Wasn’t it just a few hours ago that we were noting that the Toronto International Film Festival had followed last week’s announcement of around 70 Galas and Special Presentations with the lineup for Midnight Madness? ‘Twas. And here we are with fresh announcements for three more programs, with descriptions from the festival…
Barry Avrich’s Filthy Gorgeous: The Bob Guccione Story. “Avrich’s account of the life of this most unlikely revolutionary of the 1960s counterculture is energetic, iconoclastic and well researched, examining Guccione’s long and audacious career, most notably as publisher of the hugely influential pornographic magazine Penthouse and producer of the porn epic Caligula.”
Allison Berg and Frank Keraudren’s The Dog. “An astonishing documentary portrait of the late John Wojtowicz, whose attempted robbery of a Brooklyn bank to finance his male lover’s sex-reassignment surgery was the real-life inspiration for the classic Al Pacino film Dog Day Afternoon.”
Mark Cousins‘s A Story of Children and Film. “Cousins follows his epic documentary The Story of Film with this globe-spanning rumination on children in the cinema, surveying such classics as The 400 Blows, E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, Fanny and Alexander, Los Olvidados, and The White Balloon.”
Emiliano Altuna Fistolera’s The Mayor. “This engrossing documentary introduces us to Mexican millionaire mayor Mauricio Fernandez, a larger-than-life and frequently controversial politician who lords over Latin America’s wealthiest municipality from his eccentrically decorated palace—and has a predilection for taking justice into his own hands.”
Chris Jordan’s Midway. “Renowned photo-based artist Chris Jordan’s feature debut focuses on the albatrosses who inhabit the remote Midway Atoll island, nesting amidst machinery abandoned after World War II.”
Claude Lanzmann’s The Last of the Unjust. “In this riveting exploration of contested history, the inexhaustible Holocaust documentarian Claude Lanzmann (Shoah) revisits a 1975 interview with Benjamin Murmelstein, the Viennese rabbi who worked with Adolf Eichmann to arrange for the emigration of 120,000 Jews, an ethically thorny collaboration which saved many lives—and landed Murmelstein in prison.” See the reviews from Cannes.
John Maloof and Charlie Siskel’s Finding Vivian Maier. “This intriguing documentary shuttles from New York to France to Chicago as it traces the life story of the late Vivien Maier, a career nanny whose previously unknown cache of 100,000 photographs has earned her a posthumous reputation as one of America’s most accomplished and insightful street photographers.” Update: Sundance Selects has picked up U.S. rights. Anne Thompson reports.
Sarah McCarthy’s The Dark Matter of Love. “McCarthy (The Sound of Mumbai: A Musical) returns to the Festival with this extraordinary portrait of a Wisconsin family’s struggle to bond with a trio of Russian orphans—the last such case to predate Russia’s recent controversial ban on adoptions by Americans.”
Errol Morris‘s The Unknown Known. “Morris (The Fog of War, Standard Operating Procedure) continues his exploration of post-9/11 American imperialism with this riveting, feature-length interview with notorious former U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.”
Pan Nalin’s Faith Connections. “A spectacular exploration of varied paths of devotion that converge at one of the world’s most extraordinary religious events—the Kumbh Mela—Pan Nalin’s thoughtful documentary is a genuinely spiritual journey.”
Jehane Noujaim’s The Square. “This documentary epic is the result of director Jehane Noujaim (Control Room) and her crew’s dogged chronicling of activism, unrest and revolution in Cairo’s Tahrir Square.”
Alanis Obomsawin’s Hi-Ho Mistahey! “Internationally acclaimed filmmaker and activist Alanis Obomsawin (Kahnesatake: 270 Years of Resistance) chronicles the Attawapiskat First Nation’s campaign to draw global attention to the Canadian government’s shocking neglect of Aboriginal youth education.”
Marcel Ophüls’s Ain’t Misbehavin’. “Master documentarian Marcel Ophüls (The Sorrow and the Pity) turns his gaze back on his own extraordinary life with this memoir, both rigorous and playful, that touches on love, arduous investigations into fraught moments in recent history, and Ophüls’ famous father, director of such masterpieces as The Earrings of Madame de…“
Frank Pavich’s Jodorowsky’s Dune “explores the genesis of one of cinema’s greatest epics that never was: cult filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky’s (El Topo) adaptation of Frank Herbert’s sci-fi classic Dune, whose cast would have included such icons as Salvador Dalí, Orson Welles and Mick Jagger.” See the reviews from Cannes.
Penn & Teller’s Tim’s Vermeer. “Renowned illusionists and professional debunkers Penn & Teller unite for this documentary investigation into the mysterious methods of Dutch Master Johannes Vermeer, whose photo-realistic paintings predated the invention of the camera by 150 years.” TheWrap‘s Brent Lang reports that Sony Pictures Classics has already picked up this one.
Leanne Pooley’s Beyond the Edge. “Pooley (The Topp Twins) employs rarely seen footage, extensive archival interviews and stunning 3D technology to recreate the epic tale of Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay’s conquest of Mt. Everest in 1953.”
Ventura Pons’s Ignasi M. “Spanish director Ventura Pons returns to documentary filmmaking with this study of world-renowned museum expert Ignasi Millet. HIV-positive yet promiscuous, accustomed to opulence yet now struggling to endure Spain’s economic crisis, Ignasi is a fascinating set of contradictions—and Pons’ film is a portrait of both the man and his times.”
Madeleine Sackler’s Unstable Elements. “In the Republic of Belarus, Europe’s last remaining unreconstructed Communist dictatorship, the Belarus Free Theatre risks censorship, imprisonment and worse to stage their provocative and subversive plays in secret performances at home and to critical acclaim abroad. Director Madeleine Sackler goes behind the scenes with this group of gutsy performers as they brave a renewed government crackdown on dissenters in 2010.”
Jody Shapiro’s Burt’s Buzz. “Shapiro (How to Start Your Own Country) ventures into the backwoods of Maine to find the reclusive Burt Shavitz, founder and (bearded) face of the all-natural personal care brand Burt’s Bees, in this wry, thoughtful and intimate portrait of a highly idiosyncratic pioneer.”
David Turner and Lara Zizic’s Mission Congo. “During an escalating refugee crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo, U.S. televangelist Pat Robertson took to the airwaves to raise millions for Operation Blessing, a charity project he deemed a total success. This jaw-dropping documentary investigates what really happened and unearths the real object of Robertson’s operation.”
Frederick Wiseman’s At Berkeley. “Direct cinema pioneer Frederick Wiseman takes an in-depth look at the preeminent American university during a fall semester that saw a vigorous debate taking place over tuition hikes, budget cuts, and the future of higher education in the United States.”
Alan Zweig’s When Jews Were Funny. “Insightful and often hilarious, the latest from documentary filmmaker Alan Zweig surveys the history of Jewish comedy, from the early days of Borsht belt to the present, ultimately exploring not just ethnicity in the entertainment industry, but also the entire unruly question of what it means to be Jewish.”
Alexandre Aja’s Horns. “Blamed for the brutal murder of his longtime girlfriend (Juno Temple), a small-town guy (Daniel Radcliffe) awakens one morning to find a pair of horns growing from his head, in this offbeat supernatural thriller from horror ace Alexandre Aja (Haute tension, Piranha 3D).”
Christoffer Boe’s Sex, Drugs & Taxation. “In 1960s Denmark, an alcoholic playboy and a meek tax lawyer join forces to revolutionize the travel industry and alter the country’s political landscape, in this shocking, often hysterical, always compelling quasi-biopic.”
Juan Cavestany’s People in Places. “Working with the tiniest of micro-budgets, first-time feature filmmaker Juan Cavestany stages a series of bizarre, Buñuelian scenarios that offer a cracked view of contemporary Spain in the wake of the economic crisis.”
Chung Mong-Hong’s Soul. “Acclaimed Taiwanese filmmaker Chung Mong-Hong (The Fourth Portrait) delivers a fascinating and chilling meditation on spiritual migration and reincarnation in this stylish psychological thriller, about a transient soul who develops an unsettling bond with the stranger who comes to inhabit his body.”
Alexey Fedorchenko’s Celestial Wives of the Meadow Mari. “Comprised of 23 vignettes illuminating the pagan-influenced mores of western Russia’s Meadow Mari, the latest film from director Alexey Fedorchenko (Silent Souls) is a beguiling, painterly portrait of a culture driven by a ritualistic appreciation of female beauty and feminine sexuality.” As Carole Horst reports for Variety, the film’s just won the top award at the New Horizons International Film Festival, where Béla Tarr presided over the jury.
Simon and Zeke Hawkins’ We Gotta Get Out of This Place. “First-time feature directors Simon and Zeke Hawkins tip their hat to pulp crime master Jim Thompson in this tight, twisty, Texas-set nouveau noir about three teenage friends who get in way over their head when they cross a down-home crime syndicate.”
Brillante Ma Mendoza’s Sapi. “In this caustic cultural satire, Philippine master and Festival veteran Brillante Mendoza (Thy Womb) sets his sights on the moral failings of the contemporary news media.”
Zack Parker’s PROXY. “Seeking consolation in a support group after a vicious attack, a young woman gradually comes to realize that nothing in her life is as it appears, in this shocking and challenging thriller from director Zack Parker (Scalene).”
Jeremy Saulnier’s Blue Ruin. “When the man who killed his parents is released from prison, a rootless drifter returns to his Virginia hometown to seek revenge, in this stark, brutal mixture of character study and revenge thriller.” See the reviews from Cannes.
Onur Ünlü’s Thou Gild’st the Even. “Turkish writer-director Onur Ünlü’s mysterious, fantastical-scatological fable follows a barber who survives a suicide attempt and finds himself falling in love, succumbing to murderous jealousy, and trying to make sense of life in a village where his neighbors are invisible, immortal or possess the ability to stop time.”
Alex van Warmerdam’s Borgman. “This eerie, imaginative home invasion drama concerns a nomadic tribe who are driven from their network of shelters, abused and humiliated, and wind up waging a conflict against an affluent household. Dutch director Alex van Warmerdam’s latest is a captivating allegory about the psychic tensions that permeate modern-day society.” Reviews from Cannes.
Ti West’s The Sacrament. “Inspired by the infamous mass suicide of Peoples Temple cultists at Jonesetown, Guyana, the latest film from indie genre icon Ti West (The House of the Devil, The Innkeepers) sends frequent collaborators AJ Bowen, Amy Seimetz, Joe Swanberg and Kentucker Audley on a harrowing journey into madness and messianic bloodshed.”
Yeon Sangho’s The Fake. “The sophomore feature from provocative South Korean animator Yeon Sangho (The King of Pigs) is a blistering critique of organized religion, set in a rural village where a manipulative church minister schemes to defraud his flock.”
Thanos Anastopoulos’s The Daughter. “Taking inspiration from the financial crisis that continues to devastate Greece, the third feature from Thanos Anastopoulous is a taut and timely thriller as well as an artful political allegory, about a teenage girl who abducts the young son of the man she blames for her own father’s bankruptcy.”
Alexandros Avranas’s Miss Violence. “Avranas’s chilling and incisive drama recounts an 11-year-old girl’s inexplicable suicide—and the family secrets that surround the tragedy.”
Aran Hughes and Christina Koutsospyrou’s To the Wolf. “A formally ambitious fusion of drama and documentary, this debut feature from co-directors Christina Koutsospyrou and Aran Hughes is a darkly humorous portrait of a community of beleaguered goatherds, set against the rugged, ravishing beauty of rural Greece.”
Menelaos Karamaghiolis’s J.A.C.E. – Just Another Confused Elephant. “The abduction of an Albanian-Greek orphan is the catalyst for an epic picaresque misadventure through Athens’ seedy underbelly in this dazzling sophomore feature.”
Penny Panayotopoulou’s September. “After a 10-year hiatus from filmmaking, director Penny Panayotopoulou makes her highly-anticipated return to the Festival with this poignant study of a solitary woman who develops an increasingly peculiar attachment to a neighboring family following the death of her dog.”
Argyris Papadimitropoulos and Jan Vogel’s Wasted Youth. “Based on a violent real-life event that shook Athens, this drama about a frustrated policeman and a teenage skateboarder set to cross paths during a scorching summer day goes from a steady boil to a furious finale, simultaneously indicting Greek corruption and serving as an homage to its multifaceted capital.”
Elina Psykou’s The Eternal Return of Antonis Paraskevas. “A drolly absurd addition to Greece’s recent New Wave, this accomplished debut feature from Elina Psykou stars Christos Stergioglou (Dogtooth) as a veteran television host whose plummeting ratings and spiraling personal debt prompt him to stage his own kidnapping.”
Yannis Sakaridis’s Wild Duck. “Subtly echoing the 2005 episode dubbed ‘the Greek Watergate,’ a pair of telecom engineers set out to investigate hacker activity and make a scandalous discovery, in this timely and politically charged debut.”
Yorgos Servetas’s Standing Aside, Watching. “Antigone returns from Athens to her troubled hometown, determined to keep a low profile. But this is a complex, difficult woman—her name is no coincidence—and her run-ins with the town’s brutish men set a dramatic series of events in motion. A moral drama with an edge.”
Filippos Tsitos’s Unfair World. “Taking his cues from the mordant wit of Aki Kaurismäki, Filippos Tsitos directs this deadpan fable about an Athens police interrogator whose efforts to aid an innocent suspect go fatefully awry.”
Lino Brocka’s Manila in the Claws of Light (1975). “A brilliant fusion of florid melodrama and gritty realism, Lino Brocka’s story of a country boy traversing the myriad pitfalls of Manila’s urban jungle—presented here in a dazzling 4K restoration—is widely considered to be the greatest Philippine film of all time.”
David Cronenberg‘s Shivers (1975). “Cronenberg’s third feature film, announced him as the master of ‘body horror’ and features a fast spreading parasite that quickly overruns a Montreal apartment complex, turning residents into sex-crazed zombies. Shivers is presented in a new digital restoration created by TIFF in anticipation of the upcoming Fall exhibition, David Cronenberg: Evolution.”
Joseph H. Lewis’s Gun Crazy (1950). “This stylistically audacious, seminal ‘rural noir’ from director Joseph H. Lewis placed American reverence for firearms in its crosshairs, unloading a sociopathic-erotic crime spree—and setting the template for subsequent lovers-on-the-run thrillers like Bonnie and Clyde.”
Chris Marker and Pierre Lhomme’s Le joli mai (1963). “Marker’s epic ‘direct cinema’ portrait of Paris in May 1962 returns in this meticulous new restoration by the film’s cinematographer and co-director Pierre Lhomme.”
Yasujiro Ozu’s An Autumn Afternoon (1962), a “sublime final film… as great in its way as his earlier masterpieces Tokyo Story and Early Summer.”
Alain Resnais’s Hiroshima mon amour (1959). “A French actress (Emmanuelle Riva) recalls her traumatic wartime past while having an affair with a Japanese architect in Alain Resnais’s masterful meditation on time, memory and forgetfulness.”
Roberto Rossellini’s Rome, Open City (1945). “Shot in the war-torn streets of Rome, using remnants of film stock and relying on erratic electricity, Rome, Open City, presented here in a newly restored print, is one of the key films in cinema history.”