In Jay Cheel’s sensational sophomore film, How to Build a Time Machine, two vastly different men cope with personal tragedy by finding inspiration in H. G. Wells’ The Time Machine. For animator Rob Niosi, it was seeing the 1960 film adaptation that years later sparked a compulsion to build a full size replica of the time machine used in the film. Theoretical physicist Ron Mallett was so taken by the novel as a child that he has spent his entire life studying black holes and various scientific theories in hopes of unlocking the key to time travel.

Using the notion of cinema as a time machine, one that connects us to the past and opens our minds to the possibilities of the future, Cheel constructs a truly mesmerizing film. One that is as much about the bonds between fathers and sons as it is about reclaiming the past. In comparing Niosi’s meticulous work on the time machine with Mallet’s deep knowledge of science, Cheel shows that our obsession with time, including our romanticized views of the past, are all about connections. The significant associations we make with the moments, and individuals, that have ultimately left a lasting impression on each of our lives.

Exquisitely shot and featuring a surprising amount of genuine heart, How to Build a Time Machine not only builds on the heights that Cheel reached with his wonderful debut film Beauty Day, but actually surpasses it. The film reminds us that embracing our present is more important than clinging to the past.

Monday, May 2, 6:30 PM, Isabel Bader Theatre
Tuesday, May 3, 10:00 AM, TIFF Bell Lightbox
Saturday, May 7, 8:45 PM, TIFF Bell Lightbox

Tickets can be purchased at the Hot Docs website.


  1. For some reason I love documentaries about people’s peculiar obsessions. I’ll want to check this one out.

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