Zahraa’s Hot Docs Top 5

27 April 2018 / by Zahraa Hmood
Featured Image for Zahraa's Hot Docs Top 5 courtesy of Hot Docs Festival 2018  | CJRU

Hot Docs 2018 begins tonight, April 26, at 7 pm. Here are Zahraa’s Top 5 films to check out this year at the festival:


Anote’s Ark (Canada)

The effects of climate change are global: last year was the second-hottest year on record for our planet since 1880. While for some, the effects of climate change haven’t exactly hit their own backyards, in Kiribati, climate change could swallow backyards whole. Anote’s Ark documents rising sea levels, threatening to submerge the nation of Kiribati, a remote island in the Pacific Ocean. Directed by Matthieu Rytz, it is the filmmaker and photographer’s first feature film. Anote’s Ark follows the people of the nation, as they forge solutions to save their island and its people, and wrestle with the possibility that they may need to leave their home, and never return. As the globe inches towards devastation at the hands of man-made climate change, Anote’s Ark carries an urgency that will only grow.


Residents of the Arab-American neighborhood of Bridgeview, IL have been under FBI surveillance for decades. From The Feeling of Being Watched, directed by Assia Boundaoui. Courtesy of Watched Film, LLC.

The Feeling of Being Watched (USA)

Following 9/11, hostility against Muslim-Americans grew exponentially among the American population. What some may not know, however, is that hostility was there even before, and that it came directly from the U.S. government. The Feeling of Being Watched, directed by journalist Assia Boundaoui, is an investigation into FBI surveillance in an Arab-American community near Chicago. Boundaoui, who grew up in this neighbourhood, pieces together the details of the investigation in this documentary, while wrestling with the impacts this surveillance has had on herself and her family. In a post 9/11 world, this film will be a chilling reminder of the power the state can exercise in the pursuit of safety and security, against its own people.


Still From Cielo

Cielo (Canada, Chile)

The sky above the Andes and the Atacama Desert in northern Chile is described as “more urgent than the land,” and Cielo aims to represent it, in all its glory and mystery. Director Alison McAlpine, who is making her feature film debut, documents the starry nights in the Chilean desert, and humanity’s relationship to it – the astronomers and scientists residing in the mountains, working to learn more about the universe up above, and residents of the Chilean desert who live in awe of the galaxies down below. Cielo is anticipated to leave audiences in awe with its heavenly visuals, and stimulate their wonderment for what’s really up there.

Still from Over the Limit


Over The Limit (Poland, Germany, Finland)

How far can a person be pushed in the pursuit of perfection? Over the Limit, directed by Marta Prus, chronicles that harrowing journey, in elite Russian rhythmic gymnast, Margarita “Rita” Mamun-Sukhorukova, as she prepares for the 2016 Olympic Games. Throughout the film, Rita passes through relentless training, which challenges her physicality and mentality to the point of constant anguish. Rita faces enormous pressure, as she’s going for the gold one last time before her retirement. In the spirit of dramas centered on ambitious heroes chasing excellence (see: Damien Chazelle’s Whiplash), Over the Limit is sure to be a heart-pounding feature.


Still from Time for Ilhan - Ilhan Omar campaigning for State Representative in Minnesota.


Time for Ilhan (USA)

In times of the rising political and social divisiveness in the United States, the last thing many wanted to see was a Somali-American Muslim woman in power. Time for Ilhan follows Ilhan Omar, a mother and community activist, seeking a position in Minnesota’s House of Representatives. Directed by Norah Shapiro, the film takes place in 2016, during the U.S. Presidential elections. During that time, anti-Muslim rhetoric grew under the campaign of current U.S. President Donald Trump, who called for all Muslims to be banned from entering the U.S., establishing a database for all Muslims living in the country, and surveillance against mosques. Ilhan’s story is one of triumph in the face of insurmountable odds, but also aims to show barriers to entering the U.S. political arena.