DOC NYC 2012 Overview

In one week, New York’s premier documentary festival, DOC NYC, kicks off its third edition. Running Thursday, November 8 through Thursday, November 15, the festival, run by Raphaela Neihausen and Thom Powers, boasts an expanded line-up of over 100 events, plus the addition of two new members to the programming team, Mystelle Brabee on features, and myself on shorts and panels. I’m planning on running brief posts on the latter beginning later today and running through the festival. While I of course encourage everyone to see as much of DOC NYC’s offerings as possible, below I’m shining the spotlight on a selection from each section of the festival.

DOC NYC kicks things off with two opening night films, ARTIFACT, following Jared Leto’s band in a contentious legal battle with their record label; and VENUS AND SERENA, a year in the life of the tennis legends. Like both, the closing night film is also a Toronto alum, THE CENTRAL PARK FIVE (pictured), revealing the truth behind the infamous NYC rape case/media circus. Other Galas include the world premiere of Andy Grieve and Lauren Lazin’s CAN’T STAND LOSING YOU, based on the memoir by Andy Summers of The Police on his life as part of the influential trio; and the US premiere of Lian Lunson’s SING ME THE SONGS THAT SAY I LOVE YOU: A CONCERT FOR KATE MCGARRIGLE, a tribute to the late singer-songwriter led by her children Rufus and Martha Wainwright.

The first of two competition sections, Viewfinders, features ten films on subjects from around the world. Included here are two world premieres, Cathryne Czubek’s A GIRL AND A GUN (pictured), on the complex relationship between women and firearms; and David Turnley’s SHENANDOAH, a portrait of a small town confronting a racially-motivated violent crime. Other films in this section include Mona Eldaief and Jehane Noujaim’s RAFEA: SOLAR MAMA, about a Bedouin woman training as a solar engineer; Jamie Meltzer’s INFORMANT, on activist-turned-FBI informant Brandon Darby; and Sophie Fiennes’ THE PERVERT’S GUIDE TO IDEOLOGY, in which Slavoj Žižek explorers films for their ideological overtones.

The seven films in the Metropolis competition highlight NY stories. Among these are the world premieres of Donya Ravasani’s BUILDING BABEL, about the developer of the controversial, so-called “Ground Zero mosque,” and Amy Nicholson’s ZIPPER (pictured), on the contentious redevelopment of Coney Island; and the US premiere of Seán Ó Cualáín’s MEN AT LUNCH, exploring the story behind an iconic 1932 photo.

American Perspectives presents a range of stories from around the country. Included here are Kevin Schreck’s PERSISTENCE OF VISION (pictured), on an animator’s 25-year ill-fated quest to realize his masterwork; André Robert Lee’s THE PREP SCHOOL NEGRO, a personal story about race, class, and education; Maia Wechsler’s MELVIN & JEAN: AN AMERICAN STORY, about a couple who hijacked a plane; Stephen Vittoria’s LONG DISTANCE REVOLUTIONARY: A JOURNEY WITH MUMIA ABU-JAMAL, on the controversial figure’s writing and media work from death row; and Deborah Dickson’s THE LOST BIRD PROJECT, about a project to memorialize five extinct birds.

International Perspectives explores subjects from around the world. Among these are two US premieres, Marlo Poras’ THE MOSUO SISTERS (pictured), in which two sisters from a matriarchal society are forced to make radical changes in their lives; and Bernard Weber and Martin Schilt’s NO BUSINESS LIKE SHOW BUSINESS, about a group of yodelers who meet unexpected success.

Sonic Cinema and Photography on Film focus on music and photography, respectively. From the first is Maxine Trump’s MUSICWOOD, about an attempt by guitar manufacturers to work with Native loggers to protect the increasingly endangered wood needed to make acoustic guitars; while from the latter section is Grant Hamilton’s TIME ZERO: THE LAST YEAR OF POLAROID FILM (pictured), documenting the reactions of Polaroid aficionados to the end of instant film.

Wrapping up, DOC NYC includes a number of special sections: DOC NYC’s Midnight Docs keeps the non-fiction unspooling into the witching hour, including Mark Mori’s BETTIE PAGE REVEALS ALL (pictured), on the legendary sex symbol; and Eric Walter’s MY AMITYVILLE HORROR, a first-hand experience of the notorious Long Island haunting. The festival features a number of Special Events, including the latest in Michael Apted’s groundbreaking longitudinal project, 56 UP; and a first look at part of David Van Taylor and Cal Skaggs’ ambitious TO TELL THE TRUTH: A HISTORY OF DOCUMENTARY FILM 1928-1946. Finally, DOC NYC’s Short List re-presents ten films likely to make multiple awards’ lists for 2012, from 5 BROKEN CAMERAS to WEST OF MEMPHIS.

Note: Because of the current power outage in downtown Manhattan, ticketing for DOC NYC is currently offline. As soon as power resumes – hopefully this Friday or Saturday – ticketing will be available once again. Thank you for your patience, and please be assured that DOC NYC will proceed as scheduled.

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Filed under Documentary, Film, Film Festivals, Overviews, Recommendations

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