DOC NYC 2019 Overview

The 10th anniversary DOC NYC

November 6-15

I am the Director of Programming of this NYC event, America’s largest documentary film festival, which expands to 10 days for our anniversary year and presents 135 features, in addition to robust shorts programming and eight days of panels. With a lineup so large, this will serve to merely highlight our various strands, with a deeper dive at each section link below.


Our Special Events include our bookending Opening and Closing Night films, Visionaries Tribute Lifetime Achievement screenings by Michael Apted and Martin Scorsese, and Centerpiece film BIKRAM: YOGI, GURU, PREDATOR, on the disgraced head of the yoga empire that bears his name. Meanwhile, Masters spotlights the past and present work of nonfiction auteurs, including DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus’ TOWN BLOODY HALL and Patricio Guzmán’s THE CORDILLERA OF DREAMS.


The two feature competitions are Viewfinders, which demonstrates distinct directorial visions, and includes work like SYMPHONY OF THE URSUS FACTORY, featuring workers from a now-defunct Polish tractor factory in a unique work-based performance piece; CITY DREAM, in which a cantankerous Chinese street vendor faces off against a city redevelopment agency; and THE WIND. A DOCUMENTARY THRILLER, a mysterious tale of ecological revenge involving a destructive, unpredictable weather phenomenon; while Metropolis focuses on NYC stories, and includes PIER KIDS, an immersive portrait of a community of homeless queer and trans youth of color centered around the Christopher Street Pier; BROOKLYN INSHALLAH, following a Palestinian American Lutheran pastor campaigning to become the first Arab American on the New York City Council; and MAURICE HINES: BRING THEM BACK, a portrait of the charismatic Broadway song-and-dance man.


American Perspectives looks at stories around the country, such as TIGHTROPE: AMERICANS REACHING FOR HOPE, which follows Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn as they investigate the root causes of opioid addiction, poverty and incarceration; PAHOKEE, profiling teenagers during their senior year of high school in the Florida Everglades; and AMERICAN MUSLIM, an intimate look at Muslim-American identity in the age of Trump. International Perspectives travels the globe, with such films as GOLDA, on the complicated legacy of Israeli prime minister Golda Meir; SCHOOL OF SEDUCTION, profiling three women learning the art of seduction in patriarchal post-communist Russia; and IN MY BLOOD IT RUNS, about a 10-year-old Aboriginal Australian boy who straddles two worlds.


Investigations presents thought-provoking true crime and journalistic stories, including COASTAL ROAD KILLER, the latest from the creators of the hit Netflix series SHADOW OF TRUTH, on an unsolved Israeli serial killer case; THE QUEEN’S MAN, following the efforts of the former bodyguard of the wife of the Shah of Iran to recover her stolen art collection; and KILLING PATIENT ZERO, about how a French-Canadian flight attendant was scapegoated as the man who spread AIDS across America. Portraits presents profiles of singular individuals, including THIS IS NOT A MOVIE, on Middle East correspondent Robert Fisk; ANBESSA, about an imaginative Ethiopian boy as he contends with the rapid transformation of his neighborhood; and BUSY INSIDE, which follows a therapist with multiple personalities as she treats others with the same condition.


Modern Family explores unconventional family stories, including MOTHER, about a Thai women who sacrifices time with her own family to be a caregiver for others; ABOUT LOVE, an observational portrait of three generations of the filmmaker’s family all living together in the same home in Mumbai; and MADAME, which profiles the gay filmmaker and his relationship with his grandmother. Green Screens focuses on environmental issues, including THE GREAT GREEN WALL, about a life-giving project to plant trees across Africa; MR. TOILET: THE WORLD’S #2 MAN, on a charismatic Singaporean millionaire who uses irreverent humor to bring attention to the need for proper sanitation in India; and THE SEER AND THE UNSEEN, about a colorful Icelandic environmentalist on a mission to protect the natural habitat of elves from development.


New World Order looks at today’s most urgent issues, and includes ON THE INSIDE OF A MILITARY DICTATORSHIP, an intimate look at Aung San Suu Kyi’s Myanmar; and CAPITAL IN THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY, based on economist Thomas Piketty’s groundbreaking bestseller; In the System examines institutions and systems, in films like BEDLAM, on America’s failure to properly care for the mentally ill; and THE GREAT AMERICAN LIE, about the myth of social mobility; and Fight the Power, focused on activism, including WE ARE THE RADICAL MONARCHS, about a group of young girls of color on the front lines of social justice; and MAI KHOI & THE DISSIDENTS, on a Vietnamese pop star turned imperiled political activist.


Art + Design profiles artists, photographers, and designers in work like HOUSE OF CARDIN, on the pioneering Pierre Cardin; BODY OF TRUTH, which profiles female artists like Marina Abramovic; and AI WEIWEI: YOURS TRULY, about the Chinese dissident artist’s exhibition at Alcatraz. Sonic Cinema showcases music docs, including THE CHANGIN’ TIMES OF IKE WHITE, a search for a long-vanished jailhouse musician; BOY HOWDY! THE STORY OF CREEM MAGAZINE, about the influential Detroit-based rock publication; and SHELLA RECORD: A REGGAE MYSTERY, following the filmmaker’s quest to locate an obscure but haunting singer.


Behind the Scenes explores films about filmmaking, including WHAT WE LEFT UNFINISHED, about unfinished films commissioned during communist-era Afghanistan; and NARROWSBURG, which explores what happened when a mysterious couple tried to turn a small upstate New York town into the Sundance of the East. Food for Thought explores food and wine in work like NOTHING FANCY: DIANA KENNEDY, on the world’s leading authority in Mexican cuisine; and VAS-Y COUPE!, a portrait of seasonal labor during the harvest of a family-owned vineyard in France’s Champagne region. Winner’s Circle puts the spotlight on films that have been honored at other notable fests, including HOPE FROZEN, which follows a Thai family that decides to cryogenically preserve their two-year-old daughter; and THE FOURTH KINGDOM: THE KINGDOM OF PLASTICS, about a community of outcasts that come together in a Brooklyn recycling center.

Remaining sections include our awards contender predictions, Short List: Features and Short List: Shorts; Shorts Programs; DOC NYC U student showcases; and DOC NYC PRO panel programming.

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