The Toronto International Film Festival unveiled this year’s full documentary line up for its Real to Reel section, describing the roster as “politically engaged work and in-depth character studies.” Thirteen American docs join this year’s list of 20 Real to Reel films in addition to two U.S. and overseas co-productions. Conflicts past and present with an emphasis on the Muslim world are among this year’s major themes, including a look back at the Algeria’s conflict with France for independence in Jean-Pierre Lledo‘s “Algerrie, Histories a Ne Pas Dire,” while Phil Donahue and Ellen Spiro‘s “Body of War” gives a personal account of the war in Iraq. Other notable titles in this year’s doc line up include Werner Herzog‘s look at Antarctica in “Encounters at the End of the World,” “The Last King of Scotland” director Kevin Macdonald‘s “My Enemy’s Enemy,” “A Jihad for Love” by newcomer Parvez Sharma and Amir Bar-Lev‘s Sundance debut “My Kid Could Paint That.” TIFF takes place in Canada’s largest city September 6 – 15.
“This incredible output of non-fiction works from so many top filmmakers indicates there is no turning back the rise of documentaries,” commented Thom Powers, International Documentary Programmer in a statement about this year’s roster. “These films introduce us to unforgettable characters, take us to unimaginable places and force us to confront moral dilemmas that will generate debate and conversation for many months to come.”
In a further comment to indieWIRE, Powers noted, “There are a staggering number of high profile directors who have come forward with docs this year…Doc fans should check into TIFF’s Doc Blog for daily insights into our programming.”
This year’s complete Real to Reel line up follows with descriptions provided by the Toronto International Film Festival:
“Algerie, Histories a Ne PasS Dire,” directed by Jean-Pierre Lledo, Algeria
Four Algerians of Muslim origin revisit the last years of their country’s War of Independence, searching for truth about their own lives while recalling memories of troubled relationships with their Jewish and Christian neighbours.
“Body of War,” directed by Phil Donahue and Ellen Spiro, USA
Wounded after serving in Iraq for less than a week, 25-year-old Tomas Young – now paralyzed from the chest down – transforms his personal suffering into political activism, evolving as a powerful voice against the ongoing war. Featuring new music by Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam.
“Darfur Now,” directed by Ted Braun, USA
A call to action to help stop the genocide in Darfur, the struggles and achievements of six very different individuals – including actor Don Cheadle–bring to light the situation in Darfur and illustrate the need to get involved.
“The Dictator Hunter,” directed by Klaartje Quirijns, The Netherlands/USA
Revisiting the horrific torture, imprisonment and murder carried out in the 1980s under the regime of former Chadian dictator Hissene Habre, “The Dictator Hunter” follows Human Rights Watch activist Reed Brody in his quest to bring Habre to justice.
“Dinner with the President: A Nation’s Journey,” directed by Sabiha Sumar and Sachithanandam Sathananthan, Pakistan
In October 1999, Pervez Musharraf assumed power in Pakistan through a bloodless military coup. Hearing his vision for Pakistan over dinner, filmmakers Sumar and Sathananthan ponder the irony of a President in army fatigues delivering democracy to the masses. A part of Why Democracy?.
“Encounters at the End of the World,” directed by Werner Herzog, USA
In his first documentary since “Grizzly Man,” Herzog, accompanied only by his cameraman, travels to Antarctica, gaining unrestricted access to the raw beauty and humanity of the ultimate Down Under.
“Glass: A Portrait of Philip in Twelve Parts,” directed by Scott Hicks, Australia
Filmmaker Scott Hicks (“Shine”) documents an eventful year in the career and personal life of distinguished composer Philip Glass as he interacts with a number of friends and collaborators, including Chuck Close, Ravi Shankar and Woody Allen.
“Hollywood Chinese,” directed by Arthur Dong, USA
Punctuated with clips from over 100 movies, “Hollywood Chinese” offers a captivating revelation on the Chinese in American feature films, from the very first Chinese-American film produced in 1916 to Ang Lee’s triumphant “Brokeback Mountain.”
“Iron Ladies of Liberia,” directed by Siatta Scott Johnson and Daniel Junge, USA
As the first freely elected head of state in Africa, Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf appointed other extraordinary women to leadership positions in all areas of government. “Iron Ladies of Liberia” asks the question, ‘can Liberia’s first female president bring sustainable democracy and peace to such a devastated country’?
“A Jihad for Love,” directed by Parvez Sharma, USA/UK/France/Germany/Australia
The first feature-length documentary to investigate the complex global intersections of Islam and homosexuality, Sharma’s feature directorial debut brings to light the hidden lives of gay and lesbian Muslims with empowering stories from twelve countries.
“Man of Cinema: Pierre Rissient,” directed by Todd McCarthy, USA
Variety critic Todd McCarthy explores the legacy of Pierre Rissient, a key behind-the-scenes figure in Cannes for more than 40 years.
“My Enemy’s Enemy,” directed by Kevin Macdonald, France/UK
From the director of “The Last King of Scotland” comes a documentary about the post-war activities of one-time Gestapo commander Klaus Barbie, infamously known as the “Butcher of Lyon.”
“My Kid Could Paint That,” directed by Amir Bar-Lev, USA
Chronicling the rise to fame of Marla Olmstead – a four-year-old painter whose work has taken in over $300,000 – filmmaker Amir Bar-Lev examines society’s obsession with child prodigies while exploring the complex on-going debate over what constitutes art.
“Obscene” directed by Neil Ortenberg and Daniel O’Connor, USA
Drawn from more than 60 years of home movies, media appearances and rare archival footage, “Obscene” tells the story of American publisher Barney Rosset, who fought battles in court to put out some of the most forbidden works of the explosive post-war decades, including Tropic of Cancer and Naked Lunch.
“Operation Filmmaker,” directed by Nina Davenport, USA
When the dreams of a young Iraqi film student are crushed following the bombing of Baghdad’s film school, actor Liev Schreiber invites him to intern on the production of “Everything is Illuminated.” But in a comedic turn of events, Schreiber’s good intentions quickly backfire as the eager student proves to have intentions of his own.
“Please Vote for Me,” directed by Weijun Chen, China
In an experiment to determine how democracy might be received in China, third-graders hold an election to select a Class Monitor, competing against one other for the coveted position while being egged on by teachers and doting parents. A part of Why Democracy?.
“Surfwise,” directed by Doug Pray, USA
Filmmaker Doug Pray tells the bizarre story of an eccentric family: 85-year-old legendary surfer Dr. Dorian “Doc” Paskowitz, his wife Juliette, and their nine children – raised and home-schooled in a camper on a California beach.
“Terror’s Advocate” (L’Avocat de la Terreur), directed by Barbet Schroeder, France
Veteran director Barbet Schroeder explores the life, career and conscience of criminal lawyer Jacques Verges, whose clients–including Klaus Barbie, Slobodan Milosevic and Saddam Hussein–are among the most infamous figures of the 20th century.
“Trumbo,” directed by Peter Askin, USA
Told through spoken-word performances of some of its subject’s extraordinary letters, “Trumbo” presents a portrait of screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, who fought back after being blacklisted by HUAC (House Un-American Activities Committee). Featuring appearances by Donald Sutherland, Michael Douglas, Joan Allen and Liam Neeson.
“Very Young Girls,” directed by David Schisgall, USA
An eye-opening survey of teenage prostitution in New York City, David Schisgall’s film also tells the story of Rachel Lloyd, the remarkable woman who founded Girls Education & Mentoring Services (GEMS), dedicating her live to help ensure that young girls avoid making the same mistakes that she did.