A film by Brett Story
2019, 94 minutes
No. 246

A complex portrait of a city and its inhabitants, The Hottest August gives us a window into the collective consciousness of the present. The film’s point of departure is one city over one month: New York City, including its outer boroughs, during August 2017. It’s a month heavy with the tension of a new President, growing anxiety over everything from rising rents to marching white nationalists, and unrelenting news of either wildfires or hurricanes on every coast. The film pivots on the question of futurity: what does the future look like from where we are standing? And what if we are not all standing in the same place?

Spanning across the outer boroughs of New York City and incorporating a diverse range of interview subjects, The Hottest August foregrounds anxieties about the future while allowing for moments of digression and surreality. Filmmaker Brett Story (The Prison in Twelve Landscapes) explores how questions of climate change and global catastrophe are ignored and deferred more often than they are confronted directly. City residents speak about worries over personal finance, the changing racial makeup of neighborhoods, and the social atomization resulting from gentrification, all the while the sweltering August heat lends a unique undercurrent of dread and uncertainty to the conversations.

The Hottest August offers a mirror onto society on the verge of catastrophe, registering the anxieties, distractions, and survival strategies that preoccupy ordinary lives.

Official Selection, SXSW Film Festival
Official Selection, Hot Docs
Official Selection, BAMcinemaFest
Official Selection, True/False Film Festival
Official Selection, CPH:DOX
Official Selection, Rooftop Films Summer Series
Official Selection, Sheffield Doc Fest

“One of the Ten Best Films of the Year. A documentary about climate change like you’ve never seen before.” – Vox

“One of the Ten Best Films of the Year. Brett Story’s stunning follow up to her unconventional look at mass incarceration The Prison in Twelve Landscapes. A mesmerizing, meditative work of art.” – Variety

"One of the Ten Best Movies of The Year. An indescribably rich text... a haunting document about climate change." – Vulture

“Critic’s Pick! Fascinating. A cinematic gift... an intellectual challenge and an emotional adventure.” – The New York Times

"One of the Ten Best Documentaries of the Year. A first-rate city symphony, and a rare look at Gotham from the ground up." – Rolling Stone

“Monumental. Why people are worried—and how they’re learning to cope—is what powers this remarkable documentary." – Paste Magazine

"Stunning." – Vanity Fair

"An absorbing social study about hopes, dreams and our current climate." – Sight & Sound

“A climate change film that’s neither doom-inflected (First Reformed) or polemical (many, many documentaries), instead alternating between freefloating curiosity and unavoidably recurring melancholy." – Filmmaker Magazine

"The Hottest August is a rare climate crisis film that focuses on lived experiences rather than bolstering a dire prognosis with quantitative data." – Cleo Journal

“A calm, yet urgent polyphonic documentary that sheds lights on collective anxieties… Story invites us to (re)consider how we got to this point, and how we need to re-engage, together, with one another as a society." – Directed by Women