Critically Acclaimed Documentary “THE HOTTEST AUGUST” on INDEPENDENT LENS, Monday, April 20 at 10 pm

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Interviews with a Variety of New Yorkers in One of the Hottest Months on Record Paints a Portrait of Collective Anxiety on a Warming Planet


A film about climate change disguised as a portrait of collective anxiety, The Hottest August presents an up-close and personal look at New Yorkers’ growing concerns over a variety of societal changes, from rising rents to marching white nationalists, during one sweltering month in 2017. Raising the specter of our changing climate without ever mentioning it directly, the film is a different kind of climate change documentary — one that focuses on the very human experience of yearning for security in an increasingly uncertain world.

A cyclist carts a freezer through the Rockaways.
A cyclist carts a freezer through the Rockaways.

Weaving together interviews with individuals all over New York filmed over the course of the month of August 2017, award-winning filmmaker Brett Story holds up a mirror to a society contemplating its future survival. Named one of the best films of 2019 by Rolling Stone, Variety, Slate, IndieWire, Paste  Vulture, Vox and Vanity Fair among many others, The Hottest August premieres on Independent Lens Monday, April 20, 2020, 10:00 —11:00 PM on WOUB, and the PBS Video App.

In the summer of 2017, national tensions ran high. Headlines toggled between wildfires on one coast and hurricanes on the other, white supremacists carried out public marches, and mass shootings continued across the country. Amid this instability, with the month of August shaping up to

A woman observes the eclipse with a homemade mask.
A woman observes the eclipse with a homemade mask.

be one of the hottest on record, filmmaker and human geographer Brett Story set out to survey New Yorkers across the five boroughs on their thoughts about the future and how we will survive in it.

As the film quietly unfolds, a cross-section of citizens open up about their daily worries and distractions, touching on issues ranging from the natural disasters ravaging the country to rising rents and the high rates of homelessness, to mass shootings and white nationalists, to political corruption, economic crisis, crumbling infrastructure, and the then-recent election of President Trump.

In the vein of Story’s previous documentaries, like the award-winning The Prison in Twelve Landscapes, The Hottest August takes a hard look at its central issue by looking away from it. Never mentioning the issue of climate change explicitly, the film creates a subtle negative space around the topic and challenges its viewers to connect overarching themes from conversations that at first glance may not appear related.

two women sitting in lawnchairs being interviews in the evening
Vickie and Linda are interviewed on their block at night.

Hailed as “stunning” by Vanity Fair, “a cinematic gift, an intellectual challenge, an emotional adventure” by the New York Times, and “monumental” by Paste, the film was also a Critic’s Pick by both the New York Times and Variety.

The Hottest August received co-production support from ITVS through its Open Call Initiative, which supports projects through completion for broadcast on public television.

Visit The Hottest August page on Independent Lens for more information about the film.