Toronto Docs Tackle Politics and Current Affairs
By Addie Morfoot
LOS ANGELES (Variety.com) – It’s been close to two years since the 2016 presidential election and although a few documentaries about President Trump have been released, including Jack Bryan’s “Active Measures” and Maxim Pozdorovkin’s “Our New President,” there has yet to be a seminal film about the making of America’s 45th president.
Until TIFF 2018.
This year’s fest nonfiction lineup features a crop of powerful films from veteran doc directors that explore not only the rise of Trump, but also the people responsible for his success. People such as Steve Bannon and Roger Ailes.
“It makes sense that we’re seeing films directly reflective of the 2016 election now, two years later,” said TIFF documentary programmer Thom Powers. “I think two years is the kind of typical gestation period for filmmakers to really pull off a great documentary.”
Powers was referring to the cluster of docus that tackle and reflect upon America’s current political situation including Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 11/9,” which examines the rise of Trump; Errol Morris’ “American Dharma,” a controversial look at Trump’s former senior adviser Steve Bannon that bowed in Venice; and Alexis Bloom’s “Divide and Conquer: The Story of Roger Ailes,” about the triumph and downfall of the late founder of Fox News. Magnolia Pictures has bought the North American rights to the film.
While Morris won the Oscar for his Robert McNamara doc “Fog of War,” a film he made 40 years after McNamara served as the Vietnam-era secretary of defense, the helmer said he felt compelled to make a film about Bannon after reading Michael Wolfe’s bestseller “Fire and Fury,” which came out in January.
“It seemed the right time because I really wanted to understand what was going on around me,” Morris said. “I wanted to go out and listen to what [Bannon] had to say, because I think it’s very important to try to understand what’s going on in the country. I would say that it’s beyond important. It’s essential.”
Bloom felt it essential to make a film about the mastermind behind Fox News — Ailes — after he resigned from his role as chairman and CEO of Fox in 2016. Ailes died in May 2017.
“It was obvious to me and [“Divide and Conquer” executive producer] Alex Gibney that after the 2016 election the country was going Roger’s way,” Bloom said. “He did successfully divide a nation and he was winning. It became clear to Alex and I that this was Roger’s America, so it seemed like an ideal time to start burrowing in and making the film.”
“Film programming takes place in the context of current events,” said Powers. “So you’re always aware of what people are talking about and responding to, but ultimately the films I select have to be good films. That’s a must.”