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Toronto Film Fest Doc Preview, from Oscar Hopefuls to Likely Buys (Midnight Madness, Vanguard Lineups)

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood July 29, 2014 at 4:45PM

The Toronto International Film Festival always premieres a lineup of strong docs, some of which will be in this year's awards conversation. Programmer Thom Powers takes us through the selection.
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Nick Broomfield
Nick Broomfield

DOCUMENTARIES

Beats of the Antonov Hajooj Kuka, Sudan/South Africa
I Am Here (Wo Jiu Shi Wo) Fan Lixin, China
Iraqi Odyssey Samir, Iraq/Switzerland/Germany/United Arab Emirates
Merchants of Doubt Robert Kenner, USA
National Diploma (Examen d’Etat) Dieudo Hamadi France/Congo
National Gallery Frederick Wiseman, France/USA
Natural Resistance Jonathan Nossiter, Italy/France
Red Army Gabe Polsky, USA/Russia
Seymour: An Introduction Ethan Hawke, USA
Silvered Water, Syria Self-Portrait (Ma'a al Fidda) Ossama Mohammed and Wiam Simav Bedirxan, Syria/France
Sunshine Superman Marah Strauch, USA/Norway/United Kingdom
Tales of the Grim Sleeper Nick Broomfield USA/United Kingdom
The Look of Silence (Senyap) Joshua Oppenheimer, Denmark/Indonesia/Norway/Finland/United Kingdom
This Is My Land Tamara Erde, France
The Yes Men Are Revolting Laura Nix and the Yes Men, USA

Roger & Me Michael Moore, USA

MODERN MASTERS
1001 Grams Bent Hamer, Norway/Germany/France MASTERS World Premiere
A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence (En duva satt på en gren och funderade på tillvaron) North American Premiere
Roy Andersson, Sweden/Norway/France/Germany
The Face of an Angel Michael Winterbottom, United Kingdom
The Golden Era (Huang jin shi dai) Ann Hui, China/Hong Kong
Goodbye to Language 3D (Adieu au langage 3D) Jean-Luc Godard, France Hill of Freedom (Ja-yu-ui eon-deok) Hong Sang-soo, South Korea Leviathan Andrey Zvyagintsev, Russia
Revivre (Hwajang) Im Kwon-taek, South Korea
Timbuktu Abderrahmane Sissako, France/Mauritania/Mali

MIDNIGHT MADNESS
[REC] 4: Apocalypse Jaume Balagueró, Spain
Big Game Jalmari Heleander, Finland/United Kingdom/Germany
Cub Jonas Govaerts, Belgium
Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films Mark Hartley, Australia
It Follows David Robert Mitchell, USA
The Guest Adam Wingard, USA
Midnight Madness Opening Night Film. Tokyo Tribe Sion Sono, Japan
Tusk Kevin Smith, USA
What We Do in the Shadows Taika Waititi, Jemaine Clement, New Zealand/USA
Alleluia Fabrice Du Welz, France/Belgium
The Duke of Burgundy Peter Strickland, United Kingdom

VANGUARD
Goodnight Mommy (Ich seh, Ich seh) Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala, Austria Hyena Gerard Johnson, United Kingdom
Luna Dave McKean, United Kingdom
Over Your Dead Body Takashi Miike, Japan
Shrew’s Nest (Musarañas) Juanfer Andrés and Esteban Roel, Spain
Spring Justin Benson/Aaron Moorhead, USA
They Have Escaped JP Valkeapää, Finland
Waste Land Pieter Van Hees, Belgium
The World of Kanako (Kawaki) Tetsuya Nakashima, Japan

DOCUMENTARY DESCRIPTIONS

"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") Ossama Mohammed and Wiam Simav Bedirxan, Syria/France North American Premiere. The collaboration between exiled Syrian filmmaker Mohammed and young Kurdish activist 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. Broomfield investigates the 2010 arrest of Lonnie Franklin following a 25-year killing spree in South Central Los Angeles, in which it is thought he could have killed over a 100 victims, potentially making him the most prolific serial killer in history.

"The Look of Silence" ("Senyap") Joshua Oppenheimer, Denmark/Indonesia/Norway/Finland/United Kingdom Canadian Premiere. Through 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?

"Roger & Me" Michael Moore, USA Special 25th Anniversary Screening. "Roger & Me" is 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.


This article is related to: TIFF 2014, Festivals, Festivals, Toronto International Film Festival, Toronto, Documentaries, Documentary, Awards, Awards, Oscars


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