Toronto Cheat Sheet! Programmer Thom Powers on This Year’s Doc Lineup

Toronto Cheat Sheet! Programmer Thom Powers on This Year's Doc Lineup

The Toronto International Film Festival is still weeks away from completing its lineup announcements, but for one of its most-anticipated elements — the documentaries — there’s enough for TIFF documentary programmer Thom Powers to give indieWIRE a heads up on what he sees as some of the most outstanding titles.

“I think there is a big headline in how many veteran filmmakers there are this year, including Jonathan Demme (“I’m Carolyn Parker: The Good, the Mad and the Beautiful”), Alex Gibney (“The Last Gladiators”), Nick Broomfield (“Sarah Palin – You Betcha!”) and more. “It’s a banner year in that respect.”

In fact, there are quite a number of nonfiction stalwarts, including Werner Herzog who will world premiere “Into the Abyss.” Herzog was in TIFF last year with “Cave of Forgotten Dreams,” which IFC Films picked up at the event and released to great acclaim and box office cha-ching this spring and summer.

Joe Berlinger, who made news this past year in an ongoing legal battle with oil giant Chevron over footage from his doc, “Crude,” will arrive at TIFF with the world premiere of “Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory.”

Fresh off the blitzkrieg promotion of “Pom Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold,” Morgan Spurlock arrives with the world premiere of “Comic-Con: Episode IV – A Fan’s Hope,” while doc maverick Frederick Wiseman will be there with the North American debut of “Crazy Horse” and Jessica Yu (“In the Realms of the Unreal”) will screen the world premiere of “Last Call at the Oasis.”

“Jessica Yu’s ‘Oasis,’ which she did with Participant, will be a stand-out this year,” said Powers who, in addition to programming TIFF’s doc-centered Real to Reel section also spearheads the Stranger Than Fiction and DOC NYC events in New York City.

And with an eye on the business side of film festivals, Powers noted that there are also a slew of docs that are up for the bidding, including Gibney’s latest and Ron Fricke’s “Samsara,” which he said is “for people looking for big spectacles in the cinema.”

Powers noted that Real to Reel also has this year’s longest film, “The Story of Film: An Odyssey” by veteran Scottish journalist Mark Cousins, which traces the history of cinema from the silent era to the present. The 15-hour journey will be shown in different parts throughout the festival.

“Girl Model” by Ashley Sabin and David Redmon (“Intimidad”), which spotlights Siberian female models in Japan, is another standout this year, with Powers noting, “This one in particular should get notice. They look around the business of exporting teen girls from Russia.” Powers noted that this year’s doc lineup include a small pack of films with exploitation at their core such as Wiseman’s film and Austrian/German film, “Whore’s Gory” by Michael Glawogger.

Oppression of a different sort gets the spotlight in Toronto with Iranian director Jafar Panahi “This is Not a Film,” screening in the festival’s Masters sidebar. Panahi turns the camera on himself and his house arrest at his home in Tehran. The “non-film” had its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival in May (check out iW’s review).

Also taking center stage, of course, is TIFF’s opening U2 doc, “From The Sky Down” by Oscar-winner Davis Guggenheim (“An Inconvenient Truth”) and Cameron Crowe’s “Pearl Jam Twenty.” Less glitzy, but a nevertheless not-to-be-missed music-themed film is Stephen Kessler’s “Paul Williams Still Alive,” about the Grammy and Oscar award-winning actor/singer/songwriter Paul Williams, who faded in the ’80s after being virtually omnipresent throughout the ’70s.

And apparently, fans of music have more to look forward to as TIFF’s lineup continues to be announced this month, with more headliners in the works, according to Powers who teased, “For music lovers, we still have a few big bombs to drop!”

[TIFF’s Real to Reel lineup]

Check out the 90 films announced so far for the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival.

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