DOC NYC 2020 Overview: Part Four

Festival:
The 11th DOC NYC

Dates:
November 11-19

About:
This fourth post about America’s largest documentary festival – beginning Wednesday and available online across the US – covers our Short List and Winner’s Circle sections, which put the spotlight on notable films that we think will receive awards season attention. Tomorrow wraps up this overview with a look at our various short film programs.

Short List: Features

76 DAYS
Director: Hao Wu, Weixi Chen, Anonymous
Producer: Hao Wu, Jean Tsien
A suspenseful, immersive look at life under COVID-19 lockdown in Wuhan, China, focused on front-line hospital workers and their patients. (Courtesy of MTV Documentary Films)

BOYS STATE
Director/Producer: Jesse Moss, Amanda McBaine
An annual civics program reveals modern-day democracy in a microcosm as high school boys create a mock government in Austin, Texas. (Courtesy of Apple Original Films/A24)

COLLECTIVE
Director/Producer: Alexander Nanau
Producer: Bianca Oana, Bernard Michaux, Hanka Kastelicová
This riveting investigative film follows a team of Romanian reporters as they doggedly uncover a deadly scandal that reaches the highest levels of government. (Courtesy of Magnolia Pictures/Participant)

CRIP CAMP
Director/Producer: Nicole Newnham, Jim LeBrecht
Producer: Sara Bolder
A chronicle of America’s disability rights movement and its origins in a liberating summer camp for disabled teens. (Courtesy of Netflix)

DICK JOHNSON IS DEAD
Director/Producer: Kirsten Johnson
Producer: Katy Chevigny, Marilyn Ness
When the filmmaker’s 86-year-old father begins to lose his memory, she enlists him in a playful project to confront his mortality with a sense of humor. (Courtesy of Netflix)

THE FIGHT
Director/Producer: Elyse Steinberg, Josh Kriegman, Eli Despres
Producer: Maya Seidler, Peggy Drexler, Kerry Washington
This inspiring and vital film follows lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union as they battle the Trump administration over cases of immigration, abortion, LGBTQ+ equality, and voting rights. (Courtesy of Magnolia Pictures/Topic)

GUNDA
Director: Victor Kossakovsky
Producer: Anita Rehoff Larsen
A cinema vérité immersion into the experiences of several animals on a farm, focused on a sow and her new litter of piglets. (Courtesy of NEON)

I AM GRETA
Director: Nathan Grossman
Producer: Cecilia Nessen, Fredrik Heinig
A portrait of Greta Thunberg’s meteoric one-year rise from high-school climate strike organizer to inspiration for a global movement. (Courtesy of Hulu)

MLK/FBI
Director: Sam Pollard
Producer: Benjamin Hedin
Using recently declassified files, MLK/FBI examines J. Edgar Hoover’s relentless campaign of surveillance and harassment against Martin Luther King, Jr. (Courtesy of IFC Films)

ON THE RECORD
Director/Producer: Kirby Dick, Amy Ziering
Producer: Jamie Rogers, Amy Herdy
This groundbreaking investigation of sexual assault in the music industry explores the complex factors that make it difficult for Black women to speak out and be heard. (Courtesy of HBO Max)

THE SOCIAL DILEMMA
Director: Jeff Orlowski
Producer: Larissa Rhodes
An exposé of the insidious hidden systems of control behind our increasingly networked world, as revealed by former tech world insiders. (Courtesy of Netflix)

A THOUSAND CUTS
Director/Producer: Ramona S. Diaz
Producer: Leah Marino, Julie Goldman, Christopher Clements, Carolyn Hepburn
A chilling look at the assault on fundamental democratic freedoms in the Philippines through the persecution of courageous journalist Maria Ressa. (Courtesy of PBS Distribution/FRONTLINE)

TIME
Director/Producer: Garrett Bradley
Producer: Lauren Domino, Kellen Quinn
A moving chronicle of a marriage and a family separated by incarceration, focused on Fox Rich, who has spent 21 years fighting for the release of her husband from a 60-year prison sentence. (Courtesy of Amazon Studios)

THE TRUFFLE HUNTERS
Director/Producer: Michael Dweck, Gregory Kershaw
Enter the secretive world of the only people–and dogs–who are able to find the elusive white Alba truffle, the most expensive ingredient in the world. (Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics)

WELCOME TO CHECHNYA
Director/Producer: David France
Producer: Alice Henty, Joy A. Tomchin, Askold Kurov
A courageous team of Russian activists operate an underground railroad to help LGBTQ+ Chechens escape state-sanctioned persecution (Courtesy of HBO Documentary Films/Music Box Films)

Short List: Shorts

ABORTION HELPLINE, THIS IS LISA
Director/Producer: Barbara Attie, Janet Goldwater, Mike Attie
At a Philadelphia abortion helpline, counselors answer nonstop calls from women who are seeking to end a pregnancy, but can’t afford to do so. A revealing look at how economic stigma and cruel legislation determines who in America has access to abortion. (Courtesy of Topic/Women Make Movies)

ASHES TO ASHES
Director: Taylor Rees
Producer: Shirley Whitaker
Winfred Rembert, a survivor of an attempted lynching in 1967, a Star Wars fanatic, and leather artist, develops a friendship with Doctor Shirley Jackson Whitaker, who is on a mission to memorialize the forgotten 4,000 African Americans lynched during the Jim Crow era. (Courtesy of XTR)

CALL CENTER BLUES
Director: Geeta Gandbhir
Producer: Jessica Devaney
A tale of migration and deportation, this film follows four characters as they struggle to make sense of their lives in Tijuana. Each with a different story, they’re linked by displacement and call center work in a country that’s unfamiliar and frightening, yet sometimes a ray of hope. (Courtesy of Topic)

DO NOT SPLIT
Director/Producer: Anders Hammer
Producer: Charlotte Cook
In the fall of 2019, a proposed bill allowing the Chinese government to extradite criminal suspects to mainland China escalates protests throughout Hong Kong. Unfolding across a year, this film captures the determination and sacrifices of the protesters, the government’s backlash, and the passage of the new Beijing-backed national security law. (Courtesy of Field of Vision)

FLOWER PUNK
Director/Producer: Alison Klayman
Japanese artist Azuma Makoto has sent his floral sculptures into space and sunk them to the bottom of the ocean, but, most of the time, he thinks about the life and death of flowers. (Courtesy of New Yorker)

HUNGER WARD
Director/Producer: Skye Fitzgerald
Producer: Michael Scheuerman
This unflinching look at the human-caused famine in Yemen follows health care workers Dr. Aida Alsadeeq and Nurse Mekkia Mahdi as they work to save the lives of hunger-stricken children in two therapeutic feeding centers, against the backdrop of a forgotten war. (Courtesy of RYOT/Vulcan)

A LIFE TOO SHORT
Director: Safyah Usmani
Producer: Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy
Social media superstar Qandeel Baloch pushed boundaries in conservative Pakistan like no other. In 2016, high on her newfound celebrity, Qandeel exposes a well-known Muslim cleric–with tragic results. (Courtesy of MTV Documentary Films)

A LOVE SONG FOR LATASHA
Director/Producer: Sophia Nahli Allison
Producer: Fam Udeorji
The injustice surrounding the shooting death of 15-year-old Latasha Harlins at a South Central Los Angeles store became a flashpoint for the city’s 1992 civil uprising. Nearly three decades later, director Sophia Nahli Allison removes Latasha from the context of her death to craft a dreamlike portrait of a promising life lost. (Courtesy of Netflix)

No Crying at the Dinner Table
Director/Producer: Carol Nguyen
Producer: Aziz Zoromba
Filmmaker Carol Nguyen interviews her family to craft a portrait of love, grief, and intergenerational trauma. (Courtesy of Travelling Distribution)

Now Is the Time
Director: Christopher Auchter
Producer: Selwyn Jacob
On the 50th anniversary of the first new totem pole raising on British Columbia’s Haida Gwaii in almost a century, Haida filmmaker Christopher Auchter steps through history to revisit the day that would signal the rebirth of the Haida spirit. (Courtesy of New York Times Op-Docs / POV / National Film Board of Canada)

Sing Me a Lullaby 
Director/Producer: Tiffany Hsiung
A daughter journeys to China seeking her adopted mother’s long lost mother, uncovering family secrets and connecting the generations. (Courtesy of CBC/POV)

Then Comes the Evening
Director/Producer: Maja Novaković
In the lush pastoral hills of Eastern Bosnia, two old women share solitude. The care they have for each other is not composed of words, but rather their daily conduct. They are in a conversation with the land, welcoming the voices of nature, and the songs of a memory that is dying out.

Winner’s Circle

ACASA, MY HOME

ACASA, MY HOME
Director: Radu Ciorniciuc
Producer: Monica Lăzurean-Gorgan 
Winner: Golden Horn for Best Documentary Film, Krakow Film Festival
A large Roma clan who have lived off the grid in the wilderness for 20 years are forced to resettle in the unfamiliar city. (Courtesy of Zeitgeist Films in association with Kino Lorber)

BEAUTIFUL SOMETHING LEFT BEHIND

BEAUTIFUL SOMETHING LEFT BEHIND
Director: Katrine Philp
Producer: Katrine A. Sahlstrøm
Winner: Documentary Feature Competition Grand Jury Award, SXSW Film Festival
An affectionate and intimate child’s eye view of New Jersey’s Good Grief counseling center, which offers a holistic approach to mourning the loss of loved ones. (Courtesy of ViacomCBS)

INFLUENCE

INFLUENCE
Director: Richard Poplak, Diana Neille
Producer: Bob Moore, Neil Brandt
Winner: Best International Documentary Film, Durban International Film Festival
This portrait of the founder of the infamous public relations firm Bell Pottinger explores the disturbing way our perceptions—and politics—are shaped by outside forces.

MAYOR

MAYOR
Director/Producer: David Osit
Winner: The Reva and David Logan Grand Jury Award, Full Frame Documentary Film Festival
Musa Hadid, the Christian mayor of Ramallah, Palestine, navigates day-to-day civic responsibilities, but the darker realities of life under occupation are never too far away. (Courtesy of Film Movement)

THE MOLE AGENT (El Agente Topo)

THE MOLE AGENT
Director: Maite Alberdi
Producer: Marcela Santibáñez
Winner: Audience Award for Best European Film, San Sebastian International Film Festival
An 83-year-old man goes undercover in a Chilean retirement home in this stylish observational documentary spy film. (Courtesy of Gravitas Ventures)

THE PAINTER AND THE THIEF

THE PAINTER AND THE THIEF
Director: Benjamin Ree
Producer: Ingvil Giske
Winner: Jury Award for Best International Documentary, Docville International Documentary Festival Belgium
A dual portrait of an artist and the thief who stole her art—but who becomes her unlikely friend and artistic collaborator. (Courtesy of NEON)

THE REASON I JUMP

THE REASON I JUMP
Director: Jerry Rothwell
Producer: Jeremy Dear, Stevie Lee, Al Morrow
Winner: World Cinema Documentary Competition Audience Award, Sundance Film Festival
Based on the groundbreaking book written by Naoki Higashida, this film explores the interior worlds and fascinating daily experiences of five nonverbal autistic young people. (Courtesy of Kino Lorber)

SONGS OF REPRESSION

SONGS OF REPRESSION
Director: Estephan Wagner, Marianne Hougen-Moraga
Producer: Heidi Elise Christensen, Signe Byrge Sørensen
Winner: DOX:Award, CPH:DOX (Copenhagen International Documentary Festival)
Executive produced by Joshua Oppenheimer, this complex portrait reveals the dark truth behind Chile’s seemingly idyllic German colony, Colonia Dignidad, formerly led by a cruel cult leader.

STRAY

STRAY
Director/Producer: Elizabeth Lo
Producer: Shane Boris
Winner: Best International Feature Documentary Award, Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival
A remarkable portrait of three dogs in Istanbul, where strays are an everyday part of the fabric of the community, belonging to no one and everyone at the same time. (Courtesy of Magnolia Pictures)

THE WALRUS AND THE WHISTLEBLOWER

THE WALRUS AND THE WHISTLEBLOWER
Director/Producer: Nathalie Bibeau
Producer: Frederic Bohbot
Winner: Audience Award, Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival
An eccentric former marine animal park trainer wages a war via social media and the courts to save Smooshi, his beloved walrus, from deplorable conditions. (Courtesy of Gravitas Ventures)

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