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You Betcha! What Hot Political Docs Will Cause a Stir in Toronto?

by Anthony Kaufman
August 3, 2011 6:12 AM
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Long a home to controversial hot-button political docs, this year's Toronto International Film Festival promises much of the same, with the world premieres of, most notably, Nick Broomfield's Sarah Palin documentary "You Betcha!" and Werner Herzog's death row doc "Into the Abyss."

Ever since Michael Moore premiered "Roger and Me" at Toronto in 1989, the festival has been one of the foremost places to launch commercial docs that have the potential to make a social issue impact. With Michael Moore planning for his fall book launch of "Here Comes Trouble," this year's buzz falls on Broomfield, who is no stranger to controversy. Like Broomfield's "Kurt & Courtney," "Sarah Betcha!" appears to follow the same confrontational style that is a hallmark of Broomfield's. To give readers some further idea of his tactics, in 1994, he went on the hunt for another prominent right-wing female political figure in "Tracking Down Maggie: The Unofficial Biography of Margaret Thatcher" (see below).

Last June, the L.A times reported that the film includes interviews with Palin’s parents as well as numerous ex-aides, many of whom describe her not as the likable repository of aw-shucks wisdom Palin likes to present but a more ruthless politician who has trampled over opponents and is now a potential presidential candidate."

Herzog's prolific doc work continues -- his "Cave of Forgotten Dreams" is the year's most successful nonfiction film at the box office -- with the story of a homicide case in Texas called "Into the Abyss." Variety reported that the film would focus on two men who committed three murders, another who killed his girlfriend and her two mentally retarded sons, and a woman — one of only 10 on Texas’ death row — charged with abducting a newborn baby and killing the child’s mother.

The festival will also host two films about female exploitation, celebrated Austrian director Michael Glawogger's "Whores’ Glory," which tells three stories of prostitution (in Thailand, Bangladesh and Mexico) and "Girl Model," the latest from Ashley Sabin and David Redmon ("Mardi Gras: Made in China") about the thriving industry surrounding Tokyo's taking of young girls from Siberia.

There's also Bill Duke and D. Channsin Berry's "Dark Girls," which examines issues of skin color bias in the African diaspora.

There's been a number of docs in the last few years about the earth's dwindling water supplies: the latest comes from Oscar-winning doc director Jessica Yu ("In the Realms of the Unreal"): "Last Call at the Oasis."

Other vets Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky will unveil their latest update on their series of three teens who were incarcerated for a crime they claim they didn't commit: "Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory," which the fest describes as a "riveting look at American justice"--or should we say "American injustice."

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