TIFF's documentary lineup takes on First Nations education, Donald Rumsfeld, and more.
Programmed by Thom Powers, TIFF’s documentary slate gives a platform to some of the big names and major currents in non-fiction filmmaking. Here’s a look at what’s on offer this year.
Direct cinema master Frederick Wiseman studies institutions, setting up shop within communities as diverse as boxing gyms and ballet companies to watch how they operate on both a micro and a macro level. His newest film tackles the American university Berkeley, an activist hotbed in the 1960s, during a tumultuous fall semester.
The Unknown Known
Like his celebrated documentary The Fog of War, which put Robert McNamara in the hot seat, Errol Morris’s newest film interrogates a former U.S. Secretary of Defense, this time Donald Rumsfeld. Whether Morris gets anything substantial out of the notoriously controlled architect of post-9/11 American foreign policy remains to be seen, but we’re eager to find out.
Alanis Obomsawin has long served as one of the most vocal advocates for First Nations Peoples in Canadian filmmaking, having produced over thirty documentaries about Canada’s indigenous population for the National Film Board over her astonishingly long career. Her newest tackles the Attawapiskat First Nations campaign to redress the Canadian government’s shoddy educational mandate for Aboriginal youths.
Finding Vivian Maier
Despite its title, this isn’t a sequel to last year’s popular documentary Searching for Sugar Man but a profile of Vivian Maier, a nanny who left behind over 100,000 photographs that posthumously established her as one of the top street photographers in the United States. The filmmakers retrace the reluctant artist’s steps through New York and Chicago, hoping to flesh out her life story.
The quieter half of professional myth-debunking team Penn & Teller breaks his silence (in a manner of speaking) with this directorial debut, a feature-length examination of the process of Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer. The duo turn to their friend Tim Jenison, who hopes to create a hand-painted replica of Vermeer’s The Music Lesson to get to the bottom of his superhuman knack for painting with light.