The Gus List: Our Picks for DOXA 2024

Vancouver’s documentary film festival is back with another 11-day festival jam-packed with important stories.

All stills courtesy DOXA

Stills from films presented during the 2024 DOXA Festival (starting from upper left corner): A Man Imagined, Minutes, Some Thoughts on the Common Toad, Singing Back the Buffalo, Los Dos Lados de la Tortuga, Tongo Saa, Tea Creek, Last Things, When Grey Falls, Plastic People, Twig, Le sentier des asphodèles, La Guardia Blanca, Meezan, Testudo Hermanii, and Where Zebus Speak French.

Vancouver’s DOXA Documentary Film Festival starts today, and for the third year in a row Asparagus Magazine has partnered to present some documentaries we think will appeal to our readers. As always, the festival’s program is bursting with an abundance of delicious storytelling from around the world. To help you narrow down your choices, we’ve put together a roundup of films we think Asparagus readers might find especially interesting this year. 

Once you’ve booked your tickets to join us at Tea Creek and La Guardia Blanca, consider adding some of these films to your schedule! (The following list is ordered based on the date and time of the first screening of each film or program.)

Last Things

Storytelling by humans is so anthropocenic. In its impressionistic portrayal of planetary history, Last Things hands the mic instead to the rocks, crystals, and microbes that were on this planet for all the geologic eras before ours—and will be here long after humanity has ceased being the major driver of change on Earth. 

Last Things (50 min) screens May 2 at 6 pm, at The Cinematheque.

An Animal Gaze shorts program

Tortoises, blue jays, and toads, oh my! Shorts programs are always a highlight of film festivals, serving up a smorgasbord of perspectives in a single sitting. The five films included in An Animal Gaze feature migratory birds (When Grey Falls), sexy amphibians (Some Thoughts on the Common Toad), a family of busy jays (Minutes), and tortoises in both the Galapagos (Los Dos Lados de la Tortuga) and the Austrian Alps (Testudo Hermanii).

An Animal Gaze (58 min) screens May 2 at 9:20 pm, at The Cinematheque.

Where Zebus Speak French

We love exploring the intersections between activism and art—after all, our one and only themed issue was titled Art for Earth’s Sake. So Where Zebus Speak French—documenting the Malagasy people’s creative resistance to neocolonial land grabs in Sitabomba, Madacascar—looks right up our alley. Down with dispossession, up with puppetry!

Where Zebus Speak French (104 min) screens May 4 at 6:35 pm, at the VIFF Centre.

Down with dispossession, up with puppetry!

Le sentier des asphodèles

For immersion in a green very different from what we’re used to on the west coast of Turtle Island, look no further than this French doc, having its North American premiere at DOXA. Le sentier des asphodèles follows Jean and his dog Léon as they travel through the Brittany countryside by foot, bike, and even wheelbarrow, taking in both natural beauty and the harms caused to it by humans.

Le sentier des asphodèles (87 min) screens May 5 at 11:45 am, at The Cinematheque.

Singing Back the Buffalo

Closer to home, Singing Back the Buffalo takes viewers to the Great Plains to witness the challenges and triumphs of efforts to reintroduce wild buffalo. Sweeping landscapes, Indigenous leadership, majestic wildlife, and climate hope combine to create—in the words of one of the film’s human protagonists—“pretty potent stuff.”

Singing Back the Buffalo (98 min) screens May 8 at 5 pm (at the VIFF Centre) and May 9 at 10 am (at the SFU Cinema).

A Man Imagined

In another North American premiere, A Man Imagined compassionately follows Lloyd, a 67-year-old man who has lived unhoused for decades. The film was made collaboratively with Lloyd and lyrically portrays not only his life and external surroundings, but also his internal landscape as he copes with mental illness and painful memories.

A Man Imagined (62 min) screens May 8 at 6:30 pm, at The Cinematheque.

Virtually every molecule of plastic ever created still exists somewhere on Earth.


If you joined us at last year’s screening of The Golden Thread, you may find parallels in Meezan, which also explores relationships between intergenerational industries, landscape, capitalism, and labour, this time in Iran’s Khuzestan province. Starting in Abadan—an oil-production centre for over a century—the film paints an attentive portrait of local fishers plying their trade in the Persian Gulf, the dock where they barter their catch, and a shrimp-processing plant staffed by women shuttled in from surrounding villages.

Meezan (75 min) screens May 9 at 6:30 pm, at The Cinematheque.

Plastic People

In the trailer for Plastic People, a voiceover declares that “virtually every molecule of plastic ever created still exists somewhere on Earth. The plastic never disappears, it just breaks down into tinier and tinier particles.” This documentary follows science journalist Ziya Tong as she comes to terms with the extent to which plastic has inundated not only our environments, but also our bodies—and then goes looking for the ways we can extract ourselves from this mess of our own making.

Plastic People (96 min) screens May 10 at 5:30 pm, at the SFU Cinema.


In this world premiere from Canadian director Claire Sanford, we encounter Byong Kyon Kwan, a former South Korean ambassador to China who is determined to “tame the yellow dragon” of dust storms originating in Inner Mongolia’s Kubuqi Desert with a simple but ambitious strategy: planting a billion trees. Twig screens with Ottu, a short about searcing for the eight winds of the Mediterranean.

Twig and Ottu (59  min) screen May 10 at 6:30 pm (at The Cinematheque) and May 11 at 1:15 pm (at the SFU Cinema).

Tongo Saa (Rising Up at Night) 

Congolese director and visual artist Nelson Makengo brings us to the neighbourhoods of Kinshasa, where access to electricity has been limited. Despite the literal darkness surrounding them, the communities on screen come together to find both literal and metaphorical light.

Tongo Saa (Rising Up at Night) (96  min) screens May 11 at 8 pm, at The Cinematheque.

Honourable mentions

There are so many exciting films in this year’s program, we really struggled to put together a list of only 10. So if you’re looking for further ideas, here is another handful of docs that could easily have been included in the list above.

Vancouver’s DOXA Documentary Film Festival runs from May 2–12, 2024. Tickets are available on the DOXA website.

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