2019 Milwaukee Film Festival – Late Review – THE HOTTEST AUGUST
We’re halfway to the 2020 Milwaukee Film Festival, hopefully anyways, and it’s more than overdue that I get around to reviewing the winner of the Herzfeld Competition Award, THE HOTTEST AUGUST.
THE HOTTEST AUGUST is a documentary in the form of a mosaic of what people in and about New York City were doing and thinking in August 2017. The director, Brett Story, and his crew capture a place and time by walking around New York City and interviewing people from various walks of life over the month. Everything is then stitched together to create an overall impression of the conscious / subconscious of a people.
And the impression isn’t one of hope. Climate change, tense race relations, political divisions, economic uncertainty, class divides, and every other tension you can imagine all boil up and create a sense that the city and country is profoundly uneasy about the future. In often poetic terms.
That poetic sense of words also applies to the images. The city and its inhabitants often smolder under the blazing heat. There’s a haze limiting how far you can see. A man walks around in a space suit, as something of an artistic statement and a political statement. People hang out in their garages or on sidewalks, pleased to have someone to talk to. And, perhaps because they’re not posturing on the internet or on live television, they often speak frankly, but without hyperbole, about what they make of the state of the world.
The effect of THE HOTTEST AUGUST is greater than the individual scenes. There’s no plot. There’s no drama, other than the snapshot of what is stressing the everyday people present in the film. Bigger events, hurricanes and white supremacist rallies, are occurring elsewhere, only occasionally glimpsed on television screens. Yet, by the end, you have a sense of a place, a people, and their collective fears and hopes. It’s an effect that can only be achieved in film and it’s quite something. It requires a little patience is all.
The 2019 Milwaukee Film Festival ran from October 17, 2019 to October 31, 2019. Fingers crossed, the 2020 Milwaukee Film Festival will run from October 15, 2020 to October 29, 2020. In the meantime, you can help support Milwaukee Film by visiting and renting from their virtual Sofa Cinema.