Burns preem tops 24-doc sked at festival

TORONTO — A threesome, a deaf musician and five golden retrievers as a metaphor for peace and hope are some of the subjects documakers are tackling in films to screen at the 29th annual Toronto Film Festival Sept. 9-18.

The partial lineup of 24 docs announced in Toronto Tuesday includes 11 world and six North American premieres.

Three of the world premieres are Ken Burns’ “Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson,” the tale of the first black man to win the heavyweight title and the price he paid; an insider’s look at the Democratic presidential candidate in “Going Upriver — The Long War of John Kerry,” from George Butler; and the return to Rwanda of the former Canadian commander of a U.N. peacekeeping mission a decade after the genocide in Peter Raymont’s “Shake Hands With the Devil: The Journey of Romeo Dallaire.”

In Susan Kaplan’s “Three of Hearts,” also a world premiere, Sam, Samantha and Steven fall in love and become “trinogomous” partners over a 13-year period. German filmmaker Thomas Riedelsheimer profiles solo percussionist Evelyn Glennie, who, rendered almost completely deaf as a child, hears and interprets sound through her entire body in “Touch the Sound,” which receives its North American premiere at the fest; photographer and filmmaker Bruce Weber turns his five golden retrievers and the unconditional love they display into symbols of inspiration in the Canadian preem of “A Letter to True.”

James D. Stern and Adam Del Deo bring the story of basketball sensation Yao Ming’s first year in the NBA in “The Year of the Yao.” Making its international preem will be Michael Epstein’s “Final Cut: The Making and Unmaking of Heaven’s Gate,” about the 1980 pic that was delivered a year late and 300% over budget and is credited with bankrupting United Artists.

Jacques Richard brings Henri Langlois, the inspiration for the French New Wave, to the screen with “Le Fantome d’Henri Langlois,” while in “Gunner Palace,” Michael Tucker and Petra Epperlein travel alongside U.S. troops to provide a revealing glimpse of the war in Iraq and the horrors left unreported by the mainstream media.

Canuck filmmaker Peter Lynch returns to the festival with the world premiere of “Whale of a Tale,” charting the mysterious discovery of a whalebone during the 1980s excavation of a new subway line in Toronto, 65 feet below the Earth’s surface and more than 600 miles from salt water. And in the North American preem of “Darwin’s Nightmare” (France/Austria/Belgium), Hubert Sauper examines the crushing economic disparity in Africa’s Great Lakes region.

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