TIFF 2019: Canadian documentary about rock legends The Band to make history on opening night

By Sarah Walker

History will be made at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, when a Canadian-made documentary opens the event for the very first time.

Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertsonand The Band, is a documentary based on the iconic artist’s memoir Testimony and was executive produced by Martin Scorsese, wwho famously directed The Band’s farewell concert in 1976. The footage was later used in the seminal documentary The Last Waltz.

The new film tells the story of Robbie’s personal journey as he “overcame adversity and found camaraderie alongside the four other men” who would form one of the most legendary bands in history.

Bruce Springsteen, Van Morrison and Eric Clapton all make appearances in the doc.

“Robertson’s tale is a remarkable reminder of how vision, ambition and hard work can empower one’s wildest dreams,” said director Daniel Roher in a statement.

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“Robbie took a chance on me, and I will be forever grateful that he rolled the dice on a kid from Toronto to helm his story. Opening the Toronto International Film Festival is beyond some wildest dreams of my own and I am thankful for everyone who believed in me.”

The news is also an honour for 76-year-old Robbie, who is set to release a new solo album in the fall, particularly because it will premiere in his hometown.

“This is one of Toronto’s great stories of a hometown hero," noted Cameron Bailey, Artistic Director & Co-Head of TIFF.

“Robertson is a Canadian music icon, and his moving story of persistence and passion is the perfect way to begin Festival 2019 for both Cameron and me,” added Joana Vicente, TIFF’s Executive Director & Co-Head. “We’re eager to share the excitement of Opening Night with Toronto’s film lovers, and audiences can expect some very special guests joining us to help celebrate.”

Festival organizers will unveil the rest of TIFF 44’s lineup on July 23.

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