Toronto Film Fest 2015: Docus on Musicians and Other Performing Arts

The 2015 Toronto Film Fest will play a large number of documentaries on musicians and other artists in the performing arts.

This year’s doc section contains 31 films, up from 21 last year, and Powers says the field of potential docs, particularly international docs, was so strong, TIFF artistic director Cameron Bailey allocated them extra slots. “I think it really paid off with a rich selection,” Powers adds.

They include titles like Emmanuel Leconte and Daniel Leconte’s Je Suis Charlie, which pays tribute to the victims of the 2015 terrorist attack at the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo that claimed 12 lives as well as the subsequent attack on Jewish shoppers.

Oscar-winner Davis Guggenheim’s He Named Me Malala looks at the young Pakistani woman, Malala Yousafzai, targeted by the Taliban, who has become an activist for women’s rights.

Evgeny Afineevsky’s Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom chronicles the Ukranian uprising that drove President Victor Yanukovych from power — “It comes from Netflix and will remind people of The Square,” Powers says.
In P.S. JerusalemDanae Elon, the daughter of the late author Amos Elon, returns to Jerusalem with her husband and three young sons and records how they experienced the tensions of the city — “It’s an intensely personal, almost diary-like film shot over five years,” the programmer says.
Jennifer Peedom’s Sherpa offers a look at the Sherpas who assist in expeditions to climb Everest — says Powers, “Jennifer was there during the time of the avalanche that killed 16 Sherpas, and while her cameras are rolling, we see the surviving Sherpas standing up to the expedition leaders.”

The line-up also includes a variety of music-related documentaries, following 2013’s Oscar-winning 20 Feet From Stardom, which played Toronto two years ago.  Powers says that film’s success doesn’t account for the apparently sudden popularity of the doc sub-genre.

“Music documentary has a long and distinguished history,” he notes, dating from Monterey Popand the Woodstock documentary.” In fact, many of the music docs playing in Toronto this year have been in the works since long before Stardom bowed.

Morgan Neville, who directed Stardom, began work on his new film The Music of Strangers: Yo Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble, which features the legendary cellist, before he released Stardom.

Similarly, Oscar-winner Barbara Kopple’s Miss Sharon Jones!, about R&B singer Sharon Jones battle with cancer, has been several years in the making.

The doc that’s taken the longest road to the screen is Sydney Pollack’s Amazing Grace, which documents two of Aretha Franklin’s performances in 1972.

Because of the success of 1970’s Woodstock, Warner Bros. commissioned Pollack, who’s been Oscar-nominated for directing 1969’s They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?, to shoot a film about Franklin. vThe production, though, ran into technical problems syncing up its 16-mm film with the sound recording technology available at the time, and the project was set aside by Pollack, who went on to an illustrious career as a director, producer and actor before his death in 2008. Completing the film became the passion project of producer Alan Elliot.