While splashy, star-driven awards bait steals most of the headlines and attention, there are two sections in the upcoming Toronto International Film Festival that will play directly into the current movie landscape's hottest trends: documentary and Midnight Madness.
Perhaps not typically one of the festival's sexier sections, a summer in which documentaries have made a strong showing at the U.S. box office will have many looking to TIFF's documentary program for potential breakouts. Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 11/9," about the United States in the era of President Trump, will almost assuredly prove to be one of the festival's most talked about films.
"I think Michael Moore likes to take a fresh angle and catch people by surprise," said Thom Powers, TIFF docs programmer. He's betting the sequel, of sorts, to Moore's 2004 George W. Bush examination "Fahrenheit 9/11" -- which remains the highest-grossing documentary of all time, by far, at the box office -- will also surprise.
"This film is both very timely in the lead up to America's congressional elections in November, but it also has a timeless quality," Powers said. "People should not come expecting that 1/8Moore3/8 is just going to be shooting Donald Trump in a barrel with jokes. He's taking a much bigger perspective on American politics."
Meanwhile, at a time when horror has hardly been hotter at the box office, the festival's cult favorite Midnight Madness lineup will host the premieres of Shane Black's "The Predator" and David Gordon Green's "Halloween," with both films set for release by major studios and attempting to breathe new life into longstanding franchises.
"I know sometimes at a festival you don't want to see the studio fare, but I think both these films really do challenge expectations and subvert them in a really fun way," said Midnight Madness programmer Peter Kuplowsky.
Powers confirmed that the recent box-office success of docs such as "RBG" and the Fred Rogers-focused "Won't You Be My Neighbor?" have led to an uptick in interest in nonfiction from the broader film industry. He said there are more docs up for acquisition, represented by more major sales agencies, than he can remember in any previous year.
"And in my preliminary conversations with some of the big buyers," Powers added, "I know that people are coming for the next big thing."
In addition to Moore's "Fahrenheit 11/9," other politically charged docs to play at the festival include Errol Morris' "American Dharma," about political strategist Steve Bannon; Alexis Bloom's "Divide and Conquer: The Story of Roger Ailes"; Werner Herzog and Andre Singer's "Meeting Gorbachev"; and Vitaly Mansky's "Putin's Witness."
The documentary selections will touch on a wide range of other topics as well. Victoria Stone and Mark Deeble's "The Elephant Queen" follows the journey of an elephant herd, and Billy Corben's "Screwball" explores doping in major league baseball. E. Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin's "Free Solo" is about audacious professional climber Alex Honnold.