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2014 TIFF: Wiseman, Yes Men, Oppenheimer, Ethan Hawke & Broomfield Offer Docu Treats

This world is indeed a dangerous place and according to TIFF Doc programmer Thom Powers’ it might just be the docu filmmakers and subjects who are truly the “rebels, resisters and risk-takers” of the festival. While there might be a couple of more docu items in store along with a look back at Michael Moore’s Roger & Me, both Toronto, and Telluride auds will be in for treats with the Cannes invited Gabe Polsky’s Red Army and Venice Film Festival competing The Look of Silence (see pic above) from Joshua Oppenheimer (which is easily our most anticipated doc of the year) and Robert Kenner’s Merchants of Doubt — about the greediest folk there are: the spinsters (prediction: look for Kenner to be invited on Real Time with Bill Maher). Other hot commodities include World Premiere status latest from the Laura Nix & The Yes Men (The Yes Men Are Revolting) and Nick Broomfield with his killer was among us item (Tales of the Grim Sleeper). Actor (and Chelsea Walls, The Hottest State director) Ethan Hawke makes a first run at the docu form and is joined by first timers Marah Strauch and Tamara Erde. Here are the titles and descriptions below, and look for several of these items to be covered by our own Jordan M. Smith.  

Beats of the Antonov Hajooj Kuka, Sudan/South Africa World Premiere
Beats of the Antonov follows refugees from the Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains in Sudan as they survive displacement and the trauma of civil war. Music, a cornerstone of their traditions and identity, becomes itself a vehicle for survival.

I Am Here (Wo Jiu Shi Wo) Lixin Fan, China International Premiere
During the summer of 2013, 12 young boys battle each other for the No. 1 spot in Super Boys, a decade-old American Idol-style TV talent show in China. They discover who they are and learn to love each other in the process. From the director of Last Train Home.

Iraqi Odyssey Samir, Iraq/Switzerland/Germany/United Arab Emirates World Premiere
Tracing the emigrations of his family over more than half a century, this riveting documentary epic from acclaimed expatriate Iraqi filmmaker Samir (Forget Baghdad) pays moving homage to the frustrated democratic dreams of a people successively plagued by the horrors of dictatorship, war, and foreign occupation.

Merchants of Doubt Robert Kenner, USA Canadian Premiere
Documentarian Robert Kenner (Food, Inc.) investigates the shadowy world of professional skeptics, whose services are bought and paid for by corporations, think tanks and other special interests to cast doubt and delay on public and governmental action on climate change.

National Diploma (Examen d’Etat) Dieudo Hamadi, France/Congo North American Premiere
A group of young Congolese high-school students who are about to write the exam for their National Diploma in Kisangani, Democratic Republic of Congo, gather in a maquis (communal house) to help each other prepare. It is common practice to be ejected from classes during the school year for failing to pay “teachers’ fees”, but the students are determined, and resort to all means at their disposal to earn a diploma, a stepping stone out of a life of poverty.

National Gallery Frederick Wiseman, France/USA North American Premiere
Master documentarian Frederick Wiseman (Crazy Horse, At Berkeley) takes the audience behind the scenes of this London institution, which is inhabited by masterpieces of Western art from the Middle Ages to the 19th century. In a perpetual and dizzying game of mirrors, the film presents a portrait of a place, its inner workings, and its relationship with the world, its staff, its public and its paintings.

Natural Resistance Jonathan Nossiter, Italy/France North American Premiere
A group of Italian vineyard proprietors live a life many can only dream of. In their converted 11th-century monastery and winery in Tuscany, Giovanna Tiezzi and Stefano Borsa find a way to grow grains, fruit and wine that create a link to their ancient Etruscan heritage. Ten years after Mondovino, the wine world has changed just like the world itself. The enemy is now far greater than the threat of globalization. But against the new world economy, these natural wine rebels offer a model of charmed and joyous resistance.

Red Army Gabe Polsky, USA/Russia Canadian Premiere
Red Army follows the most successful dynasty in sports history: the Soviet Union’s Red Army hockey team of the 1980s. Told from the perspective of its captain Slava Fetisov, the story portrays his transformation from national hero to political enemy. From the USSR to Russia, the film examines how sport mirrors social and cultural movements, and parallels the rise and fall of the Red Army team with the Soviet Union. An inspiring story about the Cold War played out on the ice rink, and the man who stood up to a powerful system and paved the way for change for generations of Russians.

Seymour: An Introduction Ethan Hawke, USA International Premiere
Director Ethan Hawke explores the life and lessons of pianist, teacher and sage, Seymour Bernstein. Since giving up a career as a concert pianist at age 50, Seymour has dedicated his life to teaching his students about music, happiness and the power of detaching satisfaction from success.

Silvered Water, Syria Self-Portrait (Ma’a al Fidda) North American Premiere
Ossama Mohammed and Wiam Simav Bedirxan, Syria/France
The collaboration between exiled Syrian filmmaker Ossama Mohammed and young Kurdish activist Wiam Simav Bedirxan distills footage from thousands of clandestine videos to create a shattering, on-the-ground documentary chronicle of the ordeal being undergone by ordinary Syrians in the ongoing civil war.

Sunshine Superman Marah Strauch, USA/Norway/United Kingdom World Premiere
Sunshine Superman tells the story of Carl Boenish who pioneered and popularized the activity of BASE jumping (jumping from fixed objects with a parachute). Carl married Jean Campbell and together they travelled to Norway in 1984 to jump from the cliffs of Trollveggen. Against the backdrop of the midnight sun, tragedy strikes.

Tales of the Grim Sleeper Nick Broomfield, USA/United Kingdom World Premiere
Nick Broomfield digs into the case of the notorious serial killer Lonnie Franklin, known as the “Grim Sleeper,” who terrorized South Central Los Angeles over a span of 25 years.

The Look of Silence (Senyap) Joshua Oppenheimer, Denmark/Indonesia/Norway/Finland/United Kingdom Canadian Premiere
Through Joshua Oppenheimer’s work with perpetrators of the Indonesian genocide, a family of survivors discover who killed their son. The youngest brother is determined to break the spell of silence and fear under which the survivors live, and confronts the men
responsible for his brother’s murder.

This Is My Land Tamara Erde, France World Premiere
This film follows several Israeli and Palestinian teachers over one academic year, observing their exchanges and confrontations with students, their debates with their respective ministries’ curriculum and its restrictions, and offering an intimate glimpse into the profound and long-lasting effect that the Israeli/Palestinian conflict transmits onto the next generation.

The Yes Men Are Revolting Laura Nix and The Yes Men, USA World Premiere
For two decades, The Yes Men have pulled off hilarious and spectacular media hoaxes to expose corporate crime. In this intimate portrait, they are now approaching middle age and struggle to stay inspired as the worst crime of all threatens the planet. Can they get it together before the ice caps melt?

Eric Lavallée is the founder, CEO, editor-in-chief, film journalist, and critic at IONCINEMA.com, established in 2000. A regular at Sundance, Cannes, and Venice, Eric holds a BFA in film studies from the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema. In 2013, he served on the narrative competition jury at the SXSW Film Festival. He was an associate producer on Mark Jackson’s "This Teacher" (2018 LA Film Festival, 2018 BFI London). In 2022, he was a New Flesh Juror for Best First Feature at the Fantasia International Film Festival. Current top films for 2023 include The Zone of Interest (Glazer), Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell (Pham Thien An), Totem (Lila Avilés), La Chimera (Alice Rohrwacher), All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt (Raven Jackson).

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