TIFF 2011 opens with U2 rock doc
The Toronto International Film Festival kicks off with a decidedly rock and roll opening Thursday, with the world premiere of Oscar winner Davis Guggenheim's From The Sky Down, a portrait of U2 during the making of the group's watershed album, Achtung Baby.
The anticipated film, which chronicles the Irish band's struggle to redefine its sound 20 years ago, is the first documentary ever chosen as TIFF's opening night gala.
It was an "irresistible" choice to start the star-studded annual cinematic celebration, which runs Sept. 8-18, said TIFF co-director Cameron Bailey.
Point one in the film's favour was its director. Guggenheim, who won an Academy Award for An Inconvenient Truth, had previously brought two other titles to Toronto: the U.S. public education exposé Waiting for Superman and the guitar-rock doc It Might Get Loud.
"We like his work a lot and he has a way of getting inside the working relationship of very prominent people," Bailey told CBC News.
"We like the fact that [the film is] about the process of creativity, which is what we're about as a festival. And I'm a U2 fan. I love that album, so it was kind of irresistible."
In recent years, a growing musical undercurrent has also been running through the festival, admitted TIFF CEO Piers Handling, with high-profile documentaries shining a cinematic spotlight on recording artists like Bruce Springsteen, The White Stripes and Joy Division. Other TIFF 2011 films showcasing musicians include Cameron Crowe's Pearl Jam Twenty, Jonathan Demme's Neil Young Journeys, Albert Maysles' The Love We Make and Paul Williams Still Alive by Stephen Kessler.
"Music has actually been a theme for the last number of years for me and some of the festival programmers. It's been fascinating to watch [films about] so many of these great bands we used to, you know, listen to as kids," Handling said.
"It's very exciting because I think so many of the most interesting films being done today are actually documentaries."
High-profile films, international stars
Though not tied to a music film, pop icon Madonna will visit TIFF with her latest directorial effort, the romantic drama W.E.
Her film is one of the premiere titles to be showcased at the festival, joining David Cronenberg's psychoanalysis drama A Dangerous Method, George Clooney's political film The Ides of March, Michael Winterbottom's modern literary adaptation Trishna, silent film drama The Artist, Luc Besson's bio about Burmese activist Aung San Suu Kyi entitled The Lady, fast-paced crime thriller Drive and the baseball tale Moneyball, starring Brad Pitt.
Along with Cronenberg's film, notable Canadian offerings include Sarah Polley's marital dramedy Take This Waltz, Mike Clattenburg's dark, wartime comedy Afghan Luke, Bruce McDonald's mockumentary sequel Hard Core Logo 2, cross-cultural hockey comedy Breakaway, Jean-Marc Vallée's dual love story Café de Flore and Léa Pool's fundraising exposé doc Pink Ribbons, Inc.
Aside from the music docs, the non-fiction lineup also includes the latest from prominent documentarians Wim Wenders (Pina), Werner Herzog (Into the Abyss), Nick Broomfield (Sarah Palin — You Betcha! ), Alex Gibney (The Last Gladiators), Jessica Yu (Last Call at the Oasis), Gary Huswit (Urbanized) and Morgan Spurlock (Comic Con: Episode IV - A Fan's Hope).
Altogether, the 11-day festival will screen 336 movies (short and full-length), across 17 different film programs.
Showcasing new Canadian films, international titles from 65 different countries, emerging directors as well as veteran filmmakers and stars like Francis Ford Coppola (Twixt) and Christopher Plummer (Barrymore) — all are exciting prospects, said Bailey.
"The range of people and the range of films I think we're going to be able to bring to the audience is what excites me," he said.
"We are launching what we feel are the best new films of the year, here."