The Toronto International Film Festival has a reputation for launching serious Oscar contenders, at least in the narrative Best Picture category. But what about the documentary section? Might we be introduced to the next Oscar-winning doc at this year’s festival, which officially kicks off tomorrow night with, as it so happens, a nonfiction opener?
Even if TIFF starters weren’t typically Oscar poison in recent years, that doc, Davis Guggenheim’s U2 concert film, “From the Sky Down,” normally wouldn’t be on the road to Oscar alongside “Moneyball” or whatever’s this year’s out-of-nowhere “King’s Speech” and “Hurt Locker” equivalent. Due to the way the Academy used to qualify films for the Best Documentary Feature award, it was difficult for nonfiction works premiering at Toronto to go straight on to compete at the Kodak Theatre the following February.
Difficult, but not impossible. Two years ago, Judith Ehrlich and Rick Goldsmith’s “The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers” made its debut at TIFF and then just barely made the deadline for qualifying runs in New York and Los Angeles. This was months prior to its being picked up by eventual distributor First Run Features, and the self-releasing strategy pulled off, as it was nominated for the Academy Award a mere five months after it was unveiled to the world. A certain rarity for the form under old Oscar rules.