TIFF and fave docs in UK cinemas
By Hussain Currimbhoy 01 August, 2012
Toronto: its not French for beige any more - because the Toronto International Film Festival launched their doc programme and its looking rather sexy.
TIFF were not kidding when they said it would be announcing films by new faces in the doc world, in contrast to the line up dominated by doc masters of recently past programmes. Young talent feels like it is the fuel for this new programme, with fewer celebrity–name driven films apart from the Jared Leto and Snopp Lion. (I really hope the conversation where Snoop gets talked into changing his name is captured in this doc because I am dying to know what other animal names they went through before deciding on 'Lion'.)
Can I just take a moment: Sheffield's own Dan Gordon is not exactly a new face in documentary, but I gotta say I am impressed and happy as hell by the selection of his new film 9.79*. Johnson has been a figure illusive to our understanding since he was nailed for doping and this overdue study of the controversy over the Canadian sprinter's 1988 world record breaking Olympic run is going to be fascinating because Dan Gordon is the master of the human story with a sports backdrop. I have always remembered a comment Johnson made not long after his disqualification where he compared running on steroids to being in a fight where every one has knives and you have an AK-47. I am looking forward to some kind of explanation into what makes an athlete dope up and risk it all, and if someone is going to portray that with wit and elegance, Dan can.
Do you know Matthew Cooke? I didn't. But he is best known as an editor and producer of great docs like 'Teenage Paparazo' (2010) and 'Deliver Us from Evil' (2006), but he makes his doc director debut with 'How to Make Money Selling Drugs'. Susan Sarandon, David Simon, Woody Harrelson, Eminem and 50 Cent make an appearance to offer their insights into the deadly world of drug dealing. It will be an interesting companion piece to Eugene Jarecki's Sundance winner 'The House I Live In' which also deals with the drug trade and the government's misunderstanding of the problem.
Two great 'behind the scenes' films I am keen to see are 'Artifact' by another new-comer, Bartholomew Cubbins. It follows Jared Leto's band as it struggles for survival inside the indie-band scene. I guess the indi-band scene is getting pretty rough if its hard to get a booking with Leto in your band. I loved Leto in 'Requiem for a Dream' and i'm more interested in learning about his shift from screen actor to musician, only because we all know how terribly it can go wrong. (Russell Crowe would not attest to that but should.) Also because rock docs have always played well at Sheffield so Cubbins film will be an interesting one to see. 'State 194' looks to be a very compelling account of Palestine's campaign to be recognised by the UN. I hope it unveils some of the hypocrisy global leaders are guilty of every day in dealing with the Palestine/Israel issue as the entire campaign was rather under-reported by the mainstream media.
Of course, well known names like Alex Gibney return with 'Mea Maxima Cupla: Silence in the House of God' are present and thank god. If the film's website still of the Virgin Mary crying blood is anything to go by, this will no doubt be a very uncomfortable view for the church as its hear no evil/see no evil attitude to pedophilia will be scrutinised with Gibney's powerful doc making magic. And if Gibney is not heavy-weight enough for you, try the industrial strength 'The Central Park Five' by Ken Burns.
TIFF docs are usually picked up quick by UK distributors are prepared for a spring release. Herzog, Morris, Gibney are the staples. But with so many new face I'm interested to see which ones are in fact released here by 2013. Are the sales driven only by name directors or are good stories and style the real driving factor?
Speaking of docs in cinemas, this is an exceptional month for doc releases in theatres: Searching for Sugar Man (currently 7th on the box office list! Nice!), 'We Are Poets', 'Swandown', El Bulli: Cooking in Progress and the legendary 'Sing your Song' sit with good numbers alongside the new Dr. Suess outing. (Why 'Sing Your Song' took so long to get to the cinemas I'll never understand.) Also keep an eye out for the Greirson Awards as they prepare to announce their winners. The short list has been announced and a few warm congrats are due to Doc/Fest alumni in particular, Mat Hodgson's 'The Four Year Plan', Charlie Russell' s 'Terry Pratchett: Choosing to Die', Phil Agland's 'BAKA: A Cry from the Rainforest', Dan Reed's 'Children of the Tsunami', Danfung Dennis' 'Hell and Back Again', Mandy Chang's 'The Camera That Changed the World', Jeremy Deller's 'Middle Class Hero', Matt O’Casey's 'Queen: Days of Our Lives', Ian Palmer's Knuckle, James Marsh's 'Project Nim', Anthony Baxter's 'You’ve Been Trumped', Leo Maguire's 'Gypsy Blood', Adam Wakeling's 'Up in Smoke', Karen Winther's 'The Betrayal', Sebastian Feehan & Josh Bamford's 'Mostar'.