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TIFF Announces 2023 Documentary Program

This morning, the Toronto International Film Festival released the lineup for its Docs program. These 22 documentaries will come from all over the world and fill TIFF with a ton of conversation topics and ideas. Some of these movies may even wind up as Oscar contenders. More below.

Here is the TIFF press release:

The Toronto International Film Festival® is delighted to announce the 2023 selection for the TIFF
Docs programme presented by A&E IndieFilms, featuring 22 titles from 12 countries around the world. The 2023 TIFF Docs lineup brings premieres that showcase a wide variety of documentary filmmaking: personal, political, observational, essayistic, historical, biographical, and indescribable. Audiences will encounter unforgettable figures such as mountain climber Lhakpa Sherpa, Japan’s reality TV star Nasubi, Ukraine’s foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba, Indigenous activist Layla Staats, historian Dr. Ibram X. Kendi, and Canadian icon Mr. Dressup.

“We believe documentaries have a unique power to illuminate untold stories, challenge perspectives, and inspire meaningful change,” said Anita Lee, Chief Programming Officer, TIFF. “We are committed to celebrating the artistry and impact of documentary filmmaking, and it’s an absolute privilege to provide a platform for these remarkable storytellers. As someone with a background in documentary production myself, I know firsthand the dedication and passion that goes into crafting these narratives that resonate with audiences worldwide. We invite all documentary filmmakers to join us at TIFF as we continue to champion their vital contributions to the world of cinema.”

“This year’s slate of TIFF Docs titles is guaranteed to start conversations,” said TIFF Docs programmer Thom Powers. “Audiences can expect big emotions that run the gamut over extraordinary accomplishments, quests for justice, and poignant personal journeys. Many of these attention-getting titles will be coming to the Festival looking for buyers.”

TIFF Docs programme presented by A&E IndieFilms will open with the World Premiere of Copa 71 from Rachel Ramsay and James Erskine, which serves to restore the lost legacy of a 1971 international women’s soccer tournament that had record setting crowds in Mexico City but was largely erased from sports history. World Premieres from global veteran doc makers include Raoul Peck’s Silver Dollar Road, which chronicles how a Black family fights over several decades to save their North Carolina property from land grabbing developers; Anand Patwardhan’s The World is Family, which traces his parents’ personal history and their links to the leaders of India’s independence movement; Karim Amer’s Defiant, which gains extraordinary access to Ukraine’s foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba and his colleagues as they wage a war against disinformation; Lucy Walker’s Mountain Queen: The Summits of Lhakpa Sherpa, which profiles a single mother working as a dishwasher at a Connecticut Whole Foods who has another life as record-breaking mountain climber; and Roger Ross Williams’ Stamped From the Beginning, based on the best-selling book by Dr. Ibram X. Kendi, which examines the history of anti-Black racism in the U.S.

World Premieres from mid-career auteurs and rising stars include Clair Titley’s The Contestant, which tells the jaw-dropping story of a Japanese reality TV show participant, Nasubi, who spent months naked in solitary confinement, trying to win sweepstake prizes for his survival; Robert McCallum’s Mr. Dressup: The Magic of Make-Believe, about the beloved Canadian entertainer and television star who won the hearts of children across the country; Caroline Suh and Cara Mones’ Sorry/Not Sorry, which focuses on women who accused Louis C.K. of sexual harassment and the consequences to their careers; Chris Wilcha’s Flipside, a new doc from the award-winning director of the This American Life TV series about his comical attempt to save a New Jersey record store and confront a mid-life crisis; Boil Alert from Stevie Salas and James Burns, a Canadian doc following activist Layla Staats’ dual journey to explore the Indigenous relationship to water and her own identity as a Mohawk woman; Homecoming by Suvi West and Anssi Kömi, in which the Indigenous Sámi people fight to get back their stolen ancestral heritage; Jen Markowitz’s Summer Qamp, chronicling a dynamic session
of a LGBTQIA2S+ summer camp nestled around the Canadian Rockies; and Kasia Smutniak’s Walls, a personal journey that plays like a thriller in which Smutniak documents the refugee flow in the “red zone” of the Belarusian-Polish border while evading arrest.

International and North American Premieres from legendary filmmakers include Frederick Wiseman’s
Menus-Plaisirs Les Troisgros, in which the 93-year-old director embeds inside a French restaurant that’s held three Michelin stars for more than 50 years, and Errol Morris’ The Pigeon Tunnel, a masterful portrait of the spy novelist David Cornwell ― a.k.a. John Le Carré ― for what was the author’s final interview.

Rounding out TIFF Docs 2023 with North American Premieres are Lina Soualem’s Bye Bye Tiberias, in which the director profiles her mother ― Palestinian actress Hiam Abbass (Succession) ― exploring her choice to leave her native village 30 years ago in pursuit of her dream of acting; Andrés Peyrot’s God is a Woman, which follows the Kuna Indigenous community in Panama as they seek to gain access to a French documentary made about them 40 years ago; Maciek Hamela’s In the Rearview, an exceptionally intimate film following a Polish vehicle as it traverses the roads of Ukraine to help its passengers flee amidst the Russian invasion; Asmae El Moudir’s The Mother of All Lies, winner of two awards at Cannes in which ― on a handmade set recreating her Casablanca neighbourhood ― a young Moroccan filmmaker enlists family and friends to help solve key mysteries of her childhood; Margreth Olin’s Songs of Earth, which follows the filmmaker’s octogenarian father on walks through Norway’s landscapes of mountains, glaciers, and waterfalls for an immersion into nature with stunning cinematography; and Pierre-Henri Gibert’s Viva Varda!, which profiles the pioneering filmmaker Agnès Varda with fresh perspectives that complement her autobiographical work.

These TIFF Docs titles join a number of documentaries already announced for TIFF 2023 as part of the Gala and Special Presentations programmes, including Leigh Brooks’ Hate to Love: Nickelback, Kaouther Ben Hania’s Four Daughters, Alex Gibney’s In Restless Dreams: The Music of Paul Simon, and Chelsea McMullan’s Swan Song.


2023 TIFF Docs programme:


Boil Alert Stevie Salas, James Burns | Canada/USA
World Premiere
Bye Bye Tiberias Lina Soualem | France/Belgium/Qatar/Palestine
North American Premiere
Sales Title
TIFF DOCS OPENING NIGHT FILM
Copa 71 Rachel Ramsay, James Erskine | United Kingdom
World Premiere
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Defiant Karim Amer | Ukraine/United Kingdom/USA
World Premiere
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Flipside Chris Wilcha | USA
World Premiere
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God is a Woman Andrés Peyrot | France/Switzerland/Panama
North American Premiere
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Homecoming Suvi West, Anssi Kömi | Finland/Norway
World Premiere
In the Rearview Maciek Hamela | Poland/France/Ukraine
North American Premiere
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Menus-Plaisirs Les Troisgros Frederick Wiseman | France/USA
North American Premiere
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Mountain Queen: The Summits of Lhakpa Sherpa Lucy Walker | USA
World Premiere
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Mr. Dressup: The Magic of Make-Believe Robert McCallum | Canada
World Premiere
Silver Dollar Road Raoul Peck | USA
World Premiere
Songs of Earth Margreth Olin | Norway
North American Premiere
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Sorry/Not Sorry Caroline Suh, Cara Mones | USA
World Premiere
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Stamped From the Beginning Roger Ross Williams | USA
World Premiere
Summer Qamp Jen Markowitz | Canada
World Premiere
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The Contestant Clair Titley | United Kingdom
World Premiere
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The Mother of All Lies Asmae El Moudir | Morocco/Egypt/Saudi Arabia/Qatar
North American Premiere
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The Pigeon Tunnel Errol Morris | United Kingdom/USA/Hungary
International Premiere
The World is Family Anand Patwardhan | India
World Premiere
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Viva Varda! Pierre-Henri Gibert | France
North American Premiere
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Walls Kasia Smutniak | Italy
World Premiere
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Written by Steven Prusakowski

Steven Prusakowski has been a cinephile as far back as he can remember, literally. At the age of ten, while other kids his age were sleeping, he was up into the late hours of the night watching the Oscars. Since then, his passion for film, television, and awards has only grown. For over a decade he has reviewed and written about entertainment through publications including Awards Circuit and Screen Radar. He has conducted interviews with some of the best in the business - learning more about them, their projects and their crafts. He is a graduate of the RIT film program. You can find him on Twitter and Letterboxd as @FilmSnork – we don’t know why the name, but he seems to be sticking to it.
Email: filmsnork@gmail.com

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