Doc Blog

Brian Newman is a shrewd observer of the documentary scene from his position as a funder at Renew Media and on his personal blog Spring Board Media . Here he shares his picks from this year's Real to Reel:

I always feel that the best thing about attending the Toronto International Film Festival is that I really can’t go wrong with the films I see. You can literally walk into any screening randomly (perhaps because another film sold out) and odds are good it will be a great film. This is especially true with the documentary programming, and this year looks like another stellar line-up. Every year, however, I make my list of must-see films, often based on the pre-festival buzz, the filmmaker’s career or because the description sounds great. Note to filmmakers – this is your one chance to level the odds that someone will attend your film, so pick a good still and write a snazzy description. This year, my list includes many of the films that others have
recommended, as well as many films we helped with a grant, but these are on the top of my must-see doc list.

by Sabiha Sumar and Sachithanandam Sathananthan
I don’t know these filmmakers at all, but I do know that their subject, Pervez Musharraf (pictured), has been in the news daily as he considers whether to implement martial law in Pakistan due to political unrest. He’s been running a military dictatorship, was  installed by a coup, and is now considering sharing power with former prime minister Benazir Bhutto. I can’t imagine I won’t learn a lot that I don’t know from Sumar and Sathananthan’s filmed dinner with Musharraf where he discusses his views on democracy.

TRUMBO by Peter Askin
Askin was a writer on Susan Seidelman’s Smithereens, a film that we featured in a retrospective program when I was at the Atlanta Film Festival. He was also a producer of the original off-broadway Hedwig show, among other things, so these alone put his film at the top of the list. The main reason to see this, however, is because it covers something I’m fascinated with – those who fought back against the infamous HUAC blacklists. I’m a sucker for freedom of speech films.

OBSCENE by Neil Ortenberg and Daniel O'Connor, USA
This film’s been mentioned by others, but honestly, its in my top three picks, so I must bring it up again. Has to do with that freedom of speech thing, and who wouldn’t want to learn more about Barney Rosset, who ran Grove Press, and published works like Naked Lunch and Tropic of Cancer. It’s also made by Ortenberg, the former Avalon Press publisher, and his colleague from Thunder Mouth press, Dan O’Connor, so they know what their talking about. A must see.


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