The 27th Toronto International Film Festival (September 5 to 14) made a full recovery from last year’s shock-infused event, with rush ticket lineups winding down entire city blocks and a plethora of frenzied industry members draining their expense accounts at hotel bars. The 344 films that played the fest – more than 30 of which were docs – attracted 250,000 attendees to public screenings and 50,000 to press and industry screenings.
Although the press crush that plagued many of the major drama films was (thankfully) absent from the industry screenings for docs, the genre claimed its fair share of attention. Michael Moore’s Bowling for Columbine packed the house and met with applause when the credits started to roll. The film was a runner-up for the People’s Choice Award. The Sunday 10 P.M. public screening of Eugene Jarecki’s The Trials of Henry Kissinger was also well attended, although not by the filmmaker himself. Real to Reel programmer Sean Farnel commented, ‘I get suspicious when the filmmaker of a critical doc about Kissinger doesn’t show up for his Q&A.’ (Jarecki was held up by a flight delay.)
The volume of films at TIFF, and the number of Hollywood names that head north each year for the festival, lead many doc-makers to wonder if their project will be lost in the lineup. This year, most were pleasantly surprised to learn their fears were unfounded. North American theatrical rights for Spellbound were picked up by ThinkFilm. Director Jeff Blitz says the film will be released in 2003. Lions Gate Films acquired North American rights to the feature film Stevie, by American director Steve James (Hoop Dreams). Udi Aloni attended with his largely self-financed film, Local Angel: Theological Political Fragments, which was snapped up by a Los Angeles, U.S.-based sales agent. Local Angel was also issued an invitation to screen at the Berlin International Film Festival in February. Horns and Halos, by co-directors Suki Hawley and Michael Galinsky, is being considered for acquisition by a New York-based pay-TV channel.
Revered Canadian filmmaker Allan King was honored with a retrospective of his work. During the festival, he announced the launch of Documentary Studio. Each year, the venture will see six Canadian filmmakers produce an hour-long doc each, with the help of King and his associates, who will act as mentors. The first six films will air on Canadian digital outlet The Documentary Channel.