TIFF Doc Conference Programming

Oscar winner Jonathan Demme


By Pat Mullen

The Toronto International Film Festival’s newly announced industry programming for the 2016 festival offers some must-attend events for the Doc Conference along with some talks on trending topics. A number of filmmakers premiering docs at TIFF play a role in the Doc Conference, which runs at the Festival on Tuesday, September 13. (Get passes here.)

Hot items include a discussion with Jonathan Demme on documenting performance. The Oscar-winning director, whose Justin Timberlake concert flick JT + The Tennessee Kids is one of two doc Galas this year, talks about the art of capturing live music on film. Demme’s other music docs include portraits of Neil Young and The Talking Heads. (Read more on the ongoing popularity of music docs here.)

Also notable is a convo with Joe Bini, the editor of Werner Herzog’s outstanding oeuvre including this year’s TIFF Docs selection Into the Inferno. Raoul Peck discusses race in America in conjunction with his new doc I am Not Your Negro, which is among the non-fiction films garnering the strongest advance buzz, while Steve James (Hoop Dreams, Life Itself) gets the keynote slot to talk about his career spanning up to his new film ABACUS.

On the trending side, the Doc Conference dives into true crime, VR, while a session with the new platform Great Big Story plans to announce a partnership with TIFF for unscripted content. Doc makers, take note!

The year’s Doc Conference line-up is as follows:

Race and History: A Conversation with Raoul Peck
I Am Not Your Negro director Raoul Peck (Sometimes in April, Lumumba) brings a fresh and radical perspective to the current racial narratives in America. In this keynote conversation, he discusses what drew him to make this critical film, and his inventive approaches to history throughout his career.

Filming in Exile
In Exile director Tin Win Naing, and Producers Yasmin C. Rams and Rodney Charles discuss the challenges of filming with migrant workers in a remote region. Their experiences offer lessons and inspiration for any filmmaker confronting logistical, ethical, and technical hurdles.

Documentary Meets Virtual Reality
VR experts J. Lee Williams (President, Occupied VR), Ana Serrano (Chief Digital Officer, CFC), Sebastian Sylwan (Visual Effects and Digital Media Technology Executive, Felix & Paul Studio), and Nyla Innuksuk (Partner, Pinnguaq Productions), discuss the state of documentary in VR.

Editing with Herzog: A Conversation with Joe Bini
Editor Joe Bini has worked with Werner Herzog on many films including Cave of Forgotten Dreams, Encounters at the End of the World, Grizzly Man, and Into the Inferno, which is playing at this year’s Festival. In this conversation, he discusses the process of creating these essayistic documentaries.

Documenting In Real Time: A Conversation with Steve James
In his new film, ABACUS: Small Enough to Jail, Oscar-nominated director Steve James (Hoop Dreams; The Interrupters; Life Itself) follows an important story that is virtually unknown outside New York’s Chinatown community: the trial of Abacus, a family-run bank serving Chinese immigrants and the only bank to be criminally indicted by the New York District Attorney after the 2008 mortgage crisis. He joins us to discuss his rich career, and the craft of documenting an unfolding story where the outcome was unknown.

Cinematic Storytelling in the Mobile and Social Age
Great Big Story is a new, independent digital video network backed by CNN, but unlike its parent company, doesn’t focus on breaking news. GBS collaborates with filmmakers on short form, non-fiction, human-interest content. The platform has featured work from accomplished filmmakers such as Zackary Canepari (Briana) and Sharon Liese (The Gnomist). The GBS team of Executive Producer Courtney Coupe, Creative Director Ben Whitla, and Director of Content/Development Matt Drake, discuss how a story package is built from start to finish. They will also announce a new commitment to unscripted shorts coming this fall in partnership with TIFF.

The Art of Performance: A Conversation with Jonathan Demme
Oscar-winning director Jonathan Demme (Stop Making Sense; Silence of the Lambs; Rachel Getting Married) has a rich history of making films with musicians, including The Talking Heads, Robyn Hitchcock, and Neil Young. In his latest JT + The Tennessee Kids, Demme turns his lens on an even larger-scale concert — the final show of Justin Timberlake’s 20/20 tour. He joins us to discuss his approaches to capturing performance and his painstaking process of finding the right cinematic style to reflect different performers.

Inside True Crime
True crime has become a hot topic in documentary. In this session, we speak to a director who’s investigating a complicated case.

TIFF runs Sept. 8 – 18, 2016
Please visit tiff.net for more information.