Hot Docs has returned for ten days in its traditional slot at the end of April and beginning of May, the 2022 event happening both online and in cinemas in Downtown Toronto. While there are dozens of films covering all manner of topics, UrbanToronto's focus is on the films that cover the urban condition in the world today, and the issues that people face trying to make a go of it despite the challenges.

Hot Docs 2022

In a sequence near the beginning of Tolyatti Adrift, a documentary by Spaniard Laura Sisteró and filmed in the winter of 2018-2019 in Tolyatti — Russia's poorest big city, formerly home to the USSR's largest car plant but now saddled with the highest youth unemployment rate in the now pariah nation — a fourth year engineering student has returned from an internship in France, and the other students pay him rapt attention at a talk at school. Mikhail loved his internship abroad, wants to now leave Russia permanently, leaving all the other students wondering how they can all get out too, if at least for a while.

At home though, Mikhail's mother lectures him on the joys of Tolyatti… well, at least the former joys, but he sees the city on the Volga differently, as do the other two youth profiled in the film, Vyacheslav and Ionova. Here, there's not a lot to do for any of them to do, other than drift their legacy Lada Zhigulis across frozen ponds. Vyacheslav discusses with friends how to avoid being drafted, wondering if a medical check-up might find a reason to prevent his conscription, or how many roubles it might cost to buy his way out the army. Ionova, meanwhile, dreams of moving Moscow where she feels it more likely she'll find a better paid job.

More upbeat are the older generation, who still sing communist era songs and seem to believe the propaganda that the lyrics espouse. Tolyatti Adrift's soundtrack also pulses whenever the kids are behind the wheel, though, and in the instances where lyrics express their generation's thoughts, they are plaintiff and nihilistic: this is the classic disaffected youth story set to the purr of the Zhiguli 2105.

Tolyatti's youth take to their Lada Zhigulis on frozen ponds

Tolyatti Adrift screens at…

8 PM on Friday, April 29 at the Varsity 7, and at

11:15 AM on Thursday, May 5 at the Varsity 7.

Otherwise, a 5-day window opens at 9 AM on Saturday, April 30 for online viewing.

Director Chan Tze Woon's Blue Island chronicles several decades of oppression and resistance in Hong Kong, introducing us to activists from a previous generation of campaigning, the activists of today, and them to each other. Compared to the teens and twenty-somethings of Tolyatti, the youth of Hong Kong have a way of life they actually care about and are willing to fight for, and which they equate with the essence of being of Hong Kong; this is a city that is not just the sum of its buildings, but is the ethos of its people, and which is now suffering from the tear gas and truncheons of Beijing's unblinking and evermore oppressive autocracy.

The film — which is never likely to get a public screening in Hong Kong — is a mix of archival footage of that city from the British Colony time of the 70s onward, with modern reporting on recent popular uprisings, plus interviews and reenactments shot specifically for this film. Uniquely, the reenactments of historical events often star today's activists in the roles of their antecedents; it's a recipe I don't believe I've seen before, and one that works well for laying out Hong Kong's recent history and linking what happened in the 70s and 80s to the 10s and 20s. While Blue Island does not focus on Hong Kong's built environment, it shows the cohesion within a populace that a shared environment and experience creates.

“We cannot denounce those as cowards who left. It also takes courage to flee.” Chan Hak-chi (Age 74, fled the Cultural Revolution in 1973) began to swim at dawn in the Victoria Harbour as a lifelong daily habit, regardless of the weather.

Blue Island's first screening has already occurred, but the second screening will be at…

2:30 PM on Monday, May 2 at the Varsity 6.

Otherwise, a 5-day window opened at 9 AM today, Friday, April 29 for online viewing.

Tickets for in-cinema or online screenings for these or any other Hot Docs 2022 films can be purchased here, or you can go to the cinemas on the day-of: new blocks of tickets are reserved for same-day sales each day.

We'll be back to look at more films soon.