Toronto fest sets documentaries

'Harvard,' 'Loud,' 'Valentino' among premieres

Tommy Lee Jones’ football moves, Jimmy Page’s creativity and Valentino’s fashion crimes are among the real stories unspooling September in Toronto, as the festival’s doc slate was announced Tuesday.

Among the 19 world preems in Real to Reel, “Harvard Beats Yale 29-29” is a memory trip from veteran helmer Kevin Rafferty (“Atomic Café”), who interviewed members of rival Yale and Harvard football teams of 1968, including Jones and future President Bush’s roommate (Harvard alum Rafferty is Yalie Bush’s first cousin).

Oscar-winning doc helmer Davis Guggenheim (“An Inconvenient Truth”) hits a different chord with “It Might Get Loud,” an intimate examination of rock guitar virtuosos Page, the Edge and the White Stripes’ Jack White at work.

Vanity Fair scribe Matt Tyrnauer celebrates the famous Italian designer in “Valentino: The Last Emperor,” a North American preem in Special Presentations, which also includes world preem of helmer Chai Vasarhelyi’s “Youssou Ndour: I Bring What I Love,” following several years in the life of the Senegal singer.

“There is a mood right now, driven by recent articles, that documentary is in some kind of slump,” said Real to Reel and Mavericks programmer Thom Powers. “But I think the wrong measure is being used here. We’re currently on track to see possibly seven docs make over ($)4 million this year, not to mention there is certainly no creative slump — it’s getting harder for us to pick a narrow list of 30 or so theatrical titles.”

Powers notes environmental themes figure prominently. “At the Edge of the World,” in which first-time helmer Dan Stone follows Canadian eco-warrior Paul Watson to Antarctica, “is a high seas adventure, like ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ without the special effects,” Powers said, while Ben Kempas’ “Upstream Battle,” pitting the Hoopa tribe against an international power company, is “a classic David and Goliath story.”

Also world preeming in Real to Reel, “Food, Inc.” is helmer Robert Kenner’s look at what we eat, drawing on reportage of Eric Schosser (“Fast Food Nation”), while “The Biggest Chinese Restaurant in the World,” from helmer Weijun Chen (“Please Vote for Me”) is perhaps self explanatory.

Sean Penn exec produces and narrates “Witch Hunt,” Dana Nachman and Don Hardy’s look at a tough Bakersfield D.A., while Helen Mirren narrates “Yes Madam, Sir,” Megan Doneman’s portrait of India’s first femme cop.

Helmer Richard Parry followed war photographer Robert King for 15 years from Bosnia to Iraq for “Blood Trail,” while helmer Nikolaus Geyrhalter follows Dakar rally tracks in “After the Race.”

“When We Were Kings” editor Jeffrey Levy-Hinte helms “Soul Power,” chronicling the star-studded concert companion to Ali’s infamous “Rumble in the Jungle” 1974 bout in Zaire against George Foreman. Also out of Africa, “Sea Point Days” is helmer François Verster’s dip into a Cape Town pool and promenade, while Dorothee Wenner’s “Peace Mission,” looks at “Nollywood,” Nigeria’s wildly popular home-movie industry.

Mathew Kaufman and Jon Hart’s “American Swing” checks out New York’s notorious 1970s sex club Plato’s Retreat, while Keven McAlester’s “The Dungeon Master,” lensed by Lee Daniel, spends time with three devoted D&D fans.

First-time helmer Kristopher Belman bounces with an Akron high school basketball team, featuring future superstar LeBron James, in “More Than a Game.” Alexander Sebastien Lee’s action doc “The Real Shaolin” follows four martial arts students in China.

Islamic insurgency in Thailand is explored in “Citizen Juling,” from co-helmers Ing K, Kraisak Choonhavan and Manit Sriwanichpoom, while Nati Baratz chronicles the four-year search for the reincarnation of Lama Konchoing in “Unmistaken Child.”

In “From Mother to Daughter,” Andrea Zambelli captures the legacy of Italian women who reunite 50 years after WWII, while doc thriller “Killing Kasztner” is Gaylen Ross’ examination of a man who rescued 1,600 Hungarian Jews during WWII but was later branded a traitor. Yulene Olaizola explores the dark side of friendship in “Shakespeare and Victor Hugo’s Intimacies.”

Festival favorite Agnes Varda returns with the North American preem of “Les Plages d’Agnès,” a look back at her life and career through visits to beaches, screening in the Masters program.

The festival closes with a screening of Paul Cronin’s four-hour work-in-progress “A Time to Stir,” featuring archive and interviews examining various perspectives of the 1968 Columbia U. student strike.

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