The full line-up of world and international premieres in Toronto’s TIFF Docs line-up, with details on each title including sales contacts. Toronto International Film Festival runs September 9-18.
Dir. Stanley Nelson
Emmy, MacArthur and Peabody award-winning documentarian Nelson comes to TIFF with this examination of the infamous prison riot. The five-day rebellion of autumn 1971 at the titular upstate New York prison is still the deadliest in US history. This year marks its 50th anniversary, and Nelson’s film includes dozens of new interviews with inmates, journalists and other witnesses. Nelson’s Firelight Films and Topic Studios produce for Showtime Documentary Films.
Contact: Firelight Films; Showtime
Dir. Rebeca Huntt
New York-based Afro-Latina writer, director and multimedia artist Huntt makes her feature debut with this part documentary, part memoir. The film explores her life as an artist in New York during a time of racial and political unrest. Huntt’s past shorts include 1-800 Lovable and ¡Hay Coro!. She has participated in New York Film Festival’s Artist Academy and IFP Documentary Lab, and Beba’s supporters include Women Make Movies. Sofia Geld, whose credits include Petra Costa’s Elena and Netflix’s Dogs, produces.
Contact: UTA Independent Film Group
Becoming Cousteau (US)
Dir. Liz Garbus
Garbus, a double Oscar nominee for The Farm: Angola, USA and What Happened, Miss Simone?, follows 2020’s All In: The Fight For Democracy with this years-in-the-making deep dive into the world of oceanic explorer Jacques Cousteau, whose groundbreaking work included warning the world about the climate crisis. Producers include Garbus, Dan Cogan (Icarus) and Evan Hayes (Free Solo). The film includes never-before-seen 4K footage of Cousteau with exclusive access to the Cousteau Society Archives.
Contact: Ana Vicente, Dogwoof
Dir. Eva Orner
Amazon’s first Australian Original feature-length doc examines the country’s deadly bushfires of 2019‑20. Orner won an Oscar in 2008 for producing Alex Gibney’s Taxi To The Dark Side, and her directing credits include Chasing Asylum (2016). She produces Burning alongside Dirty Films’ Cate Blanchett.
Contact: Amazon Studios
Dir. Gian Cassini
Mexico’s Cassini offers a personal investigation into several generations of men in his family caught up in violence, including his late estranged father who was a hitman in Tijuana. He makes his feature debut after shorts and TV series including Para Cristina Serna, and produces alongside Ana Medellin and Gabriel Guzman S for Imagyx Entertainment.
Contact: Gabriel Guzman S, Imagyx Entertainment
The Devil’s Drivers (Qat-Fr-Leb-Ger)
Dirs. Mohammed Abugeth, Daniel Carsenty
Filmed since 2012, this intimate film follows two Bedouin cousins smuggling undocumented workers from the Palestinian territories into Israel, and being chased by the army. Germany’s Carsenty, who also produces, directed fiction feature After Spring Comes Fall (2015). Jerusalem-born Abugeth makes his feature debut after working as a TV journalist. Backers include Doha Film Institute and the Arab Fund for Arts and Culture.
Contact: Daniel Carsenty
Hold Your Fire (US)
Dir. Stefan Forbes
In the works since 2014, the film charts the untold story of the longest hostage siege in New York Police Department history — a standoff that began with a robbery at a sporting goods store in Brooklyn. Forbes (Boogie Man: The Lee Atwater Story) interviewed sources on all sides of the conflict, including hostages and gunmen. Tia Wou, Amir Soltani and Fred Brathwaite (aka Fab Five Freddy) produce for Interpositive Media.
Contact: Ben Schwartz, Submarine Entertainment
Dirs. Julie Cohen, Betsy West
West already had a producing career spanning three decades before she teamed up with Cohen (American Veteran) to direct their first feature together, RBG — two Oscar nominations and $14.5m worldwide box office ensued. Their latest subject is another female icon: cookbook author and TV chef Julia Childs. Imagine Documentaries and CNN Films produce in association with West and Cohen’s Storyville Films, and Sony Pictures Classics has worldwide rights excluding US television, which CNN Films retains.
Contact: Sony Pictures Classics
Listening To Kenny G (US)
Dir. Penny Lane
Lane follows her Sundance doc Hail Satan? with a look at the titular saxophonist, one of the biggest-selling artists of all time yet also a punchline to many people. Her credits include Nuts! (2016) and Our Nixon (2013). Bill Simmons’ Ringer Films produces as part of the six-part Music Box series for HBO.
Contact: Phil Goodhew, WarnerMedia Television Distribution
Oscar Peterson: Black + White (Can)
Dir. Barry Avrich
Montreal-born jazz pianist Oscar Peterson collaborated with the likes of Ella Fitzgerald, Count Basie, Louis Armstrong and Nat King Cole. This film looks at his life and work, including the racism he encountered over a six-decade career. Avrich’s Melbar Entertainment produces with Bell Media. Avrich’s credits include Unauthorized: The Harvey Weinstein Project (2011) and The Last Mogul: The Life And Times Of Lew Wasserman (2005).
The Rescue (US-UK)
Dirs. Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, Jimmy Chin
Vasarhelyi and Chin (Free Solo) delve into the 2018 Thai cave rescue of a youth soccer team that was trapped for three days in a flooding cave. Producers are John Battsek alongside PJ van Sandwijk, plus Vasarhelyi and Chin.
Contact: Jason Ishikawa, Cinetic Media
Wochiigii Io: End Of The Peace (Can)
Dir. Heather Hatch
Hatch examines the environmental, social, legal and human perils of the Canadian mega-dam Site C. She follows First Nation peoples as they battle the construction of the dam, which could destroy land and water they have occupied for 13,000 years. Making her feature debut, Haida (First Nations) filmmaker Hatch also produces alongside Ava Karvonen.
Contact: Ava Karvonen, Reel Girls Media
Profiles by Nikki Baughan, Charles Gant, Melissa Kasule, Jeremy Kay, Wendy Mitchell and Silvia Wong