The Cave directed by Feras Fayyad
Al Ghouta, Syria – Dr. Amani in the underground tunnels. (Photo credit: National Geographic) (The Cave directed by Feras Fayyad)

The Toronto International Film Festival unveiled its lineup of 25 documentary films covering high-profile figures including Truman Capote, Merce Cunningham, Ron Howard, Bikram Choudhury, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, and Imelda Marcos; as well as a broad range of themes, including journalism, immigration, global politics, environmentalism, capitalism, and racism.

The section will open with the World Premiere of The Cave from Oscar-nominated director Feras Fayyad, about an underground hospital led by a female doctor in war-torn Syria. Other World Premieres from renowned directors include Alan Berliner’s Letter to the Editor, a personal reflection on photojournalism; Barbara Kopple’s Desert One, chronicling a perilous mission to rescue hostages in Iran; Thomas Balmès’ Sing Me A Song, following a young monk in Bhutan who forms a long-distance relationship via his smartphone; And We Go Green, about racers in the Formula E competition for electric cars, directed by Fisher Stevens and Malcolm Venville and produced by Leonardo DiCaprio; and Eva Orner’s Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator, about the controversial yoga teacher who had multiple lawsuits filed against him for sexual misconduct.

First-time documentarians present films on prominent figures: Bryce Dallas Howard’s Dads explores fatherhood with leading comedians and her own father, Ron Howard; Alla Kovgan’s Cunningham, shot in 3D, captures the artistry of dancer Merce Cunningham; and Ebs Burnough, who previously served in the Obama administration, makes his debut with The Capote Tapes, a biography of American writer Truman Capote.

The everyday lives of refugees and migrants are brought to centre stage in Eva Mulvad’s Love Child, following a couple at risk of execution for their love affair; Ready for War, directed by Andrew Renzi and executive produced by Drake, Future, and David Ayer, which tells the story of immigrants who served in the US military only to be deported; Hind Meddeb’s Paris Stalingrad which follows migrants from Africa and Afghanistan living on the streets in the city of lights; and My English Cousin, Karim Sayad’s portrait of the director’s real-life Algerian cousin who discovers the challenges of returning home.

Russian politics and the rise of capitalism are examined in Gabe Polsky’s Red Penguins, recounting a comic tale of American hustlers bringing NHL-style hockey to Moscow, and Alex Gibney’s Citizen K, profiling the oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who turned against Russian president Vladimir Putin.

Rounding out the section are stories from around the globe, including Garin Hovannisian’s I Am Not Alone, about a peaceful resistance movement in Armenia; and Mark Cousins’ Women Make Film: A New Road Movie Through Cinema, a recently completed 14-hour exploration of female directors around the world. The first four hours of Women Make Film, which was executive produced by Tilda Swinton, were previewed at last year’s Festival. Alexander Nanau’s Collective follows crusading Romanian journalists who uncover a scandal; Daniel Gordon’s The Australian Dream, executive produced by Ben Simmons, tells the story of football legend Adam Goodes, who battled racism in the AFL; and Lina Al Abed’s Ibrahim: A Fate to Define centres on the mysterious disappearance of a Palestinian secret agent. Also featured are Patricio Guzmán’s The Cordillera of Dreams, completing the director’s trilogy about the Chilean landscape, and Lauren Greenfield’s The Kingmaker, a profile of Imelda Marcos.

Last year’s TIFF Docs lineup showcased Free Solo, which went on to win the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. The 2018 Festival also presented a strong market for distribution deals for titles such as The Biggest Little Farm, The Elephant Queen, and Maiden.

The 44th Toronto International Film Festival runs September 5–15, 2019.

2019 TIFF Docs program

And We Go Green
Fisher Stevens, Malcolm Venville | USA
World Premiere

The Australian Dream
Daniel Gordon | Australia/United Kingdom
International Premiere

Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator
Eva Orner | USA
World Premiere

The Capote Tapes
Ebs Burnough | United Kingdom
World Premiere

TIFF Docs Opening Film*
The Cave
Feras Fayyad | Syria/Denmark/Germany/USA/Qatar
World Premiere

Citizen K
Alex Gibney | USA/United Kingdom
North American Premiere

Collective (Colectiv)
Alexander Nanau | Romania/Luxembourg
North American Premiere

Coppers
Alan Zweig | Canada
World Premiere

The Cordillera of Dreams (La Cordillera de los Sueños)
Patricio Guzmán | France/Chile
North American Premiere

Cunningham
Alla Kovgan | Germany/France/USA
World Premiere

Dads
Bryce Dallas Howard | USA
World Premiere

Desert One
Barbara Kopple | USA
World Premiere

I Am Not Alone
Garin Hovannisian | Armenia/USA
World Premiere

Ibrahim: A Fate to Define
Lina Al Abed | Lebanon/Palestine/Denmark/Qatar/Slovenia
North American Premiere

The Kingmaker
Lauren Greenfield | USA/Denmark
Canadian Premiere

Letter to the Editor
Alan Berliner | USA
World Premiere

Love Child
Eva Mulvad | Denmark
World Premiere

My English Cousin
Karim Sayad | Switzerland/Qatar
World Premiere

Paris Stalingrad
Hind Meddeb | France
International Premiere

Ready for War
Andrew Renzi | USA
World Premiere

Red Penguins
Gabe Polsky | USA/Russia
World Premiere

Sing Me A Song
Thomas Balmès | France/Germany/Switzerland
World Premiere

There’s Something in the Water
Ellen Page, Ian Daniel | Canada
World Premiere

This Is Not a Movie
Yung Chang | Canada/Germany
World Premiere

Women Make Film: A New Road Movie Through Cinema
Mark Cousins | United Kingdom
World Premiere

Previously announced TIFF Docs films include Alan Zweig’s Coppers, Ellen Page and Ian Daniel’s There’s Something in the Water, and Yung Chang’s This Is Not a Movie.

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