Docs presentation, it will be back for a regular run at some point.)

Aboard a double-decker tram in Hong Kong, from “The Trolley”

The film is shot here, more than anywhere else, but you'll also get to travel all over the world to experience systems in Milan, Hong Kong, Portland, Geneva, San Diego, Strasbourg, and on and on. Archival photography and film footage shines a light on the birth of the systems a hundred or more years ago, with some amazing clips of cars, trolleys, and horse-drawn carriages all competing for space of the streets of early 19th century America.

An articulated Flexity tram in Marseille, France, from “The Trolley”

The film's narration tends toward hyperbole at times, and I'm 90% sure that 80% of the footage is being played at 150% of normal speed, so it all spins a little utopian, but there are some fun rides through the cities because of it, and anyone who loves to watch Toronto street life through streetcar windows as they glide along will leave with a smile of their face. And me, I want the bicycle version of this film now…

Riding the red rocket, Toronto, from “The Trolley”

As mentioned, The Trolley is only showing once during the last weekend of Hot Docs, at the Cinesphere at Ontario Place, for free, on Saturday May 5 at 3 PM. The only trick is that you have to pick up tickets in person at the Hot Docs box office at the Bloor Cinema, two tickers max per person, and they're reportedly going fast.

From urban transportation in The Trolley, we move to involuntary urban transformation in 52 Seconds.

A bystander in awe of how his city has turned to rubble in a scene from Javier Andrade’s 52 Seconds

52 Seconds tells the story of Portoviejo, Ecuador, and what it was like in the city of a quarter million people in the aftermath of the April 2016 earthquake that left 671 people dead and thousands homeless. In the film, director Javier Andrade is summoned back to his hometown by his father, whose place of business is in ruins. Andrade personalizes the film, making it as much about memory and the loss places that have shaped us when disaster strikes, as it is about living through the tough times that follow and coming to grips with rubble clearance and then rebuilding. If you've ever wondered what it might feel like if your city and life were turned upside down, 52 Seconds offers a glimpse of the things that can test people.

A religious congregation lights candles mid-procession in a scene from Javier Andrade’s 52 Seconds

52 Seconds plays three times at the Scotiabank Theatre; on Thursday, May 3 at 5:30 PM, Friday, May 4 at 2:15 PM, and Saturday, May 5 at 8:30 PM.

From a destructive moment that changes everything in 52 Seconds, we move to an inexorable decades-long destruction in Anote's Ark that, no matter how long you have to plan for it, when it involves an entire country, it may not be enough.

Young men build a wall of sandbags to protect against flooding in Kiribati, from Anote's Ark

Matthieu Rytz's film Anote's Ark is at times stunningly beautiful—as befits the idyllic islands of Kiribati (pronounced Kiribass)—but it gets down to business covering the efforts underway to save the country. An archipelago astride both the international dateline and the equator, Kiribati's landmass is all atoll: low-lying islands atop coral outcrops, and considered to be the country most likely to disappear first because of rising oceans. Much of the film follows Anote Tong, the eloquent (now former) President of Kiribati and a passionate climate change activist as he travels the world to raise awareness of the plight of his country and others like it. 

Above threatened Tarawa Island, Kiribati, from Anote's Ark

Rytz also follows Sermary, a Kiribati islander who will do whatever it takes to keep her kids dry and happy, including moving to New Zealand to work to provide for her family when unprecedented flooding gets to be too much.

Sermary and one of her children in Kiribati, from Anote's Ark

Anote's Ark plays as part of Scotia Wealth Management's BIG IDEAS series at the Hot Docs Cinema on Tuesday, May 1 at 6:30 PM, when President Tong will be in attendance for a Q&A following the screening. He may be in attendance for a repeat on Wednesday, May 2 at 10:15 AM at the TIFF Bell Lightbox. A third screening takes place at the Lightbox on Friday, May 4 at 1 PM.