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Nothing could beat the first screening of THE U.S. vs. JOHN LENNON at TIFF 06. Starting with the line outside The Ryerson Theatre snaking around three city blocks...to crossing the red carpet bordered by dozens of TV cameras, lights, reporters and microphones...to the SRO crowd responding in all the right places (hearing laughter ripple through that large an audience was an indescribable feeling)...from sitting next to Yoko and experiencing her powerful response to what she saw on screen...to the standing ovations at film's end and as the credits rolled...the Toronto experience is something...

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Getting Close to Philip in "Glass"
I wanted to create a story where the participants were the narrators with
the sense that the audience was invited into the room to share in these
lives of Philip, his friends and family. I always felt the film would be a
kind of “mosaic portrait?, like a Chuck Close portrait, where an arrangement
of fragments form an overall picture.

Picture: Director Scott Hicks (center) films artist Chuck Close (left) in
conversation with Philip Glass (right) in New York, as part of "GLASS : a
portrait of Philip in twelve parts" (photo by L. Skutch)
Wyclef Plays at TIFF Party

Hip-hop superstar Wyclef Jean played to a pumped-up crowd at the Ghosts of Cité Soleil premiere after-party last Saturday. Jean helped write the score for Ghosts, a film based in his native Haiti. The film follows the story of 2pac and Bily, brothers who are two of many gang leaders reputedly hired by former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to dispose of his enemies. Director Asger Leth presents an intimate portrayal of these thugs, not just in their street lives, but also in their love lives as they both fall for the...

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Kurt Cobain Speaks Out at TIFF

One of the most anticipated films of this years festival, Kurt Cobain  About a Son, made it's worldwide premiere tonight, and did not disappoint delivering a rock-umentary unlike any other. The film is based on a series of audio interviews conducted by journalist Michael Azerrad (right), allowing the voice of Kurt to speak for himself . Young director, AJ Schnack (center) made his way to the microphone to introduce a project that he said means so much to him, and it showed as Schnack could barely get his thank yous out as he got choked up in...

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Rock and peace icon Yoko Ono was greeted by hundreds of fans today as she walked into the premiere of The U.S. vs. John Lennon. Many of these fans didn’t even have tickets but lined up for hours to get a glimpse of the legendary Ono. Inside, Ono received a standing ovation before the film, which was received greatly by the packed house at the Ryerson Theatre, including director Michael Moore, who also got a round of applause. The film documents the struggles John and Yoko faced from the late 60’s...

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American rockers, The Flaming Lips were on the scene at TIFF for Summercamp! (left), singing to a boisterous crowd last night at the post-screening party. The Lips supplied songs for film's soundtrack and came to TIFF to support its debut.

First the Lips attended the film's debut screening, donning the blinking, neon visors, with all the enthusiasm of the outrageouly dressed directors. Later, the Lips took another stage at Gabby's on Bloor to play to a pumped up crowd who ate roasted-marshmallows and scored some...

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While the film might be called AMERICAN HARDCORE a lot of the genre is owed to the amazing Canadian Hardcore Punk Band DOA from Vancouver. They actually coined the word Hardcore in their 1981 album "Hardcore '81" .Joey "Shithead" Keithly of DOA will be at TIFF with us as will his band DOA and the band Flipper. More on this soon....
CBC on TIFF Documentaries

CBC reporter Matthew McKinnon interviews TIFF Documentary Programmer Thom Powers here. Below is an excerpt...

[Right: Made in Jamaica]

Q: What specific challenges were involved in shaping this year’s lineup?

A: Music-related documentaries has always been a strong genre, but this year more than ever. We have [programmed] a great range, from Kurt Cobain: About a Son to Made in Jamaica to several others, not to mention the biggest...

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Lennon in Venice
Matt Dentler's ever-alert blog tipped me off to Peter Bradshaw's thorough coverage of the Venice Film Festival in the Guardian.

Here's an excerpt where Bradshaw discusses The US vs John Lennon, which will have its North American premiere at TIFF on Saturday, Sept 9. Bradshaw writes:

Leaf and Scheinfeld's film about Lennon seeks to retrieve him from the cynical view promoted by the 1988 Albert Goldman biography, and unapologetically cries up the former Beatle as an alternative radical and idealist. There is some telling footage of British reporters, such as Donald Zec of the...

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[Today begins a series of postings by TIFF directors discussing different crafts that go into documentary making: archival research, shooting, editing, music - Ed.]

Dick. Shamus. Slewfoot. The slang varies, but the job is the same throughout decades of crime films -- navigating a noir-ish jungle of torpedoes, fakeloos, shysters, tomatoes and roscoes to obtain information.  

Although hardly as treacherous, making The U.S. vs. John Lennon did involve quite a bit of hard-boiled detection. Lennon was one of the...

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Name That Tune
Music plays an integral role in so many of this year’s TIFF documentaries. We invite you to send comments on your favorite documentary sound tracks – whether it’s Philip Glass in Thin Blue Line or The Beach Boys’ “Wouldn’t It Be Nice?? in Roger & Me or Bob Dylan in Dont Look Back. Filmmakers, tell us your experiences of working with music in your docs.

Festival goers, tell us your favorite use of music from this year’s TIFF docs. You’ll hear a wide array of styles from the reggae strains of...

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My very first trip to Canada as a kid was to Expo '67 in Montreal, and among my favorite memories of the fair are the terrific movies about Canada that played in the various exhibits.  Most memorable was the Czechoslovakian pavilion, where a mind-blowing "interactive" (did that word even exist back then?) film allowed the audience to participate in the storytelling. I can still feel the fun of endlessly riding the monorails and in my mind's eye,...

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Are you in American Hardcore?
OK, a free sticker to anyone who can identify themselves in the crowd of this American Hardcore screen grab! We have lots of old vintage early 1980's footage. Much of what we found was stored in old shoeboxes in closets and was shot on VHS in ELP mode back in the day so as to maxmize the amount of shows per tape. A perfect example of some of the rarest is this capture from an early Negative Approach show in Philadelphia shot by Steven Eye. A Detroit band, Negative Approach was...

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Kurt Cobain Lives in Toronto
Kurt Cobain  About a Son (left) is generating a huge amount of anticipation for its TIFF world premiere. Director AJ Schnack draws upon hours of intimate audio-taped conversations that the Nirvana singer had with his biographer Michael Azerrad. The film is divided into three chapters for the three Washington cities where Cobain lived - Aberdeen, Olympia, Seattle. Schnack visualizes the conversations with gorgeous 35 mm photography of the landscapes and faces of that region. It's unlike any other rock 'n' roll movie ever made. Schnack,...

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Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man (right) was one of the doc hits from last year's Festival. That year concluded Sean Farnel's glorious six year stint as TIFF's documentary programmer. Now he serves as programmer for Toronto's Hot Docs festival, held in the spring. Here, Farnel looks back at his years with TIFF...

SEAN FARNEL:
If I actually had a memory left after years of frying my synapses watching a few hundred docs each summer,  maybe unearthing some golden nugget from Real to Reel yore wouldn't be so painful.

It's all...

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Welcome to the TIFF Doc Blog

Here come the Dixie Chicks (left) and dozens of other great documentary subjects. Tune in here to read diary entries from the programmers and doc makers in the festival with daily updates on world premieres, parties and business deals.

This is my first year as the Toronto International Film Festival’s documentary programmer. But I’ve been coming as a visitor to the Festival since 1988 when I attended to catch Ron Mann’s Comic Book Confidential. (This year Mann...

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