Feces to be pitched at Toronto doc forum

Projects running the gamut from excrement to atheism will be among the 30 films pitched at next month's Toronto Documentary Forum.
April 8, 2009

Acclaimed curmudgeon Christopher Hitchens will personally present one, while tabloid mainstay Angelina Jolie will produce one of the 30 projects to be pitched at next month’s Hot Docs’ Toronto Documentary Forum.

Hitchens’ God Is Not Great, inspired by his recent book on atheism, and Jolie’s feminist Resilient are among ‘the over 160 projects we received,’ reports Elizabeth Radshaw, the new director of the TDF. Radshaw, who replaced veteran Michaelle McLean last fall, adds, ‘It was tough to choose the winning projects because the quality was so high.’

Still, she admits that the number of submissions is a significant downturn from 2008′s high of 225. ‘The obvious reason’ for the decline, she says, is the tough economic climate, which has produced fewer commissions worldwide.

Nonetheless, documentary producers are an innovative group and it isn’t surprising that Radshaw’s jury was challenged to cut the submissions down to 30.

‘Shit happens’ is an old expression, but in this case it’s factually correct, concerning the Canadian presence at the TDF. One of the seven projects to be pitched by Canadians at the Forum is called Sh*t!. A winner at Planet in Focus’ pitch session, Sh*t! is an environmentally based project from Montreal’s Bedouin/Viking Productions.

‘Everyone poops,’ laughs Radshaw, pointing out that the proposed film has already won support from Jan Rofekamp’s Films Transit International sales group and the Sundance Institute.

On a much more elevated level is Markham Street Films’ project Acquainted with the Night, based on the poetic nonfiction book by award-winning poet Christopher Dewdney. ‘It has tremendous potential,’ comments Radshaw. ‘I think it will be stunning and filled with unusual individuals.’

White Pine Pictures (Shake Hands with the Devil) will pitch a new African project, The Team. Set in Kenya, it will follow the country’s reaction to a TV soap opera about a soccer team made up of players from all sides of the conflicted country’s ethnic divide.

Toronto’s award-winning interactive shop Xenophile Media (Total Drama Island — Totally Interactive!) and Amythos Films are combining on The Guantanamo Trap about the lives of people affected by the fate of one political detainee.

Also making an appearance at TDF will be Vardan Hovhannisyan’s A Donkeymentary: Through the Eyes of a Donkey, which tells the story of globalization through an island off the coast of Kenya. The doc also won the pitch session at the Realscreen Summit.

When asked how many of the projects will be made, Radshaw smiles and says, ‘I’ll get you the number right after I pick up tonight’s Lotto prizes.’ Seriously, she adds: ‘I’m confident that many will be produced.’

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