Toronto International Film Festival to launch with the story of The Band's hometown musical hero, who worked with Bob Dylan

By Joey Nolfi
July 18, 2019 at 11:32 AM EDT

The 2019 Toronto International Film Festival will kick off with a twang of homeland pride.

TIFF announced Thursday Ghosts of Our Forest filmmaker Daniel Roher’s documentary Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and The Band has secured the 44th annual edition’s opening night slot.

The nonfiction film is billed as a “touching tale of Robertson’s young life and the creation of one of the most enduring groups in the history of popular music, The Band.”

Roher assembled rare archival footage, photography, and songs for the film, as well as new interviews with Robertson’s friends and collaborators, including Martin Scorsese, Bruce Springsteen, Eric Clapton, Van Morrison, Peter Gabriel, Taj Mahal, Dominique Robertson, and Ronnie Hawkins.

©Elliott Landy, LandyVision Inc.

“This is one of Toronto’s great stories of a hometown hero,” said Cameron Bailey, Artistic Director & Co-Head of TIFF, in a press statement. “From his early years in this city, to the inspiration he took from life on the Six Nations reserve, to the impact he’s had on generations of music lovers, Robertson emerges in Roher’s film as a truly Canadian-made superstar.”

In a brief video message (above), Robertson said he was “so honored that my documentary, Once Were Brothers, has been chosen to open the Toronto International Film Festival in my hometown. I’m so thrilled!”

Born in Toronto in 1943, the 76-year-old rocker has worked as a songwriter, producer, performer, actor, and film composer for more than six decades. Since his debut, he worked with Bob Dylan on his 1966 world tour, and later collaborated with the musician on his Basement Tapes project, which reached No. 1 in the United States and Canada.

As a member of The Band, Robertson is often credited with popularizing Americana music with songs like “The Weight,” “Up on Cripple Creek, and his most successful song, “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” which reached the top 10 in Canada and peaked at No. 25 in the States in 1969.

Ahead of its debut on Canadian streaming service Crave later this year, Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and The Band will world-premiere Thursday, Sept. 5 at Toronto’s Roy Thomson Hall.

The 2019 Toronto International Film Festival — ticket packages for which are available now — runs Sept. 5-15 in the Canadian city. Check back with EW on Tuesday, July 23 for more additions to the TIFF 2019 movie slate.

TIFF

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