Mr. Dressup: The Magic of Make-Believe | CBC Still Photo Collection/Paul Smith

Mr. Dressup, Fred Wiseman Lead TIFF Docs Line-Up

Festival slate features acquisition titles and Oscar winners

10 mins read

Auteur filmmakers, marquee names, hot topics, and acquisition titles are among the offerings in the TIFF Docs line-up for this year’s Toronto International Film Festival. TIFF announced the non-fiction slate today with 22 feature docs joining the line-up. 16 of the films are sales titles as the festival continues to emphasize the business that goes down in Toronto.

Buyers might want to take special note of the sales titles, which include the TIFF Docs opening night film Copa 71. Directed by James Erskine (Billie) and Rachel Ramsay in her feature directorial debut, Copa 71 tells the story of the 1971 Women’s Soccer World Cup, which featured record attendance for a public sporting event but has largely been overlooked in history. The doc offers unique footage of the games along with perspectives of surviving players as the Summer of Soul of sports docs. Copa 71 credits sisters Venus and Serena Williams among its executive producers.

“This year’s slate of TIFF Docs titles is guaranteed to start conversations,” said TIFF Docs programmer Thom Powers in a statement from the festival. “Audiences can expect big emotions that run the gamut over extraordinary accomplishments, quests for justice, and poignant personal journeys. Many of these attention-getting titles will be coming to the Festival looking for buyers.”

Other docs looking for homes bring some major names to TIFF. Menus Plaisirs – Les Troisgros, the new film from prolific veteran Frederick Wiseman, will make its North American premiere in Toronto after debuting in Venice. The doc offers a portrait of the titular restaurant in Ouches, France that holds a coveted three Michelin stars. Wiseman’s latest indulges foodies with a generous helping of documentary and clocks in at a whopping 240 minutes—roughly the time it takes to eat dinner at one of Toronto’s own Michelin-starred digs.

Other notable names include Succession star Hiam Abbas, who is the subject of Bye Bye Tiberias. Directed by Abbas’s daughter, Lina Soualem, the film chronicles the actor’s journey from Palestine to Hollywood.

Oscar Winners and Canadian Content

Also seeking to make a sale is Oscar nominee Lucy Walker’s Mountain Queen: The Summits of Lhakpa Sherpa. The film profiles a dishwasher at a Connecticut Whole Foods with a past life as a mountain climber. Meanwhile, veteran Anand Patwardhan returns with one of his most personal works yet, The World Is Family. Drawn from home movies with an incisive look at India’s caste system, the film lets Toronto audiences dive deeper into the oeuvre of the master filmmaker who was fêted with the 2022 Outstanding Achievement Award from Hot Docs.

Two Oscar winners and festival favourites will also touch down in the TIFF Docs programme. Errol Morris returns with The Pigeon Tunnel, a profile of former British spy David Cornwell, best known to audiences as master of the spy thriller, John le Carré (Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy; The Constant Gardener). The Pigeon Tunnel will hit AppleTV+ this October following its festival run. Meanwhile, Roger Ross Williams continues his exceptionally prolific year by bringing his latest doc Stamped from the Beginning to Toronto. The film examines the history of anti-Black racism in the U.S. and will later stream on Netflix.

On the Canadian front, TIFF Docs will world premiere Mr. Dressup: The Magic of Make-Believe, directed by Rob McCallum. The film offers a profile of beloved children’s TV icon Mr. Dressup, the man who entertained and educated generations of Canadians. Boil Alert, directed by Stevie Salas and James Burns, follows Mohawk multidisciplinary artist Layla Staats as she investigates water contamination among Indigenous communities. Summer Qamp, directed by Jen Markowitz, observes a summer camp where LGBTQ+ youths can connect with fellow queer campers. These films join previously announced Canadian docs Hate to Love: Nickelback and Swan Song, which will play in the Galas and Special Presentations programmes, respectively.

 

Festival Favourites Return

Other notable entries in the TIFF Docs slate include the world premiere of Raoul Peck’s Silver Dollar Road. The doc observes a Black family’s fight to save its North Carolina property from developers. Peck’s I Am Not Your Negro won the People’s Choice Award for Documentary in 2016 before scoring an Oscar nomination. Meanwhile, Agnès Varda, director of 2017’s People’s Choice Award winner for documentary (Faces Places), is the subject of Viva Varda!. The doc by Pierre-Henri Gibert salutes the beloved late filmmaker and is sure to be a sentimental favourite with audiences.

TIFF Docs also brings both of this year’s winners for the l’Œil d’Or at Cannes. The Mother of All Lies, directed by Asmae El Moudir, will have its North American premiere at TIFF. Its co-winner, Four Daughters, directed by Kaouther Ben Hania, was announced for the Special Presentations programme. Both docs are portraits of family secrets.

The line-up also doesn’t shy away from tough topics. Sorry/Not Sorry, directed by Caroline Suh and Cara Mones, looks at the fallout faced by women who accused comedian Louis C.K. of sexual harassment. Meanwhile, stories from Ukraine fuel Defiant, directed by Karim Amer, and In the Rearview, directed by Maciek Hamela. TIFF Docs also takes a hard look at the rise of reality television with Claire Titley’s feature directorial debut The Contestant about a Japanese game show contestant who stripped naked and allowed himself to be broadcast 24/7 in a real life counterpart to The Truman Show. Rounding out the TIFF Docs slate are Indigenous stories, environmental sagas, and political thrillers that aim to be among the breakout discoveries of the festival. Also announced previously was Oscar winner Alex Gibney’s In Restless Dreams: The Music of Paul Simon.

 

The films announced today for TIFF Docs are as follows:

 

Boil Alert
Stevie Salas, James Burns | Canada/USA | World Premiere

Bye Bye Tiberias
Lina Soualem | France/Belgium/Qatar/Palestine | North American Premiere
Sales Title

TIFF DOCS OPENING NIGHT FILM
Copa 71
Rachel Ramsay, James Erskine | United Kingdom | World Premiere
Sales Title

Defiant
Karim Amer | Ukraine/United Kingdom/USA | World Premiere
Sales Title

Flipside
Chris Wilcha | USA | World Premiere
Sales Title

God Is a Woman
Andrés Peyrot | France/Switzerland/Panama | North American Premiere
Sales Title

Homecoming
Suvi West, Anssi Kömi | Finland/Norway | World Premiere

In the Rearview
Maciek Hamela | Poland/France/Ukraine | North American Premiere
Sales Title

Menus-Plaisirs Les Troisgros
Frederick Wiseman | France/USA | North American Premiere
Sales Title

Mountain Queen: The Summits of Lhakpa Sherpa
Lucy Walker | USA | World Premiere
Sales Title

Mr. Dressup: The Magic of Make-Believe
Robert McCallum | Canada | World Premiere

Silver Dollar Road
Raoul Peck | USA | World Premiere

Songs of Earth
Margreth Olin | Norway | North American Premiere
Sales Title

Sorry/Not Sorry
Caroline Suh, Cara Mones | USA | World Premiere
Sales Title

Stamped From the Beginning
Roger Ross Williams | USA | World Premiere

Summer Qamp
Jen Markowitz | Canada | World Premiere
Sales Title

The Contestant
Clair Titley | United Kingdom | World Premiere
Sales Title

The Mother of All Lies
Asmae El Moudir | Morocco/Egypt/Saudi Arabia/Qatar | North American Premiere
Sales Title

The Pigeon Tunnel
Errol Morris | United Kingdom/USA/Hungary | International Premiere

The World Is Family
Anand Patwardhan | India | World Premiere
Sales Title

Viva Varda!
Pierre-Henri Gibert | France | North American Premiere
Sales Title

Walls
Kasia Smutniak | Italy | World Premiere
Sales Title

 

TIFF runs Sept. 7 to 17, 2023.

Pat Mullen is the publisher of POV Magazine. He holds a Master’s in Film Studies from Carleton University where his research focused on adaptation and Canadian cinema. Pat has also contributed to outlets including The Canadian Encyclopedia, Paste, That Shelf, Sharp, Xtra, and Complex. He is the vice president of the Toronto Film Critics Association and an international voter for the Golden Globe Awards.

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