Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and daughter Chelsea Clinton now have double the reason to head to the Toronto International Film Festival next month. TIFF unveiled its documentary lineup today, which includes the world premiere of In Her Hands, a film executive produced by the Clintons through their banner Hidden Light.
Hillary and Chelsea were previously announced as attending the festival in support of Gutsy, their upcoming Apple TV+ documentary series that “features intimate conversations with trailblazing women including Kim Kardashian, Meghan Thee Stallion, Jane Goodall, Gloria Steinem, Wanda Sykes, Amy Schumer, Goldie Hawn, Kate Hudson and many more.”
In Her Hands, directed by Tamana Ayazi and Oscar nominee Marcel Mettelsiefen, focuses on another gutsy woman—Afghan politician Zarifa Ghafari—who became, at the age of 26, the youngest woman to serve as a mayor of an Afghan city. Netflix will release the film later this year.
“This was filmed last year,” notes TIFF’s chief documentary programmer Thom Powers. “Monday was the [first] anniversary of the Taliban’s retaking of Afghanistan. And that is the backdrop for this film.”
Powers predicts In Her Hands will factor into awards season as the calendar year advances, a happy fate he forecasts for several other newly-announced TIFF documentaries (scroll down for the complete lineup).
“[Among] the other films I would anticipate being part of the awards conversation, one is Louis Armstrong’s Black and Blues,” Powers tells Deadline. “It’s playing as our opening night selection, backed by Apple and directed by Sacha Jenkins, a real veteran music journalist. [Another] is Laura Poitras’s film All the Beauty and the Bloodshed, about the artist Nan Goldin. That’s a very powerful work. And the fourth film that I think could enter into awards conversation this year is the new film by Patricio Guzmán, My Imaginary Country, that I think is his finest film since Nostalgia for the Light.”
Another standout world premiere is The Grab, the latest documentary from director Gabriela Cowperthwaite, whose 2013 film Blackfish exposed the treatment of orcas at Sea World. The Grab is similarly investigative in nature.
“The Grab has a lot of secrecy around it prior to the festival,” Powers notes. “A big part of this film is a large trove of leaked documents that have never been made public until this film gets its first screening. I think that’s going to make some news and make waves.”
Last year’s TIFF was a muted affair with many potential attendees forgoing the opportunity to attend the festival in person in light of continued Covid concerns. But Powers expects TIFF 2022 to be much closer to the festival of old. And he anticipates a healthy appetite for acquisition titles, despite the reality that streaming platforms are commissioning a larger percentage of their nonfiction content, instead of buying docs on the open market.
“The number of sales titles has come down because lots of these companies are getting into films earlier,” Powers says. “However, festivals like Sundance and Toronto continue to be kind of key tentpoles, where all the buyers are showing up looking for new stuff and they don’t want to be beaten out by their competitors. So, there is undeniably still robust buying activity happening at these festivals.”
Among the acquisition titles at the festival is The Grab, which WME is repping. Powers highlights a number of others.
“There’s the film Patrick and the Whale that Submarine is representing, which is an incredible vicarious experience of swimming with whales in the company of diver Patrick Dykstra,” Powers notes. “Submarine’s also handling Werner Herzog’s new film Theatre of Thought that’s an exploration of the brain. CAA, they’re handling the film Free Money by the Kenyan director Sam Soko, in collaboration with Lorin DeFilippo, which is about charitable efforts focused on a small Kenyan village where everyone in that village is given universal basic income… Cinetic is representing this series by William Kentridge, the South African artist, called Self-portrait as a Coffee Pot. We’re showing the world premiere of three segments of that.”
Powers adds, “One other sales title I would mention from 30West is Maya and the Wave about the championship surfer from Brazil, Maya Gabeira. We watch her trying to set a world record for surfing the biggest wave. And she not only has to face the athletic challenges of doing that, but she has to face the deeply entrenched sexism in the surfing world – although certainly not unique to the surfing world — as her male peers undermine her in small and large ways.”
In a whimsical touch, Powers has tucked something unexpected into the TIFF nonfiction slate—episodes from the upcoming new season of Documentary Now!, the IFC comedy series created by Fred Armisen, Bill Heder, Seth Myers and Rhys Thomas that lovingly parodies the earnest rigor of documentarians and the documentary form.
“We’re going to be previewing three new episodes from season 4,” Powers says. “One of those episodes is called My Monkey Grifter, which is a take on My Octopus Teacher, with the British actor Jamie Demetriou who people will know from Fleabag and other shows. Fred Armisen also makes an appearance in My Monkey Grifter. The second episode is a really warmhearted homage to Agnès Varda, starring the French actress Liliane Rovère, who fans of Call My Agent! will know as the endearing older agent in that series. And she is just pitch perfect as Agnès Varda in that episode. And the third episode is a pet project of Cate Blanchett, who has previously appeared on Documentary Now! And we’re expecting several of the people involved with these episodes to be at TIFF.”
Powers continues, “To have Documentary Now! as part of the [TIFF] selection not only brings a smile to our face, but [the show] is also just such a deeply researched and deeply appreciative reverie about documentary filmmaking that I couldn’t resist inviting it to be part of the program.”
This is the full TIFF doc lineup, in alphabetical order, with Doc Conversations @ TIFF Industry Conference noted at the end:
Presented by A&E IndieFilms
*752 Is Not A Number Babak Payami | Canada World Premiere
All the Beauty and the Bloodshed Laura Poitras | USA North American Premiere
*Buffy Sainte-Marie: Carry It On Madison Thomas | Canada World Premiere
Casa Susanna Sébastien Lifshitz | France, USA North American Premiere
Ciné-Guerrillas: Scenes from the Labudovic Reels Mila Turajlic | Serbia, France, Croatia, Montenegro World Premiere
*The Colour of Ink Brian D. Johnson | Canada World Premiere
Documentary Now! Alex Buono, Rhys Thomas, Micah Gardner | USA World Premiere
*Ever Deadly Tanya Tagaq, Chelsea McMullan | Canada World Premiere
Free Money Sam Soko, Lauren DeFilippo | Kenya, USA World Premiere
Mariupolis 2 Mantas Kvedaravičius | Lithuania, France, Germany North American Premiere
The Grab Gabriela Cowperthwaite | USA World Premiere
In Her Hands Tamana Ayazi, Marcel Mettelsiefen | USA, Afghanistan World Premiere[TIFF Docs Opening Film]: *Louis Armstrong’s Black & Blues Sacha Jenkins | USA World Premiere
Maya and the Wave Stephanie Johnes | USA World Premiere
Miúcha, The Voice of Bossa Nova Daniel Zarvos, Liliane Mutti | Brazil, France Canadian Premiere
My Imaginary Country (Mi País Imaginario) Patricio Guzmán | Chile, France North American Premiere
Patrick and the Whale Mark Fletcher | Austria World Premiere
Pray for our Sinners Sinéad O’Shea | Ireland World Premiere
Self-Portrait as a Coffee Pot William Kentridge | South Africa, USA World Premiere
Theatre of Thought Werner Herzog | USA International Premiere
*To Kill a Tiger Nisha Pahuja | Canada World Premiere
While We Watched Vinay Shukla | UK World Premiere
DOC CONVERSATIONS @ TIFF INDUSTRY CONFERENCE
VISIONARIES: Inside the Brain of Werner Herzog
Presented by SHOWTIME®
In his new film Theatre of Thought, Werner Herzog (celebrating his 80th birthday in September) explores the cutting edge of research on the brain. He’s joined by two figures who appear in the film, brain scientist Rafael Yuste and entrepreneur Jamie Davies, to discuss hopes and fears for the future of brain exploration.
VISIONARIES: What Laura Poitras Learned from Nan Goldin
Presented by SHOWTIME®
Oscar-winning director Laura Poitras (Citizenfour) discusses what she learned over three years in the making of her new film All the Beauty and the Bloodshed. The film profiles the artist Nan Goldin, who has campaigned for museums to disassociate from the patronage of the Sackler family, owners of the opioid company Purdue Pharma.
DIALOGUES: Covering Afghanistan for In Her Hands
Presented by SHOWTIME®
A Share Her Journey initiative generously supported by Betty-Ann Heggie
The new documentary In Her Hands focuses on Afghanistan’s youngest woman mayor, Zarifa Ghafari, during the tumultuous period of the Taliban’s return to power. Filmmakers Tamana Ayazi and Marcel Mettelsiefen share clips while reflecting on the challenges of filming under wartime conditions.
PERSPECTIVES Truth, Lies, and a Million Dollar Board Game
Presented by SHOWTIME®
Filmmaker Vinay Shukla joins to discuss his new film While We Watched, which profiles the journalist Ravish Kumar of NDTV India as he struggles to maintain journalistic independence under death threats. For Shukla’s previous documentary An Insignificant Man, his team created a board game that gained massive support on Kickstarter. He’ll discuss plans to follow that model by pairing a board game with his new film.
PERSPECTIVES DocuMentality: The Growth of a Movement
Presented by SHOWTIME®
DocuMentality is an expanding initiative that seeks to normalize conversations about mental health in the documentary industry and provide best-practice guidance for filmmakers. The project started with efforts in the UK and US. Now, the Documentary Organization of Canada (DOC) is spearheading a new wave of focus groups with support from the Canada Media Fund. On this panel, audiences will hear from DocuMentality team member Malikkah Rollins and DOC’s Sarah Spring about the past, present, and future of the movement. We’ll also hear from filmmaker Rebeca Huntt describing what she learned about maintaining mental balance in the making of her intensely personal film Beba that premiered at TIFF last year. Moderator: Inney Prakash (Maysles Documentary Center).