One interesting but not-quite-there pitch was notable for the unusual reaction it engendered by the commissioners - Hilla Medalia and Shosh Shlam's "Caught in the Net," about a treatment program for "Internet addiction" in China. Experts asked and re-asked the pitch team about their critical take on the program they're documenting, concerned about potentially giving Chinese propaganda a free pass.
Of the remaining, the following eight should be on programmers and documentary fans' radar:
"Let the Fire Burn"
Director/Producer: Jason Osder
Executive Producer: Andrew Herwitz
Production Companies: The Film Sales Company
Proposed Delivery: 1/1/2013
Financing Sought: $260,000 of $520,000 USD
Synopsis: On May 13, 1985, the city government of Philadelphia and MOVE - an organization combining elements of a Black power movement with a back-to-nature religion -- collided after a decade of simmering tension in a violent armed conflict that ultimately led to an out-of-control inferno that claimed the lives of five children and six adults, and destroyed more than 60 homes.
I had the opportunity to see an early cut of this project and was blown away. Osder tells the story with a remarkable immediacy, entirely through archival footage of the confrontation and the televised public fact-finding commission that followed -- the result is riveting. I'm confident that this will be much talked about when its completed and the assembled decision makers responded incredibly well.
"Vidal v. Buckley"
Directors/Producers: Robert Gordon and Morgan Neville
Executive Producers: Julie Goldman and Julie Yannatta
Production Companies: Tremolo Productions/Media Ranch Productions
Proposed Delivery: 1/1/2014
Financing Sought: $300,000 of $600,000 USD
Synopsis: During the presidential campaign in the Summer of 1968, the opposing political ideologues William F. Buckley and Gore Vidal met for 10 nationally televised debates intended to boost ratings. The intellectually strident and emotionally charged results were a portentous shadow over a televised democracy that has led to the polarizing partisan name-calling that makes up most of what's on the air today.
Another project that generates much of its power through archival footage, Gordon and Neville ("The Troubadours") impressed the commissioners with their pitch, especially the ability to draw a clear connection between these debates and the current state of political journalism and punditry.
"Svalka: Yula's Journey"
Director/Producer: Hanna Polak
Producer: Piotr Uzarowicz
Executive Producer: Jan Rofekamp
Production Companies: Hanna Polak Films/Goat Hill
Proposed Delivery: 10/1/2012
Financing Sought: $306,764 of $337,900 USD
Synopsis: Polak followed an 11-year-old girl living in an immense garbage dump on the outskirts of Moscow for 11 years, demonstrating that whatever the circumstances, we all strive for dignity, kindness, joy, and, most of all, a desire to love and be loved.
Polka had attendees buzzing with her premise -- capturing not only a marginalized community but through a longitudinal project that allows the audience to see a young girl grow into a young woman. The trailer was powerful, and if the glimpses shown of Yula's life are any indication, this will be an impressive and fascinating feature doc.
Polak's pitch was the winner of this year's Cuban Hat best pitch -- a plucky award that presents cash collected from Forum participants and observers during the event. This year, the award was over $1,600, and included currency in the form of Canadian and US dollars, Euros, Malawi Kwacha, Colombian Pesos, British Pounds, and more, including a Toronto transit token. The hat went to Nick Fraser, voted favorite commissioner by attendees.