The Band, Robbie Robertson Documentary to Open Toronto Film Fest

David Gahr/Courtesy of TIFF
'Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and The Band'

'Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and The Band,' which will world premiere at TIFF, was executive produced by Martin Scorsese, Brian Grazer and Ron Howard.

Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and The Band, a feature documentary about the legendary musician and founding member of the influential group, is set to kick off the upcoming 44th annual Toronto International Film Festival as its opening night film

The doc, executive produced by Martin Scorsese, Brian Grazer and Ron Howard, is set for a fall theatrical release after a world premiere at Roy Thomson Hall on Sept. 5. Once Were Brothers will also stream on Crave in Canada later this year.

Imagine Documentaries, White Pine Pictures, Bell Media Studios and Universal Music Canada’s Shed Creative produced the Canadian effort, which was directed by Daniel Roher. Based on Robertson’s 2016 memoir, Testimony, the doc features archival footage and interviews with many of Robertson’s collaborators, including Bruce Springsteen, Eric Clapton, Van Morrison, Scorsese, Taj Mahal, Peter Gabriel, David Geffen and Ronnie Hawkins.

Born in Toronto, Robertson got his break at the age of 16 as a guitarist with Ronnie Hawkins’ The Hawks before going on to a successful career as a songwriter, producer, author and film composer (Gangs of New York, The Departed).

“This is one of Toronto’s great stories of a hometown hero," Cameron Bailey, artistic director and co-head of TIFF along with Joana Vincente, said Thursday in a 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 our first year as TIFF’s co-heads, Joana and I are thrilled to open the festival with a Canadian story that speaks to the world.”

Robertson was Bob Dylan’s guitarist on the 1966 electric shows and world tour and, as leader of The Band, collaborated on the ground-breaking Basement Tapes and songs like "The Weight," "Up on Cripple Creek," and "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down."

Robertson's participation in The Band culminated with the seminal Nov. 25, 1976, concert and subsequent 1978 film, The Last Waltz, which was helmed by Scorsese.

Along with the concurrent Venice and Telluride film festivals, TIFF, which this year is set to run Sept. 5-15, helps kick off the fall awards season. The producers of Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and The Band are hoping the pic's Toronto bow will serve as a high-profile awards-season launch pad.

TIFF organizers will make additional film lineup announcements in the coming weeks.