TIFF Announces Canadian Documentaries for 2018

Astra Taylor’s What is Democracy?

By Pat Mullen

TIFF unveiled its CanCon today. The documentary line-up offers six features and two shorts. This count is up one from last year’s documentary feature tally, although the number of shorts is slightly down.

World premiering at the festival is Barry Avrich’s Prosecuting Evil: The Extraordinary World of Ben Ferencz, which profiles 98-year-old lawyer Ben Ferencz, the last surviving prosecutor of the famed Nuremberg trials that examined the crimes of the Holocaust. North American Premieres include Astra Taylor’s NFB doc What is Democracy?, which The Guardian called a “searing analysis of who’s really in control” when the doc debuted at Sheffield earlier this summer. Ron Mann’s groovy music doc Carmine Street Guitars also has its North American Premiere at TIFF. The doc is the lone Canadian feature at Venice this year.

Two major documentary trilogies come full circle at #TIFF18. Rob Stewart’s final film, Sharkwater: Extinction is bound to be a sentimental highlight of this year’s festival. Stewart drowned in 2017 while researching the film. Also debuting is Anthropocene, the third part in the trilogy of artfully thoughtful eco docs by Jennifer Baichwal, Edward Burtynsky, and Nicholas de Pencier that began with Manufactured Landscapes and Watermark. Rounding out the feature docs is the world premiere of Igor Drjlača’s haunting The Stone Speakers in the Wavelengths programme.

On the shorts front, hybrid works by Sofia Bohdanowicz and Sophy Romvari highlight exciting new talent.

Other Canadian films include new dramas by Denys Arcand, Bruce Sweeney, Thom Fitzgerald, Maxime Giroux, and Andrea Bussmann.

The Canadian docs at TIFF this year are:


Carmine Street Guitars
Dir. Ronn Mann | North American Premiere

Once the centre of the New York bohemia, Greenwich Village is now home to lux restaurants, and buzzer door clothing stores catering to the nouveau riche. But one shop in the heart of the Village remains resilient to the encroaching gentrification: Carmine Street Guitars.

Prosecuting Evil: The Extraordinary World of Ben Ferencz
Dir. Barry Avrich | World Premiere

Barry Avrich’s gripping documentary Prosecuting Evil: The Extraordinary World of Ben Ferencz tells the fascinating story of one man’s lifelong quest for justice for victims of crimes against humanity – a concept Ferencz was instrumental in developing after The Nuremberg Trials post-World War II.

What is Democracy?
Dir. Astra Taylor | North American Premiere

Featuring a diverse cast — including celebrated philosophers, trauma surgeons, factory workers, refugees, and politicians — _What Is Democracy? _connects past and present, emotion and the intellect, the personal and the political, to provoke and inspire. If we want to live in democracy, we must first ask what the word even means.

Special Presentations

Dir. Jennifer Baichwal, Edward Burtynsky, Nicholas de Pencier | World Premiere

Third in a trilogy that includes Manufactured Landscapes (2006) and Watermark (2013), the film follows the research of an international body of scientists, the Anthropocene Working Group who, after nearly 10 years of research, are arguing that the evidence shows the Holocene Epoch gave way to the Anthropocene Epoch in the mid-twentieth century, as a result of profound and lasting human changes to the Earth.

Special Event

Sharkwater: Extinction
Dir. Rob Stewart | World Premiere

Sharkwater: Extinction is a thrilling and inspiring action packed journey that follows filmmaker Rob Stewart as he exposes the massive illegal shark fin industry and the political corruption behind it — a conspiracy that is leading to the extinction of sharks.


The Stone Speakers
Dir. Igor Drjlača | World Premiere

Festival veteran Igor Drljaca returns with his first documentary feature, a visually sumptuous piece which oscillates between sly humour and trenchant analysis while exploring unusual tourism-related attempts to rescesitate economies in Bosnia and Herzogovina and the surrounding Balkan region.

Short Cuts

Norman Norman
Dir. Sophy Romvari | World Premiere

A 17-year-old dog listens to news of Barbra Streisand’s choice to clone her dogs. He does not seem amused.

Veslemøy’s Song
Dir. Sofia Bohdanowicz | North American Premiere

The film follows a young woman named Audrey Benac who delves into the archives of the New York Public Library in search of a rare recording produced.

TIFF runs Sept. 6-16
Visit tiff.net for more information.