DOC NYC 2016
Previewing this year's edition of the country's largest documentary film festival. Updated through 11/20.
"These are trying times—all of a sudden, moreso than they were already," begins Matt Prigge in Metro. "It’s easy to lose faith in humanity and our willingness to do what’s right. But you shouldn’t give up. As Obama said after Hillary’s concession speech, we can’t be cynical. We can’t think we can’t make a difference. You can start by educating yourself. Right on cue is DOC NYC, America’s largest festival devoted purely to documentary filmmaking. Within its week lie over 100 films, touching on issues major and minor, familiar and obscure, often about people whose rights and safety are now under threat with the incoming administration."
For the Daily Beast, Tim Teeman previews tonight's opening night film: "There have been books and even an opera about the struggles between renowned and later notorious city planner Robert Moses and the activist and author Jane Jacobs in the 1950s and 1960s. Now comes a documentary, Citizen Jane: Battle for the City, about Jacobs’s ultimately successful battles to see off first Moses’ plan to build a road through Washington Square Park, and then later the Lower Manhattan Expressway, a 10-lane highway that would have razed swathes of SoHo and Little Italy. The documentary, elegantly directed and produced by Matt Tyrnauer… delineates the arguments and competing visions of the pair."
"The lineup of films is curated into 19 sections, or themes," notes CBS's David Morgan. "The festival will also feature conversations with filmmakers behind some of this year’s most noteworthy documentaries… Special events include world premieres of Captive: Cola Kidnap, a preview of the new Netflix docuseries on hostage situations; Rikers, an investigation into conditions at the New York City prison; City of Joy, the story of female survivors of violence who built a community for themselves in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo; HBO’s Every Brilliant Thing, a recording of Jonny Donahoe’s acclaimed one-man show; and the New York City premieres of Marathon: The Patriots Day Bombing, and Soundbreaking: Stories From the Cutting Edge of Recorded Music, an upcoming PBS series that chronicles the history of music recording."
Writing for Brooklyn Magazine, Henry Stewart notes that "the True Crime sidebar is essentially a mini-festival of six features, all making their NYC premieres, each captivating and distinct." And he previews The Promise, "reexamining the 1985 murder of Derek and Nancy Haysom at their home in Central Virginia"; Sour Grapes, "the story of Rudy Kurniawan, a personable, knowledgable and generous young wine dealer who was throwing around unprecedented amounts of money, simultaneously revolutionizing and manipulating the rarified market"; Unseen, a profile of a serial murderer in Cleveland in which "Everyone’s indicted"; Beware the Slenderman, about "two 12-year-old girls who stabbed their friend"; Santoalla, "a death story but more so a love story, played out against a family feud"; and The Man Who Saw Too Much, focusing on "crime-scene photographer Enrique Metinides" and his work in Mexico City.
"It wouldn't be a New York festival without pockets of quirk," writes Sam Weisberg in the Voice. "There's a celebrity-studded campaign to save a typewriter shop (California Typewriter), a pizza-tasting connoisseur's odyssey (Scott's Pizza Tours), and a search for buried treasure (the Errol Morris–produced The Lure). There are four up-close-and-personal portraits of transgendered individuals, residing in areas as different—population and tolerance-wise—as New York City, the rural Northwest and trailer park Mississippi. (Julie Sokolow's Woman on Fire, about NYC's first transgendered firefighter, is just what a great social awareness doc should be — equal parts heartwarming and infuriating). And there are biographies of the well-known (David Lynch, John Coltrane, all-female 90s punk rock outfit L7) and the decidedly less well-known (surfer and sugar fortune heir Bunker Spreckels; Bob Hawk, an indie film consultant whose championing of Clerks still brings director Kevin Smith—twice, during the course of Film Hawk—to tears).
At Indiewire, you'll find previews of Jim: The James Foley Story, The Peacemaker, The Lure, Woman on Fire, Forever Pure, This Was the XFL, 13th (see the NYFF roundup), O.J.: Made in America (which currently has a score of 89/100 at Critics Round Up), Citizen Jane: Battle for the City and Santoalla.
Women and Hollywood has a list of questions it's been sending to directors. Click their names for the interviews:
- Markie Hancock (Feral Love).
- Pamela French (Becoming More Visible).
- Madeleine Gavin (City of Joy).
- Rebbie Ratner (Borderline).
- Suki Hawley (All the Rage).
- Brittany Huckabee (After Fire).
- Kimi Takesue (95 and 6 to Go).
- Sally Jean Williams (Ken Dewey - This Is a Test).
- Diedie Weng (The Beekeeper and His Son).
- Jill Campbell (Mr. Chibbs).
- Laura Paglin (Unseen).
- Deirdre Fishel (Care).
- Leah Warshawski (Big Sonia).
- Carrie Lozano and Charlotte Lagarde (The Ballad of Fred Hersch).
- Allie Humenuk and Amy Geller (The Guys Next Door).
- Zhao Qing (Please Remember Me).
- Maro Chermayeff (Soundbreaking).
- Jessica Dimmock (The Pearl).
- Nicole Opper (Visitor’s Day).
- Robin Lung (Finding Kukan).
- Julie Sokolow (Woman on Fire).
- Lara Stolman (Swim Team).
DOC NYC opens tonight and runs through November 17, and as more reviews appear, we'll be making note of them here.
Updates, 11/12: Citizen Jane: Battle for the City " just about pulses with contemporary resonance," writes Variety's Owen Gleiberman. "It has moments of uncanny overlap with this week’s election, and it explores the scope and meaning of that overly familiar thing—the city—in ways that will box open your thinking. It’s a finely woven tapestry that feels as relevant and alive as the place you live."
Filmmaker's Scott Macaulay has five questions for City of Joy director Madeleine Gavin.
Updates, 11/14: Stephen Saito talks with Kimi Takesue about 95 and 6 to Go, with Rebbie Ratner about Borderline, with Tomas Leach about The Lure (at the Film Stage, Jared Mobarak gives it a B+) and with Ricki Stern about Marathon: The Patriots Day Bombing. And Filmmaker's Scott Macaulay has five questions for The Guys Next Door directors Allie Humenuk and Amy Geller.
Updates, 11/18: This year's edition has wrapped and Shadow and Act notes that Stanley Nelson was presented a Lifetime Achievement Award, "given for his distinguished output of documentaries. Nelson was honored along with follow DOC NYC Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Jonathan Demme, Robert and Anne Drew Award (for observational filmmaking) recipient Dawn Porter, and Leading Light Award (given to someone who has served documentary in a role outside of filmmaking) recipient Molly Thompson of A&E IndieFilms."
Also, Aramide A. Tinubu: "Owsley Brown’s Serenade for Haiti, though just skimming the surface of the history of Sainte Trinité Music School and the island Haiti, provides a timely and much-needed message. We only need to stretch out our hands to reach one another to begin, to rebuild and look toward the future."
"Midway through Chasing Trane: The John Coltrane Documentary, DOC NYC's closing night film, jazz great Jimmy Heath is talking about his old friend's 1965 opus A Love Supreme," writes Michael J. Agovino in the Voice. "Heath cites 'Resolution,' the piece's second movement, as 'the one that touches me.' When he's asked, 'Where does it take you?' Heath replies: 'It takes me to heaven. Where I want to be when I leave here.' Then he pauses, throws out his hands, shrugs, and says, 'That's it, isn't it?' It's an affecting moment, one of many in John Scheinfeld's fine, tender look into the life of John Coltrane."
Dispatching to Filmmaker, Audrey Ewell writes about five takeaways gleaned from doc editors Matthew Hamachek and Geof Bartz.
"Imagine attempting to find a buried treasure left by an eccentric (is there any other kind?) millionaire," writes Frank Scheck in the Hollywood Reporter. "Sounds exciting, right? Such a search forms the heart of Tomas Leach's documentary, The Lure, which uses its central topic to explore the hopes and dreams that would lead otherwise normal people to pursue the quixotic quest. Unfortunately, the mundane film… is not nearly as entertaining as it ought to be."
"Borderline blends performative elements, cinéma vérité, and talking heads with clinical professionals whom at times offer contradictory information on BPD," Borderline Personality Disorder, writes John Fink at the Film Stage, adding that the film " isn’t quite as grim you’d imagine."
Update, 11/20: One more item to catch up with, the awards:
Grand Jury Prize Winner: Mike Day's The Islands and the Whales.
Special Mention: Zhang Zanbo's The Road.
Grand Jury Prize Winner: Adam Irving's Off the Rails.
Special Mention: Rohan Spong's Winter at Westbeth.
Special Mention: Otis Mass's The Incomparable Rose Hartman.
Grand Jury Prize Winner: Corinne Botz's Bedside Manner.
Special Mention: Sean McCoy's Bad Dog: A Penitentiary Tale.
Jake Kheel and Juan Mejia Botero's Death by a Thousand Cuts.
DOC NYC PRO Pitch Perfect Award
Julia Bacha's Untitled Women Leaders of the First Intifada Project.