Powers talks TIFF ’10

TIFF documentary programmer Thom Powers chats with realscreen about this year's Doc Conference, Herzog's 3D doc and more.
August 18, 2010

The Toronto International Film Festival has announced its line-up of industry programs, which includes the second annual Doc Conference and fifth annual Doc Roundtables and an A-list line-up of documentary filmmakers taking part.

The Doc Conference, taking place in the new Bell Lightbox, will kick off on September 13 with an introduction from Tom Perlmutter, the National Film Board’s government film commissioner and chairperson.

The Filmmaker Dialogue session featuring directors Werner Herzog and Errol Morris in conversation, to be moderated by TIFF documentaries programmer Thom Powers, is sure to be one of the conference’s highlights. Getting the two powerhouse filmmakers together was a matter of the stars aligning, Powers told realscreen.

Both have world premieres at the fest: Herzog’s 3D doc, Cave of Forgotten Dreams (Powers calls it a ‘game changer’), and Morris’ Tabloid. And of course their friendship extends to before Morris was a renowned filmmaker, a relationship that saw Herzog bet Morris that he would eat his own shoe if Morris actually finished his film project Gates of Heaven. Morris’ film was released in 1981, and Herzog famously kept his word, as can be seen in Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe.

‘As far as I know, no articles of clothing will be consumed,’ quips Powers about the panel. On having the pleasure of moderating the session, Power says, ‘That might be the ‘Be careful what you wish for’ prize of the year.’

The line-up also includes a case study on HBO’s upcoming doc, War Torn 1861-2010, executive produced by James Gandolfini. The session will include a behind-the-scenes examination of the project, which examines the symptom of combat stress in American soldiers from the Civil War to the present, and a discussion with the team behind the film, comprised of Jon Alpert, Ellen Goosenberg, Matthew O’Neill, Sara Bernstein and HBO Documentary Films president Sheila Nevins.

Director Alex Gibney (Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer) will also speak on the process of making non-fiction films, his own film output and what’s next for him. New methods of distribution will be discussed in another panel, with reps from NFB, Babelgum, Reverse Shot and more on hand for the New Frontiers in Doc Distribution session.

Last year’s TIFF featured the first Doc Conference, which Powers says was a big success. ‘We set out to top ourselves and I think we succeeded,’ he says of this year’s edition.

Participants in the Doc Roundtables include Submarine Entertainment’s Josh Braun, Emerging Pictures’ Ira Deutchman, Silverdocs’ Sky Sitney, Zeitgeist Films Ltd’s Clemence Taillandier, A&E Indie Films’ Molly Thompson, and Women Make Movies’ Debra Zimmerman. The Doc Roundtables take place September 12, September 14 and September 15.

Of course, alongside the strong doc conference line-up is the doc slate, which features the latest from some of the genre’s top directors. ‘Truly I’ve never seen at any film festival such a line-up of documentary all-stars,’ gushes Powers. Besides Herzog, Morris and Gibney, new projects from Kim Longinotto, Frederick Wiseman and Ondi Timoner will be featured, and two Masters sessions will feature work from Jorgen Leth and Patricio Guzman.

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