Never in the history of the Toronto Intl. Film Festival has a non-music based doc been included in TIFF’s prestigious Gala Presentations lineup.

That changes this year, as not just one but two documentaries, Liz Garbus’ “Love, Marilyn” and Shola Lynch’s “Free Angela and All Political Prisoners” make their world premieres in the coveted section — alongside Ben Affleck’s “Argo,” Robert Redford’s “The Company You Keep” and Joe Wright’s “Anna Karenina.”

Featuring Marisa Tomei, Uma Thurman and Glenn Close, “Love, Marilyn” reflects on Marilyn Monroe’s recently discovered private writings while “Free Angela” features Angela Davis speaking for the first time about her 1970s imprisonment as a terrorist and conspirator.

“There’s been a gradual confidence building within the festival as an organization regarding documentaries and the amount of attention they can command,” says TIFF doc programmer Thom Powers.

Since the start of his tenure in 2006, Powers has steadily built TIFF’s standing as a premier documentary fest.

Last year Davis Guggenheim’s “From the Sky Down” made history as the first doc to open the festival while Reel-to-Reel selection “Undefeated” from Daniel Lindsay and T.J. Martin went on to win the Academy Award for documentary feature.

“I used to not pay much attention to Toronto because I thought of it as a fiction film festival,” says HBO’s president of documentary programming Sheila Nevins. “But Thom has energized the docu part of it. Suddenly (non-fiction) filmmakers wanted to premiere at Toronto. Now it’s up there with the top doc fests.”

HBO brings two titles to the fest: Alex Gibney’s “Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God” and Nina Davenport’s “First Comes Love,” both premiering in TIFF Docs category.

While the buzz has increased around TIFF documentaries, Powers is quick to point out that when it comes to Galas there needs to be great filmmaking combined with an “extra sizzle factor.”

“There’s no point in including a film in the Gala section if it’s not going to have some important people who are in attendance with it.”

Davis as well as “Free Angela’s” Overbrook Entertainment producers Jada Pinkett Smith along with the several A-list actresses behind “Love, Marilyn” are all scheduled to walk the red carpet prior to their docs’ respective premieres.

Toronto Int’l Film Festival 2012
Indie opportunities await at Toronto | Themes weave throughout diverse lineup | Toronto’s raffish hub gets posh hotels, grub | Focus stays downtown as docs get new home | Four spas offer pause to festgoers | Pic promoters blaze many trails to happy endings | Toronto giving docus Gala treatment | TIFF ratchets up femme focus in docs