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Music Documentaries Take Center Stage In Toronto

Music documentaries and special music events are taking center stage at the Toronto International Film Festival, which opens tomorrow evening with the world premiere of the Canadian epic Passchendaele. Following last year's docs on the Rolling Stones and U2, this year's crop looks at the worlds of rock music, international rhythms and Broadway showtunes.

One of the hottest tickets in town is for the film It Might Get Loud, which features the likes of Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin), the Edge (U2) and Jack White (The White Stripes) talking about their influences, their musical technique and their love of guitar music. In fact, it could be said that this is a guitar lover's wet dream. The film is directed by Davis Guggenheim, who nabbed an Oscar for his direction of the Al Gore eco documentary, An Inconvenient Truth. The three rockers are expected in town for the screening, and the after-party, where it is rumored that they will all jam, has become the Festival's hottest and most difficult invitation to secure (but I'm trying).

Another must, on my list anyway, is Soul Power, about the 1974 music festival produced to coincide with the famous Muhammad Ali-George Foreman "rumble in the jungle" heavyweight bout. Zaire ‘74 was the brainchild of South African musician Hugh Masekela and American record producer Stewart Levine, to produce a three-day musical extravaganza that would mix American and African musical styles. The concert event assembled America's biggest rhythm and blues talents – including the "king of soul" James Brown, the Mighty JBs, Bill Withers, B.B. King, and the Spinners – along with top African acts such as Miriam Makeba and Afrisa.

A more contemporary musical voice from Africa is sounded by international music sensation Youssou Ndour in the film Youssou Ndour: I Bring What I Love. One of Africa's most prominent musical exports, Youssou Ndour's distinctive tenor voice became known internationally through a string of popular albums, including collaborations with Peter Gabriel and Neneh Cherry. Ndour has used his international fame to draw attention to a range of political and social isues. The film follows him as he releases and promotes his deeply personal album Egypt as an expression of his Islamic faith.

From Africa to Broadway, the documentary film Every Little Step offers a rare backstage look at the mounting of the 2006 Broadway revival of the ground-breaking 1970s musical A Chorus Line. The concept is self-referential, given that the very plot is about casting a musical, but the filmmakers add another layer by examining how the original show was born with such talents as the late theater director Michael Bennett and the producer Joe Papp at their zeniths.

In addition to music on the screen, music will also fill the streets of Toronto, with Yousouu Ndour, jazz great Terrence Blanchard and others give free outdoor concerts. Music is in the air, and on the screen, at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Sandy Mandelberger, Toronto FF Dailies Editor
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