TIFF ’13: “Midway,” “Finding Vivian Maier” head to Toronto

Chris Jordan's Midway, John Maloof and Charlie Siskel's Finding Vivian Maier, and a film about Jewish humor from Canadian director Alan Zweig (pictured) are among the documentaries set to have world premieres at this year's Toronto International Film Festival.
July 30, 2013

Chris Jordan’s Midway, John Maloof and Charlie Siskel’s Finding Vivian Maier, and a film about Jewish humor from Canadian director Alan Zweig (pictured) are among the documentaries set to have world premieres at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF).

The news comes as the festival today (July 30) unveiled its TIFF Docs line-up, confirming the inclusion of Claude Lanzmann’s The Last of the Unjust and Errol Morris’s The Unknown Known, as first revealed by realscreen on July 22, and Marcel Ophüls’ Ain’t Misbehavin (Un Voyageur), as predicted by realscreen.

“This year’s documentaries are rich with obsessive and impassioned characters – in pursuit of art, democracy and insatiable appetites – both on screen and behind the camera,” said TIFF documentary programmer Thom Powers in a statement. “They inspire a range of emotions from awe-stricken to angry and sometimes laugh-out-loud funny.”

Zweig’s doc, When Jews were Funny, looks at the dominance of Jewish comedians from the 1930s to the 1970s, and comes with backing from Canadian networks Documentary and Super Channel. The TIFF premiere marks the director’s second Toronto premiere of the year, after his doc 15 Reasons to Live premiered at Hot Docs in April.

Meanwhile, Chris Jordan’s anticipated environmental doc Midway (pictured below) comes to the festival on the back of a successful Kickstarter campaign which saw the filmmaker crowdfund more than US$112,000 to produce the film.

The doc looks at the environmental damage taking place at Midway Island, near the heart of the Pacific Ocean, where albatrosses are being poisoned and killed by plastic and waste washing ashore from the Pacific Garbage Patch.


The TIFF Docs line-up also includes the latest NFB-backed title from Aboriginal filmmaker Alanis Obomsawin, called Hi-Ho Mistahey! The film sees Obomsawin once again looking at the Attawapiskat First Nation, whose housing crisis was the focus of her 2012 doc The People of the Kattawapiskak River.

Also premiering in Toronto is John Maloof and Charlie Siskel’s Finding Vivian Maier, a documentary which, at the fundraising stage, was one of the highlights of the 2011 Hot Docs Forum.

The film looks at the life of Vivian Maier, a mid-20th Century nanny who, unbeknownst to her friends and employers, was also an extremely gifted photographer of street life.

Back in 2011, the project was in flux, with sudden personnel changes on the eve of the film’s Hot Docs pitch. Nevertheless the presentation was warmly received, and anticipation for the finished project has been building since.

Other TIFF titles include Fred Wiseman’s doc At Berkeley, which comes to TIFF shortly after its Venice world premiere; and a doc from magician Teller, which Sony Pictures Classics announced the first details of yesterday.

Finally, the TIFF Docs line up also includes Jehane Noujaim’s documentary The Square, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January and won the Audience Award for World Cinema Documentary. TIFF is billing the doc as a World Premiere, stating that the Sundance screening was essentially a work-in-progress and that the finished film is notably different.

Check out the trailer for Finding Vivian Maier below, followed by the full TIFF Docs line-up, with descriptions provided by the festival:



A Story of Children and Film
Director: Mark Cousins, UK – North American Premiere

A Story of Children and Film is the world’s first movie about kids in global cinema. A passionate, poetic portrait of the adventures of childhood — its surrealism, loneliness, fun, destructiveness and vitality — as seen through 53 great films from 25 countries, director Mark Cousins’ landmark film is an eye opener and a celebration of both childhood and the movies.

Ain’t Misbehavin’
Marcel Ophüls, France – North American Premiere

The director of The Sorrow and the Pity shares his memories with us, stories both incredibly rich and fascinating, making Ain’t Misbehavin’ a cheerful and bittersweet trip through cinema history. Son of the great director Max Ophüls, Marcel can be a generous man and an admirer. Marcel talks with and about personalities like Jeanne Moreau, Bertolt Brecht, Ernst Lubitsch, Otto Preminger, Woody Allen, Stanley Kubrick and, of course, his friend François Truffaut.

At Berkeley
Frederick Wiseman, U.S. – North American Premiere

At Berkeley is a documentary film about the University of California at Berkeley. The film explores the major aspects of university life of America’s premier public university with particular emphasis on the administrative efforts to maintain the academic excellence, public role, and the economic, racial and social diversity of the student body in the face of severe budgetary cuts imposed by the California legislature.

Beyond the Edge
Leanne Pooley, New Zealand – World Premiere

It was an event that stunned the world and defined an era. Sir Edmund Hillary’s incredible achievement remains one of the greatest adventure stories of all time: the epic journey of a man from modest beginnings who overcame adversity to reach the highest point on Earth. Screening in 3D.

Burt’s Buzz
Jody Shapiro, Canada – World Premiere

Burt’s Buzz is an in-depth and personal look at the life of Burt Shavitz, known to millions around the world as the ‘Burt’ of the Burt’s Bees natural product brand. The documentary explores what it means to be marketed as an icon, and how that life differs from the one of the man behind the logo.

The Dark Matter of Love
Sarah McCarthy, UK – North American Premiere

The Dark Matter of Love follows three Russian children learning to love their adoptive American family through a scientific programme. From the director of The Sound Of Mumbai: A Musical.

The Dog
Allison Berg and Frank Keraudren, U.S. – World Premiere

In 1972, John Wojtowicz attempted to rob a Brooklyn bank to pay for his lover’s sex-change operation. The story was the basis for the film Dog Day Afternoon. The Dog captures John, who shares his story for the first time in his own unique, offensive, hilarious and heartbreaking way.

Faith Connections
Pan Nalin, France/India – World Premiere

Filmmaker Pan Nalin travels to Kumbh Mela, one of the world’s most extraordinary religious events. There, he encounters remarkable men of mind and meditation, some facing an inextricable dilemma; to embrace the world or to renounce it. Faith Connections explores such diverse and deeply moving stories as a young runaway kid, a Sadhu, a mother desperately looking for her lost son, a yogi who is raising an abandoned baby, and an ascetic who keeps his calm by smoking cannabis — all connected by one faith against the spectacular display of devotion.

Filthy Gorgeous: The Bob Guccione Story
Barry Avrich, Canada – World Premiere

Through his lens, Bob Guccione witnessed, influenced and played a starring role in easily one of the most controversial and socially and sexually revolutionary eras in modern history. Reclusive, yet outspoken, Guccione used his art, his fortune and his outspoken views on sexuality and politics to create scandal, change and debate. Unlike his publishing rivals, Hefner and Flynt, there is more to Guccione than meets the eye.

Finding Vivian Maier
John Maloof and Charlie Siskel, U.S. – World Premiere

A mysterious nanny, who secretly took over 100,000 photographs that were hidden in storage lockers and discovered decades later, is now considered among the 20th century’s greatest photographers. Maier’s strange and riveting life and art are revealed through never before seen photographs, films, and interviews with dozens who thought they knew her.

Hi-Ho Mistahey!
Alanis Obomsawin, Canada – World Premiere

Alanis Obomsawin tells the story of Shannen’s Dream, a national campaign to provide equitable access to education for First Nations children, in safe and suitable schools. She brings together the voices of those who have successfully brought the Dream all the way to the United Nations in Geneva.

Ignasi M.
Ventura Pons, Spain – World Premiere

Ignasi M., a world renowned museologist, is living a dramatic moment, but has the capacity to turn any situation into an edifying one and any discomfort into a hilarious series of facts.

Jodorowsky’s Dune
Frank Pavich, U.S. – North American Premiere

The story of legendary cult film director Alejandro Jodorowsky’s staggeringly ambitious but ultimately doomed film adaptation of the seminal science-fiction novel Dune.

The Last of the Unjust
Claude Lanzmann, France/Austria – North American Premiere

Through an interview with Benjamin Murmelstein, from Nisko in Poland to Theresienstadt, and from Vienna to Rome, Claude Lanzmann provides an unprecedented insight into the genesis of the Final Solution. It reveals the true face of Eichmann, and exposes without artifice the savage contradictions of the Jewish Councils.

The Mayor
Emiliano Altuna Fistolera, Mexico – Canadian Premiere

Mauricio Fernandez is the polemical mayor of San Pedro Garza García, the wealthiest and safest municipality in Latin America. He presents himself as an active ruler who is capable of cleaning his municipality of drug cartels without questioning the methods he uses to achieve this. The Mayor describes the wild times of a country that is marked by violence and the complete discredit of the ruling class.

Chris Jordan, U.S. – World Premiere

In the middle of the Pacific Ocean lies a tiny unincorporated territory belonging to the United States called Midway — the site of one of greatest naval battles of all time. Before the navy set up station, this island served for centuries as a breeding ground for hundreds of species of seabird — most notably the Albatross. Midway lies at the center of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, where the seabirds’ feeding grounds are teeming with plastic waste.

Unknowingly, the Albatross feed their chicks our refuse and so the very waters that once sustained them, now threaten their lives. Through stunning imagery and narration, the voice of the island tells their epic tale of survival. Both elegy and warning, the film explores the interconnectedness of species, with the Albatross on Midway as mirror of our humanity. This is their story and ours, an inspiring tale of how life and love endure despite incredible odds.

Mission Congo
David Turner and Lara Zizic, U.S. – World Premiere

Death, diamonds and greed — a story of a US businessman’s pursuit of an irresistible opportunity during one of the worst humanitarian crises of modern times.

The Square (Al Midan)
Jehane Noujaim, Egypt/U.S. – World Premiere

The story of revolution — behind the headlines. From the 2011 overthrow of a 30-year dictator, through military rule, and culminating with the overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood president in the summer of 2013 — follow a group of Egyptian revolutionaries as they battle leaders and regimes, risking their lives to build a society of conscience.

Tim’s Vermeer
Teller, U.S. – World Premiere

Tim Jenison, a Texas-based inventor, attempts to solve one of the greatest mysteries in all art: How did 17th century Dutch Master Johannes Vermeer (Girl with a Pearl Earring) manages to paint so photo-realistically 150 years before the invention of photography? The epic research project Jenison embarks on to test his theory is as extraordinary as what he discovers.

The Unknown Known
Errol Morris, U.S. – North American Premiere

Errol Morris offers a mesmerizing portrait of Donald Rumsfeld, one of the key architects of the Iraq War. Although Rumsfeld has held lofty positions of American political power for half a century, most people know little about him.

When Rumsfeld wrote, as part of his most famous meditation, that an “unknown known” refers to “things you think you know that it turns out you do not,” he could have been speaking about himself. The Unknown Known is not intended as yet another post-mortem on the Iraq War, but rather an illumination of a mystery.

Unstable Elements
Madeleine Sackler, U.S. – World Premiere

Comprised of smuggled footage and uncensored interviews, Unstable Elements introduces viewers to artists struggling under Europe’s last dictatorship. When the KGB targets dissenters, the members of the Free Theater find themselves torn between their art and safety. This compelling documentary showcases the power of art to change the world.

When Jews Were Funny
Alan Zweig, Canada – World Premiere

When Jews Were Funny is director Alan Zweig’s personal exploration into the roots and the manifestations of his Jewish identity, and particularly the question of how this Jewishness of his has persisted, though he’s done nothing to maintain it. He begins his exploration by trying to answer a question that’s intrigued him since childhood.

Why were all the comedians he watched on TV in the fifties and sixties, Jewish? At first he doesn’t get the answers he was hoping for, but he trusts in the old saying, “two Jews, three opinions” and eventually some answers start to form.


TIFF Cinematheque (restored classics)

The Lovely Month of May (Le Joli Mai)
Chris Marker and Pierre Lhomme, France

Long unavailable in the U.S. and a major work in the oeuvre of filmmaker Chris Marker (1921–2012), this restoration of Le Joli Mai (The Lovely Month of May) debuted at the Cannes Film Festival, 50 years after the film first premiered there. It was created according to the wishes of Marker, supervised by the film’s cinematographer and co-director, Pierre Lhomme.

Le Joli Mai is a portrait of Paris and Parisians during May 1962, the first springtime of peace after the ceasefire with Algeria and the first time in 23 years that France was not involved in any war. Restoration and digitization made possible by the Center national du cinéma et de l’image animée and the Archives françaises du film. Special thanks to Icarus Films.


About The Author
Barry Walsh is editor and content director for realscreen, and has served as editor of the publication since 2009. With a career in entertainment media that spans two decades, prior to realscreen, he held the associate editor post for now defunct sister publication Boards, which focused on the advertising and commercial production industries. Before Boards, he served as editor of Canadian Music Network, a weekly music industry trade, and as music editor for As content director, he also oversees the development of content for the brand's market-leading events, the Realscreen Summit and Realscreen West, as well as new content initiatives.