Canada's biggest festival of documentary films, Hot Docs, is now on in Toronto. Western Canada's biggest, DOXA in Vancouver, starts Thursday and this year both are screening in theaters only. So, no streaming any of the films on your computer or smart TV. I can cover only a few of the many they're showing and start today with Red Fever, which is showing at both festivals and The Here Now Project which is only at Hot Docs but is of special interest for its graphic visions of the effects of climate change. Watch for it.

Also, if you're in Toronto notice that a big nominee at next month's Canadian Screen awards gets a screening on Wednesday that you can attend for free. Richelieu is a tough film about the exploitation of visiting farm workers in Quebec. You have to reserve a seat through

Or check others in this long list of new films:

Tiger: 4½ stars

The Here Now Project: 4

Red Fever: 3

The Great Salish Heist: 2½

Challengers: 4

Humane: 3

The King Tide: 3½

I Don't Know Who You Are: 4

The Inventor: 2½

TIGER: This year's wildlife feature from Disneynature has been streaming since Earth Day on Disney+ and it easily matches the high quality of the films that came before. The photography is exquisite and you'll wonder how they managed to get some of it. For instance, those scenes of a tiger entering and leaving its den, photographed from the inside. Remote cameras did the job. That, and shooting over five years in a wildlife preserve in India. As often before in these features, it seems the pictures are captured first and a story is written around them.

Courtesy of Disney

In this case, that's about a mother tiger with five very young cubs. She has to teach them about the world and protect them from predators like crocodiles, bears and snakes, and from a male tiger known to be nearby. She has to find enough food to keep up her milk supply to feed them. Sometimes termites are all she has to eat. The cubs are rambunctious and the narration by Bollywood actor Priyanka Chopra Jonas is sometimes too cutesy about their family life. But it also gives the harsh facts: many cubs like them won't survive. Two do disappear and the mother goes on a long search. There's drama, tension, wonder and majesty. Also humor. Watch for the frogs jumping all over the tiger's body in one scene. Mark Linfield, a British veteran of wildlife features, co-directed the film.

There's also a companion feature, about an hour and a quarter long, called Tigers on The Rise which shows how the photography was done and much more. Tigers in India are now protected in a series of nature reserves. Their numbers are up from a few hundred to several thousand and some wander out into the nearby villages killing livestock and scaring people. An animal biologist talks about why it's happening and offers some novel ideas for a solution. Both films are excellent. (Disney+) 4½ out of 5

THE HERE NOW PROJECT: This is a very strong film about climate change. You're not getting scientists or activists telling you what's going on. You see it, in locations around the world filmed by people on their cel phones.

Courtesy of Hot Docs

Some of it is startling. Houses shake in Indonesia in a cyclone, a weather phenomenon unheard of there. A swarm of locusts blacken the sky in Kenya, just like in the Bible. There's flooding in several places including Brooklyn, NY where sewage is floating in a street.

There's heavy smoke in Sao Paulo, forest fires in the US and, famously in British Columbia where the entire village of Lytton burned down. The film shows us views of that we've never seen before. Down in Texas there's snow which illustrates without mentioning it one effect of climate change: regions often get each other's weather. One phenomenon isn't explained at all and that's a fault. In Turkey's Sea of Marmara there's a disgusting slime on the water described as phlegm. Where's it from? What caused it? How is it related to climate change? Not said. You'll be startled by it though and by the other sights in the film. You'll be debating what is meant by a final scene. Is it critical of people not paying attention or just realistic? Directed by Jon Siskel (Gene's nephew) and Greg Jacobs. (So far only at Hot Docs--today and Wednesday-- but watch out for it) 4 out of 5

RED FEVER: People in much of the world are fascinated by North American Indians, says Neil Diamond. No, not the singer, the Cree filmmaker who made and co-wrote this documentary with Catherine Bainbridge. "Why do they love us so much?" he asks. "We show up all over." His search for an answer takes him all over and way beyond his initial question. He finds Indigenous designs co-opted by the fashion industry and deplores that. The symbolism in the image is corrupted by that. A parka worn in Iqaliut has a sacred meaning attached to it.

Courtesy of DOXA

The noble warrior is a regular in stories and movies, though showing him as a savage used to be common. The film has clips from several dozen films to make those points though I find it curious that it doesn't criticise what the movies did for so long. Remember Marlon Brando's protest about that?

This film goes into matters far beyond that, and becomes an essay on the history and status of North American natives in general. Did you imagine that the US Constitution was influenced by them? That the authors were copying the democracy they saw in the five nations confederacy in what is now New York. And that the Enlightenment in Europe drew on it too, more than ancient Greece. As Gloria Steinem puts it: "The ideas for a working democracy weren't from Europe." The film goes on to state again that Indigenous people take care of the land, and have done so for thousands of years. It also says George Washington sent soldiers to burn native villages in a land grab. Not correct though, it says natives in British Columbia got fish farms shut down. Not yet. So, it's an interesting essay with lots of ideas and some weak spots. (Playing at both Hot Docs and DOXA). 3 out of 5

THE GREAT SALISH HEIST: Here's a break from the usual look at Indigenous people in the movies. Sure a narrator intones: “We walked this land before you … you disturbed our rest.” But what follows isn't trauma but a light-hearted film about a robbery with a purpose. Artifacts taken from graves and displayed in the fictionally-named Royal Western Canadian Museum in Victoria, B.C. are to be sent to Europe “so that white people can gawk at them.” A native archeologist objects and leads a plot to “liberate” them. (He's played by Darrell Dennis, who is also the film's writer-director. He grew up on a reserve himself and advocates putting some fun into films like this).

Courtesy of Route 504PR

Encouraged by an elder played by Graham Greene he gathers a gang and intricately plots out how to foil the guards and the security system, get into the museum and back out with the artifacts. The group includes a former employee (Andrea Menard), a teen would-be hacker and others. Tricia Helfer is a speaker at a museum event. There's tension as in any good heist movie but also a clear statement about why artifacts like that should be brought back out of the museums. That's based on the thinking of an Indigenous archeologist on Vancouver Island, Harold C. Joe, who co-wrote the script. It's good but also gets silly when the plotters make a deal with some Russians who will sell the artifacts to a collector. Eating poutine is a low-point. A joke about using the “I” word is better. (In a few theaters) 2½ out of 5

CHALLENGERS: Tennis isn't just a game; it's a relationship. So it is said early on and the film goes on to prove it with Luca Guadagnino directing and Zendaya, Mike Faist and Josh O'Connor starring. It's a lively, even exhilarating tale about sport, ambition, success and failure and not least, sex, lived by three richly-drawn and complex characters. The men, friends since boarding school, drool when they first catch sight of her at a tennis tournament. The film takes us through 13 years from then on (not chronologically though; in a series of flashbacks and even flashforwards which can be hard to follow) into a three-sided romance, almost a menage a trois.

Courtesy of Warner Brothers and Amazon MGM

Zendaya plays Tashi, the ambitious one. Her tennis career is over because of an injury but she's determined to rise anyway. After a few flashbacks we see her married to and coaching Patrick, played by Faist, who needs to up his game. She enters him in a small tournament with easy opponents hoping that will revive his spark but there's one who's not so easy: his old friend Patrick, played by O'Connor. He used to be Tashi's boyfriend and all those flashbacks illuminate the power plays that have been going on. They laugh and argue, manipulate and break up and all the time Tashi is in control. That final game is really to win her back. The film is a bit too long but delivers a cool character clash. (In theaters) 4 out of 5

HUMANE: Much as David Cronenberg's daughter Caitlin insists she's not following in her father's footsteps her first film suggests otherwise. There's far less body horror but the basic plot is near his territory. The world has suffered an environmental collapse (climate change? Not specified, but umbrellas as sun protection suggest it). The mandated solution: reduce the population by 20%. How? Voluntary euthanasia. Every country has a quota. We follow the debates and anguish that result.

Courtesy of Elevation Pictures

Posters call for volunteers. If they're not effective, the government might have to conscript people for it. Meanwhile it offers rewards to people willing to sacrifice themselves. Peter Gallagher plays a retired newspaperman who holds a family dinner to announce that he has decided to “enlist.” That sparks an evening of rancurous arguments. One accuses him of “self-glorification.” Jay Baruchel plays a son, a scientist who talked on TV why it is necessary. Emily Hampshire is a disaproving daughter. Alanna Dale and Sebastian Chacon are the others. Then Enrico Colantoni arrives. He plays a contractor hired to administer the killing dose but can't do it. The work order says two people; there's only one because the father's wife is gone. You know how it is with paperwork, he says. The solution: one of the children has to volunteer to fill in. That sets off the battling, some done with knives. The film is well-directed, dark and at times funny. Not a very worthy addition to the discussion though. (In theaters) 3 out of 5


THE KING TIDE: I've never been there but the ambience of the small outports in Newfoundland that this film shows fits my impression exactly. They're isolated, maybe cut off and they have their own way of thinking about the world. Maybe not any more these days but in the unspecified time shown here, for sure.

A young girl is rescued from an overturned boat and now 10 years later is thought to have special powers. There's been no calamity, medical, weather or otherwise since she arrived. She was delivered to them on the king tide and so people imagine she's the cause. She can attract fish to a boat that's out to catch them. She has a healing power. She must be kept secret on the island. That causes a big debate. How to protect her? And the other children, who have taken to eating a poisonous berry knowing that she can cure them. The mayor (Clayne Crawford) and a feisty woman (Frances Fisher) are on opposite sides in the argument. Christian Sparkes, who is a Newfoundland native, spins a genuine bit of East Coast folklore in this one.(Theaters) 3½ out of 5

I DON'T KNOW WHO YOU ARE: This is a gripping tale about the scourge brought on by the HIV virus and features a tremendous performance by Mark Clennon as a victim. He plays Ben, a jazz musician who is followed one dark evening by a man then rapes him. Ben nees a drug called post exposure prophylaxis. A sample he's given isn't enough. A fill supply costs over $900 and he doesn't have the money. Scenes with a pharmacist, at a clinic and what he does are rivetting. M. H. Murray directed and with streetcars and the Horseshoe Tavern this is definitely Toronto. (In theaters) 4 out of 5

THE INVENTOR: This is a curious animated feature. Children would find it way over their heads and adults might not take it seriously. It's from France and Ireland and shows Leonardo da Vinci invited by the French king to come and work on designing an ideal city. It has to include a giant statue of the king, of course. Little else is interesting here. Leonardo speaks with an English accent just like Stephen Fry, works on inventions and is really trying to figure out the meaning of life. In his dreams he flies down into “the mind's eye” which he says is the window to the soul. His answer is not at all surprising.

Courtesy of The Impact Series

The film looks good though, is in stop-motion and was written and directed by Jim Capobianco who had an Oscar nomination back when he was at Pixar. (In theaters) 2 ½ out of 5