This Friday, September 25, sees the kick-off of the 53rd annual New York Film Festival. Long geared toward art house audiences but in recent years opening up programming to include some mainstream offerings, the festival has also embraced nonfiction far more than it ever did in the past. Documentaries or hybrid projects have a presence in virtually every section of the event, with over 20 feature projects claiming coveted spots in the well-respected Fall event, which runs through Sunday, October 11. The following offers a selected overview:
While still in the definite minority, with just three slots out of more than two dozen selections, documentaries in the Main Slate include two well-known directors, Chantal Akerman, who brings her Locarno debut, NO HOME MOVIE, a tribute to the filmmaker’s mother; and Michael Moore, whose WHERE TO INVADE NEXT comes stateside after a positive bow at Toronto. The third nonfiction entry here, Laura Israel’s portrait of her longtime collaborator, DON’T BLINK – ROBERT FRANK (pictured), is a world premiere.
Three documentaries also appear in this year’s Special Events, a section drawing attention to a smaller selection of notable films and creators. Appearing here are the world premiere of Paul Thomas Anderson’s hourlong music doc, JUNUN; the North American premiere of Noah Baumbach and Jake Paltrow’s DE PALMA (pictured); and the NYC premiere of Laurie Anderson’s meditation on memory and loss, HEART OF A DOG.
NYFF’s eclectic Spotlight on Documentary takes the lion’s share of nonfiction programming, presenting eleven features. Among them are: James Solomon’s THE WITNESS (pictured), which takes a deeply personal look at the infamous story of Kitty Genovese’s murder; James Crump’s TROUBLEMAKERS: THE STORY OF LAND ART, an overview of a movement of art outside the gallery and into the earth itself; Pamela Yates’ REBEL CITIZEN, a profile of cinematographer Haskell Wexler; Michael Camerini and Shari Robertson’s IMMIGRATION BATTLE/REASONS TO BELIEVE, the latest in the duo’s extensive work on the hot-button issue; Jacob Bernstein’s EVERYTHING IS COPY, the filmmaker’s tribute to his late mother, screenwriter Nora Ephron; and Carmen Castillo’s WE ARE ALIVE, an essay on political resistance.
The avant-garde Projections section plays host to several hybrid works by Ben Rivers and others, as well as a screening of Chick Strand’s 1979 SOFT FICTION. The latter joins Marcel Ophüls’ 1976 THE MEMORY OF JUSTICE (pictured), screening in the Revivals section, as the festival’s two retrospective nonfiction presentations this year.