The 34th Toronto International Film Festival had added five new documentaries to its growing program, with topics ranging from a Ruth Gruber bio, a multi-faceted look at modern China, a controversial exploration into the world of the Saharawi refugees, a probing study on autism and the story of Disney’s re-emergence as an animation powerhouse. The new titles come announced jointly with two doc-related initiatives set for the festival’s 2009 edition, which runs September 10-19, 2009. The festival has set a newly formed Doc Conference, a full day of panels “devoted to the specific challenges and opportunities for documentary financing, distribution and ethics”; and the returning Doc Roundtables, which “create a rare chance for filmmakers to meet with industry leaders for an informal networking session.”
“These are tumultuous times,” said TIFF doc programmer Thom Powers. “We want to empower doc makers with fresh thinking about how to get their films made and seen.”
The announced titles are listed below, with descriptions provided by the festival, followed by a schedule of doc-related industry programming.
Ahead of Time
Bob Richman, USA World Premiere
This directorial debut from acclaimed cinematographer Bob Richman (The September Issue, Metallica: Some Kind of Monster) creates a vivid portrait of Ruth Gruber. From the time she became the world’s youngest Ph.D. in 1931 at age 20 to her pivotal news coverage of the refugees aboard Exodus 1947, this energetic and inspiring 97-year-old has repeatedly defied tradition through her fearlessness and love of adventure.
Once Upon a Time Proletarian: 12 Tales of a Country
Guo Xiaolu, China North America Premiere
A subjective anatomy of contemporary China in the post-Marxist era, this is a dark, poetic depiction of people from different backgrounds, living in modern China. Twelve chapters explore the country’s current social and political landscape, from which emerge stories of loss and yearning. This is the latest documentary from director Guo Xiaolu, who recently was awarded the Golden Leopard Grand Prize at the Locarno International Film Festival for She, A Chinese.
Violeta Ayala and Dan Fallshaw, Australia International Premiere
Filmmakers Ayala and Fallshaw set out to learn more about the Saharawi refugees who have been living in Algerian camps for more than 30 years. While focusing on a family reunion, the filmmakers uncovered allegations of modern slavery that set them on a journey they could never have imagined. The moral quandaries within the film have stirred significant controversy since its debut at the Sydney Film Festival.
The Sunshine Boy
Fridrik Thor Fridriksson, Iceland World Premiere
This is a moving, compassionate portrayal of a mother’s desperate quest to understand autism, the perplexing condition that controls her son. By taking a journey through different countries and cultures, the film deals with autism in a deeply comprehensive way and considers it on a global scope.
Waking Sleeping Beauty
Don Hahn, USA World Premiere
This isn’t a fairy tale, but rather the true story of how the Disney animation team went from stagnation in the mid-1980s to a startling rebirth with a staggering output of hits – Who Framed Roger Rabbit, The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, The Lion King and more – over a ten year period. Director Don Hahn, who was a key contributor on many of these works, brings an insider’s perspective to the film.
Sunday, September 13, from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Location: University of Toronto’s Victoria College (93 Charles Street West, behind the Isabel Bader Theatre), Room # 323.
Among the highlights of the Doc Conference:
Keynote Address: Liesl Copland
Working with the Global Finance & Distribution group at the William Morris Endeavor agency, Copland has a unique view on emerging players and partnerships. In this presentation, she will analyze the strengths and weaknesses of new distribution models, with a focus on documentary. Prior to working for WME, Copland held positions as the head of Red Envelope Entertainment (the original content division at Netflix) and a film sales consultant at Cinetic Media.
Peter Broderick’s Declaration of Independence
As a distribution strategist who has consulted with hundreds of filmmakers around the world, Broderick has helped pioneer cutting-edge distribution models. In this session, he will lay out new hybrid distribution guidelines that independents should consider before negotiating distribution deals. These guidelines will enable filmmakers to maximize revenues and audience by splitting rights and selling directly. Broderick will illustrate with case studies of films that have succeeded by putting these principles into action.
New Report on Documentary Ethics
Patricia Aufderheide will host a panel unveiling a new report on Documentary Ethics, conducted by the Center for Social Media. Aufderheide previously co-authored a ground-breaking study on the practices of Fair Use in documentary film. Now her team brings the same rigor to examining the ethical challenges of documentary, in the hopes of fostering greater attention to these issues.
Financing In Tough Times
This stellar panel spans many different ways of getting money, including Dan Cogan of Impact Partners on private philanthropy; Lois Vossen of ITVS on grants; and director Franny Armstrong of The Age of Stupid on how her team raised $1.3 million dollars largely from web donations.
Monday, September 14 through to Wednesday, September 16; Twice Daily sessions from 2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. Location: Match Club (5th Elementt Restaurant, 1055 Bay Street)
Now in its fourth year, TIFF’s Doc Roundtables create a rare chance for filmmakers to meet with industry leaders for an informal networking session. This year, industry participants include representatives from Sony Pictures Classics, HBO, Films Transit, Submarine Entertainment, SnagFilms, Zeitgeist Films, IFC Films, Emerging Pictures, Oscilloscope Laboratories, Lorber Media, and more.