Toronto Film Festival 2009: Documentaries

Apocalyptic Visions, a Blind Dogsled Racer, Disappearing Bees, Trans-Atlantic Turtles, an Art World Controversy, Yodelling Lesbians, The White Stripes across Canada and more!

Toronto – The Toronto International Film Festival announces a slate of seventeen documentaries, to date, that will screen as part of the 34th edition of the Festival. Bridging programmes such as Vanguard, Real to Reel, Special Presentations and Sprockets Family Zone, this year’s docs expose diverse topics, from revelations in the realms of politics, justice, religion and arts to probing explorations of cultural phenomena and the natural world.

“This year’s documentaries have a sense of immediacy like never before,” said Thom Powers, TIFF documentary programmer. “Current events are getting a fresh perspective in films about the post-crash economy, Iran, Berlusconi, surrogate mothers, U.S. Army veterans and more. These films are sure to generate a lot of debate.”

Now live at tiff.net/blogs, the Festival’s Doc Blog returns to offer visitors all of the exciting details and comprehensive information surrounding this year’s inspired non-fiction films, and will feature contributions from programmers and filmmakers alike.



The White Stripes Under Great White Northern Lights Emmett Malloy, USA

World Premiere

An intimate look inside The White Stripes’ cross-Canada tour, as Jack and Meg White touch down in remote northern communities and surprising city venues.

Real to Reel

The Art of the Steal Don Argott, USA

World Premiere

This art-world whodunit investigates what happened to the Barnes collection of Post-Impressionist paintings—valued in the billions—that fell prey to a power struggle after the death of owner Albert Barnes.

Bassidji Mehran Tamadon, Iran/France/Switzerland

International Premiere

For three years, Mehran Tamadon immersed himself into the very heart of the most extremist supporters of the Islamic republic of Iran (the Bassidjis) to understand their ideas.

Cleanflix Andrew James and Joshua Ligairi, USA

World Premiere

The Mormon religion preaches against the content of R-rated films, so several Utah-based entrepreneurs started offering “clean” versions of Hollywood movies at specialty DVD stores. But the thriving industry runs into legal problems and its own sex scandal.

Collapse Chris Smith, USA

World Premiere

From the acclaimed director of American Movie, this portrait of radical thinker Michael Ruppert explores his apocalyptic vision of the future, spanning the crises in economics, energy, environment and more.

Colony Carter Gunn and Ross McDonnell, Ireland

World Premiere

Several beekeepers around the U.S. cope with colony collapse disorder – the phenomenon that has caused millions of bees to mysteriously disappear – in this beautifully shot debut from a gifted directing duo.

Google Baby Zippi Brand Frank, Israel

International Premiere

In India, the latest form of outsourcing is surrogate mothers who carry embryos for couples who can’t have a child. Director Zippi Brand Frank follows an entrepreneur who proposes a new service – baby production for western customers.

How to Fold a Flag Michael Tucker and Petra Epperlein, USA

World Premiere

The makers of Gunner Palace follow U.S. soldiers as they create new lives post-Iraq—from a Congressional candidate in Buffalo to a cage fighter in Louisiana—set against the backdrop of the 2008 election.

L’Enfer de Henri-Georges Clouzot Serge Bromberg and Ruxandra Medrea, France

North American Premiere

Film archivist Serge Bromberg uncovers a treasure trove of imagery from an unfinished film called L’Enfer starring Romy Schneider and directed by the French master Henri-Georges Clouzot, known for Wages of Fear and Diabolique.

The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers

Judith Ehrlich and Rick Goldsmith, USA

World Premiere

Daniel Ellsberg was a valued strategist inside the American government until he leaked the Pentagon Papers and exposed the lies of the Vietnam War. This thrilling documentary chronicles this momentous chapter in history and how Richard Nixon’s obsession over the case brought down his own government.

Presumed Guilty Roberto Hernández and Geoffrey Smith, Mexico

World Premiere

Two young Mexican attorneys attempt to exonerate a wrongly convicted man by making a documentary. In the process, they expose the contradictions of a judicial system that presumes suspects guilty until proven innocent.

Schmatta: Rags to Riches to Rags Marc Levin, USA

World Premiere

Veteran filmmaker Mark Levin (Slam) looks at the past and present of New York’s garment district, from its heyday as a base for immigrant labour and unions to its recent decline.

Snowblind Vikram Jayanti, USA/United Kingdom

International Premiere

Rachael Scdoris, a blind 23-year-old, doesn’t let her disability stop her from competing in one of the most gruelling endurance contests in the world: the Iditarod dogsled race traversing 1,100 miles of Alaska’s most rugged terrain. But being blind is only the start of her challenges.

The Topp Twins: Untouchable Girls Leanne Pooley, New Zealand

North American Premiere

Fun, disarming and musically provocative, the Topp Twins are New Zealand’s finest lesbian country-and-western singers and the country’s greatest export since rack of lamb and the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy.

Videocracy Erik Gandini, Sweden

North American Premiere

This penetrating look at the media empire of Italy’s prime minister Silvio Berlosconi reveals how his reality TV shows full of bikini-clad women enriched his friends and beguiled a nation.

Special Presentation

Good Hair Jeff Stilson, USA

Canadian Premiere

Rendered speechless by his daughter’s question—“Daddy, how come I don’t have good hair?”—comedian Chris Rock embarks on a quest to understand African American hair culture.

Sprockets Family Zone

Turtle: The Incredible Journey Nick Stringer, United Kingdom/Austria/Germany

Canadian Premiere

Join a logger heard turtle on an extraordinary journey through the fascinating underwater world and witness how changes in the oceans are affecting marine life in this beautiful and spectacular ocean adventure.

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