Wednesday, 3 August 2011

TIFF 2011: Vanguard & Documentaries Announced

We got five exciting press releases and many more titles released for the Toronto International Film Festival 2011 today. Looking at the Vanguard programme and documentaries announced here and I'll chat about Midnight Madness separately because that's always one of my favourite programmes. First, let's look at the titles in the Vanguard programme and right out of the gate I'm excited to see a Headshot, not so much the crime-centric nature and hunter becoming the hunted thing, but I'll see anything from Thai director Pen-ek Ratanaruang. Anything. Every single film I've seen of Pen-ek Ratanaruang has a beautiful sensibility and often a supernatural oddity to it that works really well, I truly love his work. I'm also excited to see the Norweigain film Oslo, August 31 from director Joachim Trier and Anders Danielsen Lie & Hans Olaf Brenner, Australian film Snowtown from director Justin Kurzel sounds creepy and Carré Blanc from director Jean-Baptiste Leonetti. The Vanguard Programme is one that I've found myself more and more drawn to over the years, not just because explores film on the edge but because it the quality of the films it extremely high are rarely disappoints. I have a feeling I'll be looking for a lot of coffee-with-cream coloured timeslots this year.

Numerous documentaries have also been announced, including 2 in the Masters Programme (Pina, a 3D dance documentary directed by Wim Wenders and This is not a Film directed by Jafar Panahi & Mojtaba Mirtahmasb) with the remaining titles in the Real to Reel programme. High profile titles include Werner Herzog's Into the Abyss, and Comic-Con: Episode IV – A Fan’s Hope (Dir: Morgan Spurlock of Super Size Me). I'm amazed that a documentary on ComicCon is high profile, it's wild to see how far geekdom has come over the past several years - and to be honest I think it's perfect timing although I wonder which Con it covers as this years only wrapped up a few weeks ago. Speaking of time, I'm curious to how they are going to schedule the epic 15-hour Story of Film. 15 hours! In a way, that's a historic achievement and I love films about film, but that would eat up your entire day. I know many folks that see 5 films a day, and as curious as I am I can't imagine dedicated an entire day to 1 film when I could see 5. That's a toughie! My documentary tastes often pivot to sport docs so I'm very curious about The Last Gladiators about hockey player Chris “Knuckles” Nilan and Undefeated following football coach Bill Courtney coaching in inner-city Memphis from 2004 to 2009 and to throw a nicely designed wrench in the works I also am very interested to see Gary Hustwit's (Helvetica, Objectified) Urbanized focusing his design explorations sights on city design.

And because films about filmmakers are always a draw, I can't wait to see Kim Ki-Duk's self-examining documentary Arirang, and attempt of catharsis and healing after the almost lethal moment during the filming of one of his previous works. Considering the emotional sensitivity in his work of 3-Iron, The Coast Guard and Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... and Spring it's easily understandable that he was strongly affected by the almost mishap. These new documentary titles ramp add to the previously announced titles of From The Sky Down (Gala) and Pearl Jam Twenty (Special Presentations), and will be hearing about even more docs in the weeks to come.


details from press release

Carré Blanc
Dir: Jean-Baptiste Leonetti, France/Luxembourg/Belgium/Switzerland
World Premiere

Philip and Mary, two teenagers whose parents were crushed by the system, are placed in an orphanage with frightening education methods. Twenty years later, they became husband and wife and have all the appearances of a wealthy couple. However, while Philip is a cog in the system, Mary goes into a depression that seems irreversible. Unable to have kids, they are on the verge of breaking. But Mary will do anything to show Philip that together they can love and survive in a frozen desert where men have become monsters. Starring Sami Bouajila, Julie Gayet, Jean-Pierre Andreani, Fejria Deliba and Valerie Bodson.

Generation P
Dir: Victor Ginzburg Russia/USA
North American Premiere

Set in 1990s Moscow, Generation P details the parallel rise of poet-turned-copywriter Babylen Tatarsky through both a new advertising business and the shadowy Cult of Ishtar, whose acolytes control the media. Starring Vladimir Yepifantsev, Michael Yefremov and Andrei Fomin.

Dir: Pen-ek Ratanaruang, Thailand/France
World Premiere

Tul, a straight-laced cop, is blackmailed by a powerful politician and framed for a crime he did not commit. Disillusioned and vengeful, he is soon recruited to become a hitman for a shadowy group aimed at eliminating those who are above the law. But one day, Tul is shot in the head during an assignment. He wakes up after a three-month coma to find that he sees everything upside down, literally. Tul begins to have second thoughts about his profession. But when he tries to quit, roles are reversed and the hunter becomes the hunted. Can Tul find redemption from the violence that continues to haunt him?

Love and Bruises
Dir: Lou Ye, China/France
North American Premiere

Hua, a young teacher from Beijing, is a recent arrival in Paris. Exiled in an unknown city, she wanders between her tiny apartment and the university, drifting between former lovers and recent French acquaintances. She meets Matthieu, a young worker who falls madly in love with her. Possessed by an insatiable desire for her body, he treats Hua like a dog. An intense affair begins, marked by Matthieu’s passionate embraces and harsh verbal abuse. When Hua decides to leave her lover, she discovers the strength of her addiction, and the vital role he has come to play in her life as a woman. Starring Tahar Rahim, Corinne Yam, Jalil Lespert, Sifan Shao, Vincent Rottiers.

Oslo, August 31
Dir: Joachim Trier, Norway
North American Premiere

Anders wanders the city, meeting people he hasn't seen in a while. Long into the night, the ghosts of past mistakes will wrestle with the chance of love, of a new life, with the hope to see some future by morning... From the director of the award-winning Reprise. Starring Anders Danielsen Lie, Hans Olaf Brenner, Ingrid Olava, Johanne Kjellevik Ledang.

Dir: Justin Kurzel, Australia
North American Premiere

When 16-year-old Jamie is introduced to a charismatic man, a friendship begins. As the relationship grows so do Jamie’s suspicions, until he finds his world threatened by his loyalty for, and fear of, his newfound father-figure John Bunting, Australia’s most notorious serial killer. Starring Lucas Pittaway, Daniel Henshall, Louise Harris.

The Year of the Tiger
Dir: Sebastián Lelio, Chile
North American Premiere

Manuel is imprisoned in a jail in the south of Chile, which collapses on the night of the violent earthquake of February 27, 2010. Manuel escapes and becomes a fugitive, lost in the middle of the catastrophe. He returns to his home only to find out that it has been ravaged by a tsunami, which has also taken the lives of his wife and daughter. As Manuel travels through completely destroyed landscapes, he enters deeper and deeper into his own devastated areas. This strange freedom will bring him to face nature’s cruelty and take his own human existence to its limit. Starring Luis Dubó, Sergio Hernández, Viviana Herrera.

Details from press release

Dir: Wim Wenders, Germany/France
Canadian Premiere

German master filmmaker Wim Wenders shoots in 3D to capture the brilliantly inventive dance world of Pina Bausch and her company, Tanztheater Wuppertal. Excerpts from many of her most famous pieces are shot outside in the streets and parks of Wuppertal capturing the drama and power of her repertoire.

This is not a Film
Dirs: Jafar Panahi and Mojtaba Mirtahmasb, Iran
Toronto Premiere

Sentenced to six years in prison and banned from writing and making films for 20 years by the Islamic Republic Court in Tehran, Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi waited for the verdict of his court appeal for months. Through the depiction of a day in his life while he‟s on house arrest, Jafar Panahi and Mojtaba Mirtahmasb (a documentary filmmaker and former assistant director) offer audiences an overview of the current situation of Iranian cinema.

Reel to Real
Details from press release

Dir: Kim Ki-Duk, South Korea
North American Premiere

While shooting a suicide scene for his last film, Dream, in 2008, filmmaker Kim Ki-Duk's lead actress nearly perished and the incident triggered an emotional and creative breakdown for Kim. As an act of self-administered therapy, Arirang takes playful liberties with the documentary form as Kim traces his experiences and mindset during this period of crisis.

The Boy Who Was King
Dir: Andrey Paounov, Bulgaria/Germany
World Premiere

Director Andrey Paounov (The Mosquito Problem and Other Stories) explores the strange history of Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha who became Bulgaria's tsar at age 6, then was exiled during years of communism and returned to be elected Prime Minister.

Comic-Con: Episode IV – A Fan’s Hope
Dir: Morgan Spurlock, USA
World Premiere

Have you ever imagined a place where Vulcans and vampires get along? Where wizards and wookies can be themselves? Welcome to Comic-Con San Diego. What started as a fringe comic book convention for 500 fans has grown into the pop culture event of the year that influences every form of entertainment, now attended by over 140,000. Comic-Con Episode Four: A Fan's Hope explores this cultural phenomenon by following the lives of seven attendees as they descend upon the ultimate geek mecca. Includes interviews with Stan Lee, Joss Whedon, Frank Miller and Matt Groening.

Crazy Horse
Dir: Frederick Wiseman, USA/France
North American Premiere

Documentary master Frederick Wiseman (La Danse, Boxing Gym) spent ten weeks exploring the legendary Parisian cabaret club Crazy Horse, which boasts the greatest and most chic nude dancing in the world. Founded in 1951, the club has become a Parisian nightlife must for any visitor, ranking alongside the Eiffel tower and the Louvre. Wiseman's impeccable eye allows us to enter into this intriguing international temple of the Parisian club world and to discover what makes the Crazy Horse tick: elegance, perfectionism and a grueling schedule. The film follows the rehearsals, backstage preparations and performances for a new show, Désirs.

Dark Girls
Dirs: Bill Duke and D. Channsin Berry, USA
World Premiere

It seems beyond comprehension that a child would ask her mother to put bleach in the bathwater to lighten her skin. Yet this is a reality for many members of the African diaspora. For many black women – who, like all women, are often judged by their physical appearance – being dark-skinned becomes their defining characteristic. Actor/director Bill Duke and D. Channsin Berry set out to examine why skin colour bias persists and how it affects the lives of women on the receiving end of it.

Duch, Master of the Forges of Hell
Dir: Rithy Panh, France/Cambodia
International Premiere

Between 1975 and 1979, the Khmer Rouge regime caused the death of some 1.8 million people, representing one-quarter of the population of Cambodia. Rithy Panh first explored the legacy of Cambodia‟s genocide with S21, the Khmer Rouge Killing Machine. This captivating new documentary continues Panh‟s investigation with a portrait of Kaing Guek Eav, also known as Duch, the man responsible for running the notorious S21 prison.

Gerhard Richter Painting
Dir: Corinna Belz, Germany
International Premiere

Gerhard Richter, one of the internationally most significant contemporary artists of our times, granted filmmaker Corinna Belz access to his studio in the spring and summer of 2009 where he was working on a series of large abstract paintings. In quiet, highly concentrated images, the film gives us a fly-on-the-wall perspective of a very personal, tension-filled process of artistic creation. In her intelligent and perceptive film, Corinna Belz brings us closer to the complex processes of artistic creation. Gerhard Richter Painting is the penetrating portrait of an artist at work – and a fascinating film about the art of seeing.

Girl Model
Dirs: Ashley Sabin and David Redmon, USA
World Premiere

Despite a lack of obvious similarities between Siberia and Tokyo, a thriving model industry connects these distant regions. Girl Model follows Ashley, a deeply ambivalent model scout who scours the Siberian countryside looking for fresh faces to send to the Japanese market, and one of her discoveries, Nadya, a 13-year-old plucked from the Siberian countryside and dropped into the center of Tokyo with promises of a profitable career. After Ashley‟s initial discovery of Nadya, the two rarely meet again, but their stories are inextricably bound.

I’m Carolyn Parker: The Good, the Mad, and the Beautiful
Dir: Jonathan Demme, USA
North American Premiere

Carolyn Parker was the last to leave her neighbourhood when a mandatory evacuation order was decreed as Hurricane Katrina approached New Orleans in the summer of 2005, and was the first resident to return to her now flood-devastated community. Mrs. Parker takes us deep inside her personal biography as a child born in the 1940s, raised in segregated New Orleans‟ Lower 9th Ward, who became a teenager joining the front lines in the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, and later became one of the most outspoken voices in the fight for every New Orleanian‟s right to return home after the devastation of the floods that followed Katrina.

In My Mother’s Arms
Dirs: Atia Al Daradji and Mohamed Al Daradji, Iraq/Netherlands/United Kingdom
World Premiere

Husham works tirelessly to build the hopes, dreams and prospects of the 32 damaged children of war under his care at a small orphanage in Baghdad‟s most dangerous district. When the landlord gives Husham and the boys just two weeks to vacate the premises, a desperate search for lodging ensues.

Into the Abyss
Dir: Werner Herzog, USA
World Premiere

Exploring a triple homicide case in Texas, Werner Herzog (Cave of Forgotten Dreams, Grizzly Man) probes the psyches of those involved, including the 28-year-old death row inmate scheduled to die within eight days of appearing on-screen. Herzog‟s inquiries unveil layers of humanity against an American Gothic landscape. As he‟s so often done before, the director makes an enlightening trip out of ominous territory.

Last Call at the Oasis
Dir: Jessica Yu, USA
World Premiere

We're running out of water, and contaminating what's left. How long before the well runs dry? In unravelling this interconnected global crisis, Last Call at the Oasis focuses on the country with the largest water footprint – the United States – and explores why the threat hasn't hit home. Academy Award®-winning director Jessica Yu draws upon the research of scientists and enlists diverse voices ranging from the real Erin Brockovich, exemplifying feisty resistance, to actor Jack Black, supplying welcome comic relief.

The Last Dogs of Winter
Dir: Costa Botes, New Zealand
World Premiere

Canadian Eskimo Dogs or Quimmiq were once indispensible to human life in the arctic. Today, the breed faces extinction. Since 1976, Brian Ladoon has stuck to a promise to maintain a viable breeding colony of the animals, battling chronic underfunding, wandering polar bears, officialdom and shocking weather to keep his word.

The Last Gladiators
Dir: Alex Gibney, USA
World Premiere

Chris “Knuckles” Nilan can chart his hockey career by his scars. He earned those stripes as one the NHL‟s fiercest enforcers, throwing punches to defend his teammates. While playing for the Montreal Canadiens in the mid-1980s, his fights racked up penalty minutes, but received roaring approval from fans and helped win the Stanley Cup. When injuries forced Knuckles to retire in 1992, he faced a new battle: how do you stop being a gladiator and re-enter normal society? Academy Award® winner Alex Gibney (Taxi to the Dark Side) explores the rough and tumble world of hockey.

Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory
Dir: Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky, USA
World Premiere

Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory chronicles the 18-year odyssey of Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley, three teens incarcerated for a horrifying crime they claim they did not commit. In the latest installment of the acclaimed documentary film series about the “West Memphis Three,” facts are reexamined, new evidence is revealed, and new suspects are scrutinized. The film is a riveting look at American justice.

Paul Williams Still Alive
Dir: Stephen Kessler, USA
World Premiere

A documentary filmmaker tracks down Grammy and Oscar award-winning actor/singer/songwriter Paul Williams in an attempt to find out what happened to his fallen idol. Paul Williams was one of the biggest stars of the 1970s. He was everywhere – on The Tonight Show 50 times and appeared on variety shows, sitcoms, game shows and movies from The Love Boat to Phantom of the Paradise. But in the 1980s, he just disappeared. This movie is about what happened when filmmaker Stephen Kessler finds him.

Dir: Ron Fricke, USA
World Premiere

Samsara is a Tibetan word that means “the ever turning wheel of life,” a concept both intimate and vast, the perfect subject for filmmakers Ron Fricke and Mark Magidson whose previous collaborations include Chronos and Baraka. Samsara takes the form of a nonverbal, guided meditation that spans the globe on a journey of the soul. Through powerful images pristinely photographed in 70mm and a dynamic music score, the film illuminates the links between humanity and the rest of the nature, showing how our life cycle mirrors the rhythm of the planet.

Sarah Palin – You Betcha!
Dirs: Nick Broomfield and Joan Churchill, United Kingdom
World Premiere

Nick Broomfield's quest for the real Sarah Palin involves battling the icy snows of Alaska in mid-winter to speak to the school friends, family, and Republican colleagues that in previous days gave their heart, soul and belief to the charismatic, charming, intoxicating ex-hockey mom. But it's not all plain sailing. People are frightened to talk; Wasilla makes Twin Peaks look like a walk in the park. It's a devout evangelical community – 76 churches with a population of only 6 thousand, and the Crystal meth capital of Alaska. Broomfield brings his celebrated wit and determination to cracking her story.

The Story of Film: An Odyssey
Dir: Mark Cousins, United Kingdom
World Premiere

Filmed on four continents over six years, this epic 15-hour documentary tells the story of innovation in the movies based on the acclaimed book of the same title by Mark Cousins. Featuring exclusive interviews with legendary filmmakers like Stanley Donen and Abbas Kiarostami, The Story of Film: An Odyssey is a passionate, cinematic journey across 11 decades of cinema, and a thousand films.

The Tall Man
Dir: Tony Krawitz, Australia
International Premiere

This is the story of Palm Island, the Australian tropical Paradise where one morning Cameron Doomadgee swore at a policeman and forty-five minutes later lay dead in a watch-house cell. It's also the story of that policeman, the tall enigmatic Christopher Hurley who prior to Doomadgee's death had been decorated for his work with aboriginal communities. Based on Chloe Hooper's award winning book, The Tall Man explores one of Australia's most sensational cases of culture clash and the haunting moral puzzle at its core.

Dirs: Dan Lindsay and TJ Martin, USA
International Premiere

In 2004, football coach Bill Courtney took on the daunting job of coaching at Manassas High School in inner-city Memphis, where players are more likely to wind up in jail than in college. The Manassas Tigers were perennial whipping boys of the league, bereft of victories, funds, and morale. Courtney recruited a group of freshmen to turn things around, and in their first season they got creamed. But with each passing year they won more games and more respect. At the start of the season in 2009, Courtney set a goal: to win the first play-off game in the school‟s 110-year history.

Dir: Gary Hustwit, U.S./United Kingdom
World Premiere

Director Gary Hustwit (Helvetica, Objectified) completes his design film trilogy with Urbanized. Exploring the design of cities with the world's foremost architects, policymakers and engaged citizens, Urbanized frames a global discussion about how the design of our cities affects our lives.

Whores’ Glory
Dir: Michael Glawogger, Austria/Germany
North American Premiere

Whores’ Glory is a cinematic triptych on prostitution: three countries, three languages, three religions. In Thailand, women wait for clients behind glass panes, staring at reflections of themselves. In Bangladesh, men go to a ghetto of love to satisfy their unfulfilled desires on indentured girls. And in Mexico, women mix hard drugs with sex labour to avoid facing their own reality. In worlds where the most intimate act has become a commodity, these women have physically and emotionally experienced everything that can happen between a man and a woman. For this they have always received money, but it has not made their lives rich in anything but stories.

See all of today's press releases:

The Toronto International Film Festival 2011 runs from September 8 - 18, 2011 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

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