The Toronto International Film Festival named twenty-five of the documentaries that will debut at its 35th edition this September, with marquee doc filmmakers joining the festival’s lineup. The group includes an intimate look at Bruce Springsteen in the studio in Thom Zimny’s “The Promise: The Making of Darkness on the Edge of Town” – screening as a gala at the fest. Errol Morris’ latest also joins the lineup with an exploration of a former Miss Wyoming’s quest for true love in “Tabloid.” While Werner Herzog’s latest goes 3-D as the filmmaker explores ancient French caves in “Cave of Forgotten Dreams.”
“I have to say since around April when I started getting word about who had a film that might be ready in time I got very excited,” the festival’s doc programmer Thom Powers told indieWIRE last night. “I quite frankly read that Errol Morris was going to have something ready on his Twitter feed. And then news on the Herzog 3-D film had kind of leaked out in the spring, but I wasn’t at all sure it’d be ready for us. But we all know how Herzog can put things together, and by the summer he was in New York screening something for us.”
Beyond those two documentary legends, Powers has numerous other big names from the non-fiction world with work screening this year. Patricio Guzman (with “Nostalgia for the Light,” set in Chile’s Atacama Desert), Frederick Wiseman (with “Boxing Gym,” which explores the world of the titular subject), Charles Ferguson (with Cannes hit “Inside Job”), Alex Gibney (with “Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer,” which is debuting its finished project after a preview at Tribeca), Ondi Timoner (with “Cool It,” a look at controversial author and climate change expert Bjorn Lomborg) and Kim Longinotto (with “Pink Saris,” which follows the leader of the ‘Pink Gang,’ a group combating violence against women in India) are all bringing their latest works to Toronto next month, the majority of which are world premieres.
“It’s quite an extraordinary year,” Powers mused.
As far as themes present in the programming, Powers finds it difficult to sum up such an eclectic and vast group of films.
“We’ve announced 25 films today,” Powers said. “So it’s a little tough to reduce to sprawling amount of work to one theme. But there’s a few different streams that are notable. For one, there’s a very strong representation of women, both films by and about them.”
In addition to Ondi Timoner and Kim Longinotto, there’s Lynn Hershman Leeson – whose “!Women Art Revolution – A Secret History,” has literally been four decades in the making – and Linda Hoaglund, who Powers notes, “has been known in some circles as the preeminent translator of Japanese films,” and has now made her own film in “ANPO,” which looks at the resistance to U.S. military bases in Japan through paintings and photographs.
A number of female filmmakers are making their directorial debuts, noted Powers. “One thing that’s going to strike people about this lineup on the surface is all the names and awards that come with them, [but] there are certainly some discoveries to have in this group.” Among the examples is Sarah McCarthy’s “The Sound of Mumbai: A Musical,” about a group of Indian children living in a slum in Mumbai who are given the opportunity to perform “The Sound of Music” with a classical orchestra.
Former editor Laura Israel, meanwhile, makes her directorial debut with “Windfall,” which Powers said, “shows a real sense of craft,” in its look at the dark side of wind energy development and the potential for financial scams.
Joining those women is Irish filmmaker Risteard O’ Domhnaill, whose debut film, “The Pipe,” details a group of locals who rebel against energy giant Shell’s attempt to build a natural gas pipeline through the Irish countryside.
Powers said both “The Pipe” and “Windfall” join Timoner’s “Cool It” as a cluster of films surrounding the future of energy, all of which will debut in the wake of the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Powers noted specifically of “Cool It”: “Of all the films I’ve watched on the environment this year, this film is really going to succeed in stirring conversation.”
Also of note is the Bruce Springsteen doc, “The Promise.” The feature is the first documentary slated as a gala since 2006’s Dixie Chicks doc “Shut Up and Sing” by Barbara Kopple. The film draws on, “a treasure trove of footage from the 1970s,” Powers said.
“You see all the twists and turns of the making of this album,” Powers said. “And we’re the first people to announce that this film even existed… It’s been in the works for a couple years now in total secrecy. And we’re very proud to be presenting it.”
Check out more on “The Promise” and a complete rundown of the twenty-four other docs TIFF will also be presenting this September in indieWIRE‘s updated list of all the films announced for the 35th Toronto International Film Festival. The list includes the complete Wavelengths program, which spotlights international avant-garde film and video, and was also announced today.