The Toronto International Film Festival is over, we have a couple months respite before Sundance, so naturally thoughts turn to the Oscar race. While I'm as curious as anyone else which films will end up garnering the big nod (and I will be really surprised if Juno doesn't get a few noms, especially for screenwriting), as an indie girl I'm most interested in the docs and foreigns. I'm a documentary dork, and one of the things I most look forward to covering at any given film fest is the doc slate -- which, as both David Poland and Anne Thompson have noted in post-Toronto columns, have been weak this year relative to the past couple years. No one really seems to be sure why this is, exactly, although the surprising success of March of the Penguins in 2005 fueled an interest in documentaries that led, perhaps, to a bit of a glut.
The trouble with documentaries is that, penguin love aside, docs are not something your average person is going to go out of their way to shell out ten bucks to see at a theater. Rent from the video store or add to your Netflix queue, perhaps, but when you're looking for a film to see on date night, the depressing topics that tend to make up much of the available documentary fare are not really the first thing that comes to mind. When's the last time you said, "Hey, honey, I know what to do tonight -- let's get dinner at that place over in Little Italy we like, and then let's go see that new Iraq war doc!" Given a choice between a bummer doc and, say, Superbad, most folks are going to opt for the laughs over the conscience-pricking dose of reality.