Toronto 2016: Documentary Overview

tiffThis week will see the film industry descend on the Toronto International Film Festival, which begins its fifth decade this Thursday, September 8. Once again, the event will turn the spotlight on over 280 new and recent feature films, in addition to shorts, retrospectives, television, and panels. Nearly 60 documentary or hybrid feature films are on offer, including numerous world premieres as well as buzzed about titles just fresh from Venice or Telluride berths. The following offers some highlights of this year’s impressive roster:

citizenjanebattleforthecity_01TIFF Docs, the festival’s primary nonfiction showcase, headed up by DOC NYC’s Thom Powers, presents just over three dozen films. Among the titles by familiar helmers are: Steve James’ ABACUS: SMALL ENOUGH TO JAIL, about a small family-owned bank criminally indicted in the 2008 mortgage crisis; Matt Tyrnauer’s CITIZEN JANE: BATTLE FOR THE CITY (pictured), on the grassroots movement June Jacobs led to stop Robert Moses’ redevelopment of New York City; Raoul Peck’s I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO, a consideration of African-American identity in contemporary America; Nanette Burstein’s GRINGO: THE DANGEROUS LIFE OF JOHN MCAFEE, an investigation into a software millionaire-turned-hermit-turned-murderer-turned politician; Petra Epperlein and Michael Tucker’s KARL MARX CITY, a personal revisitation of the legacy of East Germany’s Stasi; and Fisher Stevens’ BEFORE THE FLOOD, which follows Leonardo DiCaprio’s UN sanctioned role to increase awareness of climate change.

insignificantman_04Works making their debuts in TIFF Docs by emerging filmmakers include: Khushboo Ranka and Vinay Shukla’s AN INSIGNIFICANT MAN (pictured), which chronicles the unexpected rise to power of the leader of India’s Common Man’s Party; Brian McGinn and Rod Blackhurst’s AMANDA KNOX, which takes a more nuanced look at the sensationalized 2007 Italian murder case; Erin Heidenreich’s GIRL UNBOUND, a portrait of a Pakistani woman defying Islamic fundamentalist threats to pursue the sport of squash; Fred Peabody’s ALL GOVERNMENTS LIE: TRUTH, DECEPTION, AND THE SPIRIT OF IF STONE, which couches the essential work of independent journalists within the legacy of the legendary crusading maverick; Tin Win Naing’s IN EXILE, a personal meditation on the plight of Burmese exiles living in Thailand; Philip Gnadt and Mickey Yamine’s GAZA SURF CLUB, about resistance through surfing dreams in Gaza; Tony Guma and John Rose’s THE SIXTH BEATLE, which uncovers the influential role of a Liverpudlian concert promoter in the legacy of the Beatles; Mohanad Yaqubi’s OFF FRAME AKA REVOLUTION UNTIL VICTORY, a found footage-based history of Palestinian cinema; and Lutz Gregor’s MALI BLUES, which follows a world music star back to Mali to perform for the first-time.

jtandthetenesseekids_01After a couple of years without any documentaries in the fest’s high-profile Galas, this year sees two in the form of concert docs by Jonathan Demme, JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE + THE TENNESSEE KIDS (pictured), and Paul Dugdale, THE ROLLING STONES OLÉ OLÉ OLÉ!: A TRIP ACROSS LATIN AMERICA, while Special Presentations offer another music doc, LEEHOM WANG’S OPEN FIRE CONCERT FILM, as well as Terrence Malick’s Venice-debuting VOYAGE OF TIME: LIFE’S JOURNEY.

RATS_01Nonfiction appearing in other sections includes Discovery entry JEFFREY, Yanillys Perez’s portrait of a preteen Dominican boy’s singing dreams; Alanis Obomsawin’s WE CAN’T MAKE THE SAME MISTAKE TWICE, about discrimination in federal services for indigenous children, in the Masters section; Morgan Spurlock’s Midnight Madness offering, RATS (pictured), which looks at vermin control around the world; in Wavelengths, Pere Portabella’s GENERAL REPORT II: THE NEW ABDUCTION OF EUROPE, a multi-tiered look at contemporary Spain; and two hybrids: Mathieu Denis and Simon Lavoie’s Platform offering, THOSE WHO MAKE REVOLUTION HALFWAY ONLY DIG THEIR OWN GRAVES, about a radical Quebec terrorist cell inspired by student protests; and Tizza Covi and Rainer Frimmel’s MISTER UNIVERSO, a coming-of-ager set within Italy’s itinerant circus world.


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Filed under Documentary, Film, Film Festivals, Overviews, Recommendations

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