A look at 15 of the best documentaries set to screen at DOC NYC
November 13–20 2014
"DOC NYC has quickly become one of the city's grandest cinema events," wrote The Wall Street Journal. Quite. In four short years, DOC NYC has become America's (and arguably the world's) largest documentary festival with over 130 films and events and drawing over 100 special industry guests. Based at the West Village's IFC Center, Chelsea's SVA Theater and Bow Tie Chelsea Cinema, the eight-day festival showcases new achievements in documentary film along with inspiring panel discussions.
Last year's special guests included Sarah Polley, Noam Chomsky, Ricki Lake, Michael Moore, Michel Gondry, Errol Morris, Oliver Stone, Jonathan Franzen, Kathleen Hanna, Greil Marcus, Grace Lee Boggs, Nat Hentoff, Chuck Workman, and The Mekons. Whilst audience attendees included Harry Belafonte, Rosario Dawson, Martha Stewart, Cornel West, Naomi Watts and many others. Suffice to say, we are expecting bigger and better things for 2014...
Buro 24/7 presents the top 15 documentaries screening, whether you are attending, or whether you use this as a cheat sheet for your Netflix download list:
1. The Age of Love (Steven Loring, 2014)
Steve Loring's The Age of Love offers a poignant and sometimes comedic look at the quest for love among 70+ year olds. The documentary centres around an unprecedented speed-dating event specially created for seniors – and specifically thirty widows, widowers, long-time divorcees and the lovelorn that enter and serve as the film's subjects. The touching short showcases the search for companionship in ones golden years, candidly confronting feelings of insecurity, loneliness and anticipation – whilst beautifully capturing the universal need for love and desire, regardless of age.
DOC NYC showing at 2:15pm, November 15 at the SVA Theatre
2. Almost There (Dan Rybicky & Aaron Wickenden, 2014)
Directors and producers Dan Rybicky and Aaron Wickenden meet octogenarian Peter Anton and become fascinated by the autobiographical art that the eccentric artist has created over the past five decades. The filmmakers become so enthralled with Anton that they help him to create a gallery exhibition for the first time, which leads to unanticipated revelations about Anton's past, a radical change in his unfathomable living situation and complex questions about the limits of altruism. The Almost There screening at DOC NYC marks its world premiere.
DOC NYC showing at 6:45pm November 15 at Bow Tie Chelsea Cinemas and 1:00pm, November 17 at the IFC Center.
3. Althea (Rex Miller, 2014)
Another world premiere at this year's DOC NYC comes in the form of Rex Miller's Althea. Long before Venus and Serena Williams or Arthur Ashe, Athea Gibson was the first African-American tennis player to become world champion. Her singles wins at Wimbledon and Forest Hills drew worldwide attention and was celebrated with a ticker-tape parade along Broadway. Reintroducing the pioneering athlete to a new generation, Rex Miller's bittersweet tribute tells the inspiring tale of how a street kid from Harlem reached the pinnacle of an unlikely sport during the height of racial segregation.
DOC NYC showing at 7:00pm November 14 at the IFC Center
4. Banksy Does New York (Chris Moukarbel, 2014)
The world's most famous street artist, Banksy, announced his New York City residency in October last year – setting off on a daily scavenger hunt, which drew curious fans, would-be art collectors and, of course, the police. With camera phones at the ready, everyone wanted a piece of his iconic new works before they were destroyed, or removed for profit. Director Chris Moukarbel tracks the course of Banksy's secretly created public works from the Lower East Side to Staten Island, Williamsburg to Willets Point, and explores the unprecedented speed of the public's reaction for the Banksy Does New York documentary.
DOC NYC showing at 7:00pm November 14 at the SVA Theatre
5. Becoming Billy Name (Alexa Karolinski, 2014)
Born William Linich, Billy Name is the gifted photographer to have most extensively and richly documented the 'Silver Age' of Andy Warhol's The Factory, from 1960-1971. Alexa Karolinski's documentary, however, is a film about Billy and not about Warhol or The Factory. Exploring the intimate portrait of a man, who is a regular voice on Warhol history – albeit from a reclusive and reluctant standpoint – the film showcases how he walks between his life today and the enduring life of his photographs of that era. Becoming Billy Name will premiere for the first time worldwide at this year's DOC NYC.
DOC NYC showing at 2:00pm November 15 at the IFC Center
6. Cairo Drive (Sherief Elkatsha, 2014)
Spotlighting Egypt in a humorous, ironic way – unseen in recent documentaries about the Arab Spring, Cairo Drive was shot before, during and after the revolution. Sherief Elkatsha investigates Cairo from the street level through the perspectives of its infamous drivers. Fighting congestion, and navigating in the absence of any apparent traffic laws, the short deciphers the surprisingly eloquent language of car horns; as they represent a cross section of Egyptians trying to make their way through a country fraying at its edges. The documentary manages to uniquely balance humour, frustration and a distinctive sense of fatalistic irony and is a must-see.
DOC NYC showing at 2:15pm November 15 at Bow Tie Chelsea Cinemas
7. Every Last Child (Tom Roberts, 2014)
The UAE-based Image Nation will screen its new documentary Every Last Child for the first time at DOC NYC 2014. Shedding light on the polio resurgance in Pakistan, the short explores the impact that the Taliban's banning of polio vaccinations and spreading of misinformation about sinister conspiracies to frighten the masses, has had on the country. Featuring beautiful art direction and nuanced reporting under difficult circumstances, Tom Roberts' observational film conveys an uncommon sense of the urgency befitting the stakes raised by the public health crisis.
DOC NYC showing at 7:15pm November 14 at the IFC Center
8. The Hand That Feeds (Rachel Lears & Robin Blotnick, 2014)
Onto slightly more light-hearted subject matter, Rachel Lears and Robin Blotnick's doc delves deep inside the Upper East Side Hot & Crusty bakery, which serves as the unlikely setting for an old-fashioned David vs. Goliath story. The short tells the tale of Mahoma López – an unassuming sandwich maker – who after years of exploitation leads his fellow service workers, as they demand better working conditions and wages. Risking their livelihood-and, for some, deportation-they take to the streets to plead their case to their regular customers, partnering with impassioned young Occupy activists in a hard-fought battle to prove the power of labour organising.
DOC NYC showing 2:30pm November 16 at the IFC Center
9. I Am Big Bird (Dave Lamattina & Chad Walker, 2014)
The endearing I Am Big Bird explores the man behind one of Sesame Street's most famous characters – Caroll Spinney, as well as the irascible Oscar the Grouch. Through Spinney's rich personal archive and behind-the-scenes show footage which spans four decades, the documentary celebrates a half a century long career, which includes a memorable adventure in China, a near trip to outer space and, most importantly, an indelible impact on generations of kids.
DOC NYC showing at 6:45pm November 14 at the SVA Theatre
10. A Murder in the Park (Shawn Rech & Brandon Kimber, 2014)
Back to more serious subject matter, A Murder in the Park tells the unbelievable story of Anthony Porter – who, with his execution just 48 hours away, was saved by a Northwestern University journalism class. The 'amateurs' re-investigation of the crime for which he was convicted – a double homicide in a Chicago park – led to the discovery of the real killer, Alstory Simon, whose confession exonerated Porter. If it all sounds too good to be true, it's because, well...We don't want to spoil the ending.
DOC NYC showing at 9:30pm November 17 at the IFC Center
11. No Control (Jessica Solce, 2014)
For its world premiere, No Control will provide DOC NYC visitors with a provocative exploration of the contentious issue of gun control. Jessica Solce uses her new film to profile two men at opposite ends of the debate: The outspoken Cody Wilson, a radical libertarian anarchist who made headlines by designing 'the Liberator' – the first open-source 3D-printable gun; and artist Greg Bokor, who develops an interactive installation consisting of an immense pencil drawing of an AR-15 assault rifle, incomplete until it's erased by spectators with erasers hand-stamped with the names of shooting victims. Powerful stuff.
DOC NYC showing at 9:30pm November 15 and 12:45pm November 19 at the IFC Center
12. She's Beautiful When She's Angry (Mary Dore, 2014)
A hot topic for the media of late, following campaigns by the likes of Emma Watson for the United Nations, She's Beautiful When She's Angry revisits the remarkable eruption of activism in the late 1960s and early 1970s that signalled the arrival of modern feminism. Mary Dore's vibrant and inspirational film is at once a far-ranging look back at our vital past and a timely reminder of the need for vigilance in the face of current reactionary legislation that would restrict women's rights.
DOC NYC showing at 2:15pm November 16 at the SVA Theatre
13. Top Spin (Sara Newens & Mina Son, 2014)
Unlikely Ping Pong fanatic Susan Sarandon is sure to catch this documentary when it premieres worldwide at DOC NYC November 15. Sara Newens and Mina Son follow three driven teenage athletes who attempt to go for Olympic gold in the underappreciated game of table tennis. Northern California's Ariel Hsing and Lily Zhang balance friendship and professional rivalry to see who'll come out on top, while Long Island's Michael Landers sacrifices his senior year of high school to devote more time to training at NYC's SPiN – which is owned by Sarandon herself.
DOC NYC showing 4:30pm November 15 at the SVA Theatre
14. Homme Less (Thomas Wirthensohn, 2014)
Mark Reay – on first appearances – seems to live a glamorous New York City life that would induce envy in many. Attractive and always impeccably dressed, the chic former male model works as a fashion photographer, appears in movies and attends the best parties. But that wouldn't make for a very interesting documentary, which leads to the point: When he leaves those events, he heads to the East Village – not to a super-luxe loft – but to a hidden corner of a rooftop to sleep each night. With Homme Less, director Thomas Wirthensohn beautifully captures and exposes the dark underbelly of the American Dream in an often-merciless city.
DOC NYC showing 9:45pm November 15 at the IFC Center
15. Half Sour (Sean McGing & Mary Anne Rothberg, 2014)
Sean McGing and Mary Anne Rothberg follow a group of young skateboarders, who find direction in their lives when they move to New York and start a pickle business. Yes, pickles. The documentary serves as a heartwarming look at how something unusual can turn into something beautiful.
DOC NYC showing at 9:00pm November 16 at Bow Tie Chelsea Cinemas
DOC NYC will take place November 13–20 2014 at the IFC Center, SVA Theatre and Bow Tie Chelsea Cinemas. To purchase tickets and for an in-depth look at the programme, including the talks and panel discussions, visit the website here.