Doc Salon, the documentary-focused panel series launched at last year’s Toronto International Film Festival, will get a second run at this year’s event, which takes place from September 5 to 14.
Inspired by the intimate gatherings held by intellectuals in the 18th century, Doc Salon will take place at the Brownstone Bistro, around the corner from the Uptown Theatre, one of the festival’s key screening venues. Says Kelly Alexander, director, industry for the TIFF Group, ‘It’s a place where international documentary makers can discuss current issues and ideas.’ She continues, ‘The documentaries shown in Toronto are unique, because they garner a lot of attention through their public screenings. We wanted to create a place where the discussion could be carried on – artistically, and on a business level.’
In 2002, the panels were organized by theme: Power, Personal, Poetry and People. Four panels are planned again this year, but the themes are more grounded. The first, ‘Adaptability: Making a non-fiction piece into a documentary film,’ looks at the challenges of translating a non-fiction work (such as a magazine article or book) into a documentary film. ‘Subjects Matter’ discusses the tricky relationship between filmmaker and film subject. The third is ‘Capturing the Momentum: How distributors capitalize on a successful festival screening.’ The fourth will be a discussion between established theatrical doc-makers.
Conceived by Sean Farnel, programmer for TIFF’s Real to Reel doc section, the series is intended to help strengthen the festival’s industry infrastructure for non-fiction filmmakers. ‘We’re trying to leverage the power of the festival,’ he explains. ‘There’s a lot of theatrical distributors here and a lot of directors who work in both documentary and fiction. We want to do things that take advantage of the fact that the documentaries are programmed in the context of international cinema.’
Although no panelists were confirmed at press time, a quick scan of the 27 feature docs playing at TIFF leads to some likely candidates. Touching the Void, from director Kevin Macdonald (One Day in September), is based on Joe Simpson’s international bestseller of the same name, and reconstructs the fateful climb undertaken in 1985 by Simpson and his partner Simon Yates in the Peruvian Andes. The film is a TIFF Special Presentation, and Farnel lets drop that both the director and the author will attend the festival. As well, Mark Achbar – the director behind the adaptation Manufacturing Consent – is attending TIFF with The Corporation, which is playing in the Real to Reel lineup. New York-based distributor ThinkFilm, which handles Spellbound, is in Toronto again this year, with Bus 174, and is a good contender for the distribution panel.
Farnel estimates he received about 400 documentary submissions this year, up from about 350 last year. Although there are some obvious hits in the mix – Errol Morris’s The Fog of War comes to mind – Farnel predicts a few sleeper hits as well. Among them: The Story of the Weeping Camel, by German film students Byambasuren Davaa and Luigi Falorni; The Mayor of Sunset Strip, by Canadian George Hickenlooper; and Australian director Tom Zubrycki’s Molly and Mobarak.