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Music, Humor, War and Personal Struggle Among 22 Docs Unveiled for Toronto Fest

Music, Humor, War and Personal Struggle Among 22 Docs Unveiled for Toronto Fest

The Toronto International Film Festival revealed 22 additional documentary films that will join five previously announced titles in the Real to Reel section at the 31st annual event. Thirteen films will screen as world premieres, while three each are international, North American and Canadian premieres. Docs making their world premiere in this year’s Toronto fest, taking place September 7 – 16, include AJ Schnack‘s “Kurt Cobain About a Son” (US), Asger Leth‘s “Ghosts of Cite Soleil” (Denmark/Haiti/US), Macky Alston‘s “The Killer Within” (US), Petra Epperlein and Michael Tucker‘s “The Prisoner Or: How I Planned to Kill Tony Blair” (Germany/US), Camilia Guzman Urzua‘s “The Sugar Curtain” (France/Spain/Cuba), Tony Kaye‘s “Lake of Fire” (US), and Davide Ferrario‘s “Primo Levi’s Journey” (Italy).

Schnack’s “Kurt Cobain About a Son” is one of several films that spotlight a broad range of music culture stories in this year’s Real to Reel. “Kurt” is an intimate portrayal of the Nirvana frontman, recalling the grunge pioneer’s life from his hometown in Aberdeen, WA to his rise to fame with the band in Seattle. The film presents audio footage from over 25 hours of previously unreleased interviews with the late Cobain and others, piecing together a portrait of what the festival describes as “the man behind the myth.” David Leaf and John Scheinfeld‘s “The U.S. vs John Lennon,” which will make its North American debut following its world premiere in Venice, traces John Lennon‘s evolution from revolutionary musician to anti-war activist and exposes the “how and why” behind the U.S. government’s attempts to silence him. The world debut of Jerome Laperrousaz‘s “Made in Jamaica” (France/US) weaves the country’s music with images of Jamaican life recalling the story of reggae and dance hall artists through personal stories and struggles of people who lifted their art form from the ghetto into the global realm. Paul Rachman‘s Sundance 2006 doc “American Hardcore,” meanwhile, chronicles the rise of the hardcore punk scene of the early 1980s in the United States and Canada.

Leth’s world debut “Ghosts of Cite Soleil” is set in the backstreets of Haiti during the waning days of the Aristide presidency is about two brothers who were leaders of the country’s secret army of slum gangs. Lucy Walker‘s (“The Devil’s Playground“) “Blindsight” (UK, world premiere) centers on the journey of a group of blind Tibetan teens as they journey up a section of Mount Everest, led by famed blind climber, Erik Weihenmayer. Alston’s “The Killer Within” recalls a dark secret held by respected psychology professor Bob Bechtel. Fifty years prior, Bechtel attempted a murderous shooting spree in his college dorm, and the film follows his daughter Carrah as she tries to cope with the revelation.

Mukhtaran Mai subject of Mohammed Naqvi’s TIFF world premiere “Shame.” Image courtesy of the filmmaker.

This year’s slew of stories surrounding war and conflict include Epperlein and Tucker’s (“Gunner Palace“) “The Prisoner Or: How I Planned to Kill Tony Blair.” The film, according to TIFF, uses a comic book motif to tell the story of an Iraqi cameraman’s wrongful arrest and interrogation by American forces. Playing with “Blair” is short film, “Sari’s Mother” by James Longley (“Iraq in Fragments“). In “The Sugar Curtain,” filmmaker Guzman Urzua, recalls the Cuban revolution through the eyes of people who lived it, while Ferrario’s “Primo Levi’s Journey” follows in the footsteps of Holocaust survivor and scholar, Primo Levi‘s return trip to Auschwitz.

American History X” director Tony Kaye‘s world premiere “Lake of Fire” is among the titles announced Thursday that explore issues of justice both in and outside the courtroom. Fifteen years in the making, “Lake” uses interviews as well as historical footage for an in-depth look at the “right to life” vs. “right to choose” abortion debate. In Mohammed Naqvi‘s “Shame” (world premiere, US/Pakistan), the film follows one Pakistani woman’s struggle to break the shield traditionally afforded members of an upper caste tribe. While defending her brother, Mukhtaran Mai is raped and publicly shamed. But she uses courage to venture outside her village to file a formal police complaint against her perpetrators, resulting in worldwide media attention.

Curb Your Enthusiasm“‘s Jeff Garlin‘s “This Filthy World,” starring John Waters (world premiere, US) focuses the doc genre on humor. The film spotlights the famous cult director’s one-man show and the way “he views the world.” Waters leads audiences from his earliest influences to his career peaks and present-day struggles with the mainstream. In Liz Mermin‘s “Office Tigers” (world premiere, UK), South Indian yuppies and their over-zealous American bosses are under scrutiny in what the fest calls “a real-life version of “The Office.” SXSW Film Festival debut “Summercamp!” will have its Canadian premiere. The film is a warm-hearted portrait of a group of campers between six and fifteen capturing their journey as they form friendships, fight homesickness, teasing and mood-altering medications.

Also unveiled by TIFF organizers for this year’s Real to Reel line up are: “Yokohama Mary” by Takayuki Nakamura (international premiere, Japan); Alexander Oey‘s “My Life as a Terrorist: The Story of Hans-Joachim Klein” (North American premiere, the Netherlands); Namir Abdel Messeeh‘s “Toi, Waguih,” which will screen with the previously announced “These Girls” by Tahani Rached; Vincenzo Marra‘s “The Session is Open” (international premiere, Italy); Sophie Fiennes‘ “The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema” (UK/Austria/Netherlands, North American premiere); Nader Takmil Homayoun‘s “Iran: Une Revolution Cinematographique” (international premiere, France).

“These remarkable films cover a wide spectrum,” commented Thom Powers, TIFF international documentary programmer in a statement. “From war and justice, to music, humor, and the art of filmmaking itself. Audiences will discover complex and inspiring characters. I am delighted by the rich line-up of documentaries coming to Toronto for my first year with the festival.”

In other Toronto International Film Festival doc news, the event will launch a new program of resources for documentary filmmakers and industry members attending the festival. Dubbed “Doc Corner,” the new venue will serve as a place for doc filmmakers to relax and network with peers, industry, press and other TIFF filmmakers. Also new this year is “Doc Talks,” a series of panel discussions led by genre experts who will host discussions on prevailing themes in this year’s line up.

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