tiff docs

The top 10 documentaries to watch at TIFF 2014

We're blessed with an embarrassment of riches these days when it comes to documentaries. It seems like we're genuinely in the midst of a Golden Age of the Doc, with no end of captivating, informative, emotional, life-changing films about reality coming out every year.

The offerings at this year's Toronto International Film Festival in particular represent some of the best documentarians currently working, and show that this renaissance is far from over. Here then are the most promising docs appearing at this year's festival.

Tales of the Grim Sleeper
Nick Broomfield's documentaries have covered a vast range of people ranging from Kurt Cobain to Sarah Palin. This time he trains his eyes on a serial killer who haunted the streets of South Central L.A. for over twenty-five years, and in turn shines an equal light on gender, race and class inequality.

Red Army
As you patiently wait for hockey season to start-up again, Red Army should prove excellent viewing to tide you over. Sure, the "Red" in this case doesn't represent the Canadian flag so much as Russia, but this history of USSR hockey--on and off the ice--throughout the 1980s is no less compelling a subject.

The Years of Fierro
It's a fate impossible to imagine: being sentenced to death for a crime you didn't commit. The Years of Fierro looks at the case of CĂŠsar Fierro, a man who has been in a US prison awaiting death by lethal injection for over thirty years. The documentary takes a look at the toll that kind of imprisonment can have not just on the person inside the prison, but the family outside it too.

The Look of Silence
Following up his phenomenal documentary The Act of Killing, director Joshua Oppenheimer once again returns to Indonesia's violent past. This time he follows Adi, a man whose brother died in the mass murders of the 1960s, and upon discovering how his brother died, begins to confront the killers--all of whom are now men in positions of power.

Seymour: An Introduction
Actor Ethan Hawke stepped behind the camera for this look at an eighty-five-year-old classical piano teacher reflecting upon his life, music, piano, and the purpose of art. The TIFF programme describes this documentary as recalling My Dinner with AndrĂŠ, which is mighty praise indeed.

Silvered Water, Syria Self-Portrait
A unique collaboration propels this documentary about Syria in the here and now. Director Ossama Mohammed received a probing question via Facebook from a Kurdish activist named Simav: "If your camera were here...what would you be filming?" The result is this long-distance collaborative film that promises to be as haunting as it will be eye opening.

I Am Here
Director Fan Lixin (Last Train Home) tackles an entirely different subject this time for his latest documentary: those who audition for China's American Idol-style singing competition, Super Boy. The film should prove to be particularly interesting not just because of its look behind the showbiz curtain, but--more intriguingly--its examination of the Chinese millennial generation.

National Gallery
Frederick Wiseman's last documentary At Berkley, the four-hour look at The University of California at Berkley, was a critical sensation in 2013. This time Wiseman directs his comprehensive focus on the ins and outs of almost every nook and cranny at The National Gallery in London.

The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness
A perfect compliment to Isao Takahata's The Tale of The Princess Kaguya playing at this year's festival, this documentary takes a behind-the-scenes look at legendary director Hayao Miyazaki and renowned Japanese animation studio, Studio Ghibli. It should prove particularly insightful for those who saw Miyazaki's The Wind Rises at last year's TIFF, and Princess Kaguya at this one, as it shows the making of both films here.

Merchants of Doubt
With his new documentary, Robert Kenner, the director behind Food, Inc., looks at what is known as "the doubt industry"--professionals who are paid to cast skepticism on things like the risks of chemicals, cigarettes, and now climate change.

the equalizer movieThanks to the Equalizer, starring Denzel Washington, for sponsoring our coverage of TIFF 2014.


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