Tuesday, July 29, 2014
Established and emerging directors fill this year’s TIFF Docs slate, which showcases new films by Nick Broomfield, Ethan Hawke, The Yes Men, Joshua Oppenheimer, Frederick Wiseman, Jonathan Nossiter, and first-timers Marah Strauch and Tamara Erde
TORONTO — The Toronto International Film Festival’s 2014 documentary programme presents a diverse collection of international works through the lens of both veteran filmmakers and newcomers. Digging deep into today’s most newsworthy headlines, the TIFF Docs lineup delivers a world of discovery that promises to entertain, educate and incite audience dialogue that will resonate long after the credits roll.
“This year’s selection is heavily populated with rebels, resisters and risk-takers,” said TIFF Docs programmer Thom Powers. “That’s true of the characters on screen, but also of filmmakers who are making bold choices in their subject matter and treatment. Those risks pay off with films that are thrilling, provocative and eye-opening.”
The lineup features a wide range of memorable characters, including pioneers of BASE jumping in Sunshine Superman; Los Angeles sex workers in Tales of the Grim Sleeper; survivors of the Indonesian genocide in The Look of Silence; and, in Red Army, a hockey captain’s transition from national hero to political enemy during the rise and fall of the Soviet game.
The worlds of art and performance are explored in National Gallery, a behind-the-scenes look at the great British museum, and Seymour: An Introduction, a study of the former concert pianist Seymour Bernstein.
Several films delve into the topical exploration of the environment, including The Yes Men Are Revolting, which follows activist-pranksters and the lengths they go to draw awareness to climate change; Merchants of Doubt, an investigation of skeptics casting public doubt on climate change; and Natural Resistance, a profile of radical Italian winemakers who resist adding chemicals to their process.
Global conflicts and current events are explored in such films as This Is My Land, which examines the role of education in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict; Iraqi Odyssey, a profile of a middle-class family in the Iraqi diaspora; and Silvered Water, Syria Self-Portrait, an on-the-ground documentary chronicle of ordinary Syrians during the ongoing civil war.
The selection’s global outlook can also be seen in I Am Here, which follows several Chinese contestants as they audition for the country’s most popular televised singing contest; Beats of Antonov, an examination of the role of music in the Sudanese civil war; and National Diploma, a look at the struggles of students in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Beats of the Antonov Hajooj Kuka, Sudan/South Africa World Premiere
Beats of the Antonov follows refugees from the Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains in Sudan as they survive displacement and the trauma of civil war. Music, a cornerstone of their traditions and identity, becomes itself a vehicle for survival.
I Am Here (Wo Jiu Shi Wo) Lixin Fan, China International Premiere
During the summer of 2013, 12 young boys battle each other for the No. 1 spot in Super Boys, a decade-old American Idol-style TV talent show in China. They discover who they are and learn to love each other in the process. From the director of Last Train Home.
Iraqi Odyssey Samir, Iraq/Switzerland/Germany/United Arab Emirates World Premiere
Tracing the emigrations of his family over more than half a century, this riveting documentary epic from acclaimed expatriate Iraqi filmmaker Samir (Forget Baghdad) pays moving homage to the frustrated democratic dreams of a people successively plagued by the horrors of dictatorship, war, and foreign occupation.
Merchants of Doubt Robert Kenner, USA Canadian Premiere
Documentarian Robert Kenner (Food, Inc.) investigates the shadowy world of professional skeptics, whose services are bought and paid for by corporations, think tanks and other special interests to cast doubt and delay on public and governmental action on climate change.
National Diploma (Examen d’Etat) Dieudo Hamadi, France/Congo North American Premiere
A group of young Congolese high-school students who are about to write the exam for their National Diploma in Kisangani, Democratic Republic of Congo, gather in a maquis (communal house) to help each other prepare. It is common practice to be ejected from classes during the school year for failing to pay “teachers’ fees”, but the students are determined, and resort to all means at their disposal to earn a diploma, a stepping stone out of a life of poverty.
National Gallery Frederick Wiseman, France/USA North American Premiere
Master documentarian Frederick Wiseman (Crazy Horse, At Berkeley) takes the audience behind the scenes of this London institution, which is inhabited by masterpieces of Western art from the Middle Ages to the 19th century. In a perpetual and dizzying game of mirrors, the film presents a portrait of a place, its inner workings, and its relationship with the world, its staff, its public and its paintings.
Natural Resistance Jonathan Nossiter, Italy/France North American Premiere
A group of Italian vineyard proprietors live a life many can only dream of. In their converted 11th-century monastery and winery in Tuscany, Giovanna Tiezzi and Stefano Borsa find a way to grow grains, fruit and wine that create a link to their ancient Etruscan heritage. Ten years after Mondovino, the wine world has changed just like the world itself. The enemy is now far greater than the threat of globalization. But against the new world economy, these natural wine rebels offer a model of charmed and joyous resistance.
Red Army Gabe Polsky, USA/Russia Canadian Premiere
Red Army follows the most successful dynasty in sports history: the Soviet Union’s Red Army hockey team of the 1980s. Told from the perspective of its captain Slava Fetisov, the story portrays his transformation from national hero to political enemy. From the USSR to Russia, the film examines how sport mirrors social and cultural movements, and parallels the rise and fall of the Red Army team with the Soviet Union. An inspiring story about the Cold War played out on the ice rink, and the man who stood up to a powerful system and paved the way for change for generations of Russians.
Seymour: An Introduction Ethan Hawke, USA International Premiere
Director Ethan Hawke explores the life and lessons of pianist, teacher and sage, Seymour Bernstein. Since giving up a career as a concert pianist at age 50, Seymour has dedicated his life to teaching his students about music, happiness and the power of detaching satisfaction from success.
Silvered Water, Syria Self-Portrait (Ma'a al Fidda) North American Premiere
Ossama Mohammed and Wiam Simav Bedirxan, Syria/France
The collaboration between exiled Syrian filmmaker Ossama Mohammed and young Kurdish activist Wiam Simav Bedirxan distills footage from thousands of clandestine videos to create a shattering, on-the-ground documentary chronicle of the ordeal being undergone by ordinary Syrians in the ongoing civil war.
Sunshine Superman Marah Strauch, USA/Norway/United Kingdom World Premiere
Sunshine Superman tells the story of Carl Boenish who pioneered and popularized the activity of BASE jumping (jumping from fixed objects with a parachute). Carl married Jean Campbell and together they travelled to Norway in 1984 to jump from the cliffs of Trollveggen. Against the backdrop of the midnight sun, tragedy strikes.
Tales of the Grim Sleeper Nick Broomfield, USA/United Kingdom World Premiere
Nick Broomfield digs into the case of the notorious serial killer Lonnie Franklin, known as the “Grim Sleeper,” who terrorized South Central Los Angeles over a span of 25 years.
The Look of Silence (Senyap) Joshua Oppenheimer, Denmark/Indonesia/Norway/Finland/United Kingdom Canadian Premiere
Through Joshua Oppenheimer's work with perpetrators of the Indonesian genocide, a family of survivors discover who killed their son. The youngest brother is determined to break the spell of silence and fear under which the survivors live, and confronts the men responsible for his brother's murder.
This Is My Land Tamara Erde, France World Premiere
This film follows several Israeli and Palestinian teachers over one academic year, observing their exchanges and confrontations with students, their debates with their respective ministries’ curriculum and its restrictions, and offering an intimate glimpse into the profound and long-lasting effect that the Israeli/Palestinian conflict transmits onto the next generation.
The Yes Men Are Revolting Laura Nix and The Yes Men, USA World Premiere
For two decades, The Yes Men have pulled off hilarious and spectacular media hoaxes to expose corporate crime. In this intimate portrait, they are now approaching middle age and struggle to stay inspired as the worst crime of all threatens the planet. Can they get it together before the ice caps melt?
Previously Announced Special 25th Anniversary Screening
Roger & Me Michael Moore, USA
Roger & Me is Michael Moore’s satirical account of one of America’s greatest urban disasters in Flint, Michigan, General Motors’ birthplace. Moore chronicles thwarted efforts to interview then GM Chairman Roger Smith and reveals truths about the economic cruelties of corporate America. The film celebrates its 25th anniversary, having debuted in 1989 at the Toronto International Film Festival where it won the People’s Choice Award.
Documentaries featured in other Festival programmes are still to be announced. Canadian documentaries will be announced in the coming weeks.
The 39th Toronto International Film Festival runs from September 4 to 14, 2014
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