The 6 Best Documentaries of the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival

By  · Published on September 16th, 2014

Toronto International Film Festival

Given the enormity of the festival, with all its glitz and glamour and galas, it’s sometimes easy to forget that the Toronto International Film Festival is one of the premier destinations for the top documentaries of the year. Curated by Thom Powers and his team, the selection here definitely leans towards the cinematic, where a compelling narrative and well-assembled, cohesive film is often as important as any journalistic intent of the work.

With dozens of films to choose from, along several nonfiction titles that play outside the already impressive TIFF Docs slate, this year once again reestablishes the festival as the place to see some of the finest documentaries from around the world.

Of the dozen-and-a-half selections I screened this year, here are the six best documentaries of TIFF ‘14:

The Look of Silence

This quiet, contemplative film at times belies the sheer enormity of its accomplishment. Joshua Oppenheimer and his team of collaborators (often simply cited as “Anonymous”) follow on the work done for The Act of Killing with a penetrating examination of the ramifications of war. It follows Adi, an ophthalmologist who helps his clients see, both literally and metaphorically, as he gently but persistently quizzes several of them about the death of his brother. Tying together footage shot over almost a decade, the film confronts the very act of memory and the stories we tell about ourselves and our past.

Much of its power comes from the contrast to the previous film – the brash and colorful extravagance of The Act of Killing gives way here to poetic closeup views of faces engaged in contemplation – and in many ways this one actually does something nearly magical; it’s a sequel that actually helps improve the film that precedes it. Combined, the pair of docs represent the pinnacle of nonfiction filmmaking in the 21st century.