Science Films at Hot Docs 2024

The 2024 Hot Docs Festival begins tomorrow, showcasing international documentaries across Toronto cinemas through May 5. We’ve rounded up the festival’s science or technology-themed films below, with descriptions quoted from the festival. The lineup is brimming with festival favorites, such as Hans Block and Moritz Riesewieck’s ETERNAL YOU, Sally Aitken’s EVERY LITTLE THING, Anupama Srinivasan and Anirban Dutta’s NOCTURNES, and Virpi Suutari’s ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE FOREST.

Readers already acquainted with our coverage of the above films have plenty of premieres to look forward to, however. Among the eight world premieres and seven international premieres, two projects focused on teenagers’ relationship to technology intrigue: Anneke de Lind van Wijngaarden and Natalie Bruijns’s feature-length SWEETIES and Yourgo Artsitas’s new short TR(OL)L: NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK, TOTAL REQUEST LIVE AND THE CHAIN LETTER THAT CHANGED THE INTERNET.


THE CLICK TRAP. Dir Peter Porta. World Premiere. “How can pop-up ads used to sell shoes also undermine global democracy? Digital advertising no longer only markets products, but increasingly disinformation. Investigative journalists and online activists reveal the unsettling reach of an unregulated industry in this alarming tech-sposé.”

CYBORG GENERATION. Dir. Miguel Morillo Vega. North American Premiere. “An 18-year-old musician designs a cybernetic organ and illegally implants it into his own body, acquiring a new sense that purportedly allows him to perceive sounds coming from outer space while on the surface of the Earth.”

Still from THE CYBORG GENERATION. Courtesy of Hot Docs.

ENO. Dir. Gary Huswit. Canadian Premiere. “Visionary British musician and artist Brian Eno reveals his creative processes in this groundbreaking, generative documentary. Created using a generative software system, this documentary is different every time it’s shown.”

ETERNAL YOU. Dir. Hans Block, Moritz Riesewieck. Canadian Premiere. “If you could talk to loved ones you’ve lost, would you? Should you? Driven by AI and Big Data, tech startups are racing to develop digital doppelgangers with the promise of immortality and raising questions around love, loss and memory.”

EVERY LITTLE THING. Dir Saily Aitken. Canadian Premiere. “Amid the glamour of Hollywood, a woman finds herself on a transformative journey as she nurtures wounded hummingbirds, unraveling a visually captivating and magical tale of love, fragility, healing, and the delicate beauty in tiny acts of greatness.”

THE FABULOUS GOLD HARVESTING MACHINE. Dir. Alfredo Pourailly De La Plaza. World Premiere. “After 40 years working in the mine at Tierra del Fuego, Toto doesn’t qualify for the social security that would allow him to retire. So his son Jorge attempts to build a gold harvesting machine to bring them a better future.”

FIRE TOWER. Dir. Tova Krentzman. World Premiere. “Gazing from one hundred feet above the boreal forest, FIRE TOWER draws us into the lookouts’ world: a critical line of defense in wildfire detection; inviting us to contemplate how solitude inspires a different connection with nature, community and our creativity.”

GRAND THEFT HAMLET. Dir. Pinny Grylls, Sam Crane. Canadian Premiere. “During the pandemic, two out-of-work British actors attempt the impossible: mounting a full-scale production of Shakespeare’s Hamlet inside Grand Theft Auto Online, resulting in a deeply personal story shot entirely within game’s ultra-violent virtual world.”

THE HERE NOW PROJECT. Dir. Greg Jacobs, Jon Siskel. World Premiere. “An international diary of the impact of climate change is constructed from thousands of hours of in-the-moment footage. Through the process, we witness the deep human resilience, resourcefulness and courage necessary to confront the world’s most pressing challenge.”

LOVE MACHINA. Dir. Pete Sillen. International Premiere. “Married over forty years, Martine and Bina Rothblatt commission Bina48, an ‘AI mindfile’ of Bina’s consciousness housed inside a robotic bust. Using cryopreservation, digital consciousness, xenotransplantation and space settlement, they prepare to extend their romance into infinity.”

NOCTURNES. Dir. Anupama Srinivasan, Anirban Dutta. Canadian Premiere. “Two researchers spend their nights deep within the Himalayas, methodically researching moths, finding an all-encompassing view of the connections we have with the nature that surrounds us.”

Still from NOCTURNES. Courtesy of Hot Docs.

ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE FOREST. Dir. Virpi Suutari. North American Premiere. “At 22, Ida becomes the leader of the new Forest Movement, coming face to face with Finnish forest industry giants and confronting generational bias. This modern fairy tale takes you into the heart of the woods and the center of the conflict.”

THE OUTPOST. Dir. Edoardo Morabito. North American Premiere. “After a lifetime of unsuccessful plans to save the Amazonian rainforest from wildfires, a Scottish eco-warrior concocts a surefire media stunt—stage a Pink Floyd concert from inside the burning bush. Is it madness, one man’s desperate dream or both?”

RISING UP AT NIGHT. Dir. Nelson Makengo. North American Premiere. “After an election in the Democratic Republic of the Congo shakes its political and economic stability, its capital, Kinshasa, remains in darkness. This immersive, cinematic depiction of life in spite of everything portrays a population reinventing itself in the face of uncertainty.”

SEEKING MAVIS BEACON. Dir. Jazmin Jones. International Premiere. “Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing taught millions globally how to type, but the software’s Haitian-born cover model vanished decades ago. Two detectives search for Beacon, revealing questions about identity and AI along the way.”

SINGING BACK THE BUFFALO. Dir. Tasha Hubbard. Canadian Premiere. “Travel with acclaimed Cree filmmaker Dr. Tasha Hubbard through the North American plains as Indigenous nations reintroduce the keystone species to the land and help reclaim territories and cultures that signal a turning point for longterm, collective survival.”

THE SPARKLE. Dir. Isabelle Grignon-Francke. Ontario Premiere. “Over a summer with a travelling carnival, Kim navigates the camaraderie of a close-knit crew while grappling with his desire to pursue his passion for geology, a journey marked by the layoff of his best friend Billy and his own dreams of elsewhere.”

THE BONES. Dir Jeremy Xido. Canadian Premiere. “THE BONES is the epic story of the international dinosaur bone trade. Following the journey of fossils from their discovery in remote corners of the earth to laboratories, museums, auction houses and collectors’ living rooms, the film weaves together interlocking stories of people caught between the demands of commerce and the basic human drive to unlock the most profound mysteries of life.”

SWEETIES. Dir. Anneke de Lind van Wijngaarden, Natalie Bruijns. International Premiere. “While on holiday at a French campsite, three young teenage girls face romance, family relations and online obsessions in this poignant look at coming of age in a digital world.”

WHATEVER IT TAKES. Dir. Jenny Carchman. Canadian Premiere. “When cyberstalking leads to a series of bizarre deliveries, including a bloody pig mask, a couple’s otherwise calm life is shaken. As the harassment intensifies, the FBI closes in on a Silicon Valley giant in a reveal you will never see coming.”

THE WHITE MOUNTAIN. Dir. Luke Wiles, Gwyn Williams. International Premiere. “High atop Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in the Alps, two individuals brave the deadly peaks and trails to pursue their personal conquests before the slopes melt away, confronting climate change and our role in its prevention.”


ASBESTOS. Dir. Vanessa Gauvin-Brodeur. World Premiere. “A cinematic and introspective look at the residents of a Quebec town—once the site of the world’s largest asbestos mine—as they grapple with their community’s industrial past.”

CHASING TIME. Dir. Jeff Orlowski-Yang, Sarah Keo. World Premiere. “After bringing some of the first and most striking visual evidence of our changing planet to the fore through the groundbreaking study of melting glaciers, photographer James Balog returns to Iceland to close the last chapter of his life’s work.”

THE CONQUEST OF SPACE. Dir. Albin Biblom. International Premiere. “Some months before Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space, chimpanzee Ham is blasted into the stratosphere, as seen through archival footage in this tragicomic look at the space program and the animals that ‘made it’ before humankind.”

THE EVERLASTING PEA. Dir. Su Rynard. World Premiere. “Through the eyes of a scientist questioning plant consciousness, a pea plant dreaming of its past in Rome’s Colosseum, and a botanist unravelling a mystery, THE EVERLASTING PEA invites a profound reimagining of our relationship with the vegetal world.”

J’ADORE VENISE – ON DISAPPEARING BODIES. Dir. Stefano Dealessandri. World Premiere. “Delving into the relationship between Venice as a place and the people who move through it, J’ADORE VENISE focuses on the phenomenon of disappearing bodies that result from both anthropogenic environmental degradation and the pervasive influence of surveillance capitalism.”

MEET ME AT THE CREEK. Dir. Loren Waters. International Premiere. “MEET ME AT THE CREEK tells a story of interconnectedness and Cherokee values through Jim’s lifelong fight to restore Tar Creek, which is officially recognized by the government as ‘irreversibly damaged,’a designation Jim refuses to accept.”

SANDCASTLES. Dir. Carin Jin-Yi Leong. International Premiere. “In Singapore, Michigan, erosion from mass deforestation caused sand dunes to shift and swallow the town whole, while its namesake in the East built land where there was once only water and marshland.”

TR(OL)L: NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK, TOTAL REQUEST LIVE AND THE CHAIN LETTER THAT CHANGED THE INTERNET. Dir. Yourgo Artsitas. International Premiere. “A chain letter to vote the music video for seminal boy band New Kids on the Block’s ‘Hangin’ Tough’ onto MTV’s TOTAL REQUEST LIVE makes the rounds over online message boards in 1999.”

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