The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) usually draws close to half-million people over 10 days, but this year's event will be a very different affair once again due to covid. The 46th edition, running Sept. 9 to 18, will be a combination of in-person screenings at theatres, drive-ins and open-air with very strict covid protocols, but many of the films will also be available online for a limited window. Tickets information is here
Of the 130-plus feature films (and more than 35 shorts), Alanis Morissette, Dionne Warwick, Kenny G, Oscar Peterson, and Triumph are all subjects of documentaries, plus there are a handful of other music-related films. The big one is the opening night gala, Dear Evan Hansen, based on the multi-award-winning Broadway musical. FYI Music News has compiled a list, noting the first screening day (check respective links for other screenings) and if it’s available to be viewed digitally.
In order of first screenings:
Dear Evan Hansen
Sept. 9 – in-person
Production company: Marc Platt Productions
Screenplay: Steven Levenson
The screen adaptation of Steven Levenson’s Tony Award–winning coming-of-age musical stars Ben Platt, who won a Tony for Best Lead Actor in a Musical. The theatre production also won five more Tonys, including Best Musical and Best Score, and a Grammy for Best Musical Theatre album. The film, directed by Stephen Chbosky and co-produced by Ben’s father, Marc, also features cast members Amy Adams, Julianne Moore and Danny Pino. Content warning: suicide (off-screen) and references to suicidal ideation. Dear Evan Hansen hits theatres Sept. 24.
Triumph: Rock & Roll Machine
Sept. 10 – in-person
Production companies: Banger Films, Revolver Films
Screenplay: Ralph Chapman
The Bell Media doc about the legendary Canadian rock trio “chronicles the band’s past rock excess,” and reunites singer-guitarist Rik Emmett, bassist-keyboardist Mike Levine, and drummer-singer Gil Moore for a special performance for their super fans at Moore’s Metalworks Studios. Co-directed by Sam Dunn and Marc Ricciardelli, Triumph: Rock & Roll Machine was executive produced by Dunn, Scot McFadyen, Randy Lennox, Don Allan, and Martin Katz, and will be available on Crave later this year.
Listening To Kenny G
Sept. 11: in-person
Production companies: Ringer Films, Spinning Nancy
Director Penny Lane takes a wider approach to this film on the life of easy-listening saxophonist, tackling the bigger question: what makes music good or bad? In the synopsis for the doc, it asks, “Is there any musician more polarizing than Kenny G?” and adds, “He’s well aware of the jokes at his expense, but he retains a naïveté that makes for a fascinating character study. This documentary isn’t only about Kenny G. It’s also about you as a listener.” Listening To Kenny G will will premiere on Crave later this year, as part of HBO’s Music Box series.
Dionne Warwick: Don’t Make Me Over
Sept. 11: in-person
Production Companies: Wooley Entertainment, DW/DOC, LLC
Screenplay: Dave Wooley
The entertainment icon will be in Toronto not just for the presentation of this retrospective documentary, but to be honoured with TIFF’s 2021 Special Tribute Award.
Dionne Warwick: Don’t Make Me Over, which covers her six-decade career in music, and Black and LGBTQ activism, was co-directed by Wooley and David Heilbroner. The filmmakers have Warwick at the core of the telling, peppered with commentary from Burt Bacharach, Gladys Knight, Stevie Wonder, Elton, John, Quincy Jones, Alicia Keys, Bill Clinton, Snoop Dogg, Carlos Santana, and Warwick’s cousin, the late Whitney Houston (in archival material).
Oscar Peterson: Black + White
Sept. 12 – in-person
Production company: Melbar Entertainment Group
Screenplay: Barry Avrich
Continuing his films on Canada’s Walk of Fame inductees (David Foster, Howie Mandel) for Bell Media, director Barry Avrich takes on the life of the late Oscar Peterson in this documentary described as “a warm and affectionate tribute to Canada’s greatest jazz man.” Among the many notable names weighing in are Billy Joel, Herbie Hancock, Branford Marsalis, and Quincy Jones. The doc was executive produced by Randy Lennox, Jeffrey Latimer, and Avrich. Following its TIFF premiere, Oscar Peterson: Black + White will screen in Cineplex theatres for a limited time, before streaming on Crave.
Sept. 14: in-person
Production Companies: Ringer Films, Aliklay
Alanis Morissette, who released two successful dance-pop albums in Canada as a teenager, before skyrocketing to international fame with 1995’s Jagged Little Pill, “takes a candid look back at being a young woman in the maelstrom of superstardom” in this documentary from director Alison Klayman (Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry). Taylor Hawkins, Chris Chaney, Shirley Manson, Kevin Smith are also interviewed for the film. “As a natural people pleaser in her youth, Morissette put on a cheerful mask in public. Now she’s ready to share what was concealed,” the synopsis states. Jagged will ipremiere on Crave later this year, as part of HBO’s Music Box series.
Sept. 10: in-person
Production Companies: OkayMedia, Ezra Soperhim Inc., Swan Films, Quiet, JMK Films
Screenplay: Saul Williams
Neptune Frost is the directorial debut from American actor/musician/writer Saul Williams, alongside Rwandan actor Anisia Uzeyman. Described as an “Afro-sonic sci-fi musical,” composed by Williams, “in which a cosmic romance between an intersex hacker and a coltan miner seeds the revolution” and “tells of a generation of dreamers escaping the psycho-social wreckage of colonization, genocide, and the residual brutalities of global extractive industries.” Neptune Frost was executive produced by Ottawa-based Cayuga and Mohawk group The Halluci Nation (f.k.a. A Tribe Called Red).
Sept. 11: in-person
Production Companies: Asmik Ace, Science SARU
Screenplay: Akiko Nogi
“Two boys marginalized by society in 14th-century Japan find power through dance and song, in [director] Masaaki Yuasa’s animated tale of friendship and magic,” is how this feature-length anime movie is described. Based on a novel by Hideo Furukawa, the summary says it “follows the life of a legendary figure in Japanese history: Inu-Oh, ‘King Dog,’ a dramatic performer in the 14th century when the folk theatre of Sarugaku (“monkey music”) transitioned into the tradition of Noh. The music is described as rock operettas. Original score by Yoshihide Otomo.
Learn To Swim
Sept. 11: in-person
Production Company: Leilani Films
Screenplay: Marni Van Dyk, Thyrone Tommy
The feature film debut from Toronto’s Thyrone Tommy “charts the stormy romance between two very different contemporary jazz musicians,” Dezi (played by Thomas Antony Olajide), a sax player, and Selma (Emma Ferreira), a “less experienced” singer. The original score is by BadBadNotGood’s Chester Hansen, Leland Whitty, and solo artist TiKA. “Learn To Swim is a window on the contemporary jazz scene, which can include everything from cool jazz, hard bop, hip-hop, and Latin American influences,” the TIFF synopsis states. “It’s also a portrait of the workaday world of musicians whose excitement over their creative efforts is muted by their hardscrabble profession.”