DOC NYC 2022 Continues to Inspire
By Christine Connallon
There are certain things you can count on each fall, like leaves cascading from the trees in autumnal hues, the smell of pumpkin spice in the air and a plethora of eye opening films to devour at DOC NYC. For the past 13 years, I’ve eagerly anticipated viewing the stellar slate of programming at DOC NYC, feeling it is truly the most wonderful time of the year. Continuing in a hybrid format with films available for consumption in person in New York City or online, viewers were treated to 29 World Premieres and 27 US premieres. With over 200 films and events including a whopping 110 feature length documentaries, it was easy for everyone to find a film that could inspire them.
What makes a documentary great? Superb storytelling, captivating visuals and the ability to put the audience in a situation that they have never experienced all add up to a compelling film. With so many riveting examples of films that transport, educate and entertain, it is challenging to select the absolute best of the festival. But here are some of our favorite films that stayed top of mind long after the closing credits:
My Sister Liv: Director Alan Hicks gives us an honest and heartbreaking look at Tess Kunik and her sister Liv’s struggle with body dysmorphia, depression and her ultimate suicide. Through an achingly beautiful video archive of Liv’s life and the aftermath her family deals with after her death, we are privy to a journey that includes a legacy striving to help other at risk youth.
The Art of Rebellion: Thanks to director Libby Spears, we meet Lydia Emily, a mural artist, devoted single mom and someone dealing with the reality of multiple sclerosis. As she tries to make her medication last each month amidst a dysfunctional healthcare system, she cares for her two daughters, one of whom has special needs and creates artistically to feed her soul.
Love in the Time of Fentanyl: Director Colin Askey takes us inside the Overdose Prevention Society (OPS), located in Vancouver, Canada. This safe injection site was founded to save lives amid a city dealing with an opioid crisis that has an all time high count of fentanyl overdose deaths.
Dear Thirteen: What does it mean to be a thirteen year old these days? Director and educator Alexis Neophytides gives us a glimpse into a cross section of kids from around the world, with their unique and universal concerns and joys.
Idina Menzel: Which Way to the Stage?: Whether you first saw her in the original Broadway casts of “Rent” or “Wicked” or you discovered her vocal work in Disney’s “Frozen,” there’s no forgetting the megawatt talents of Idina Menzel. When this working mom from Long Island heads out on tour opening for Josh Groban, she checks off her bucket list performing at New York City’s Madison Square Garden, and we are lucky enough to see the challenges and joys she experiences in the process.
We Are Not Ghouls: Could you risk everything to do what is right? That is the question that is at the heart of this film by director Chris James Thompson, who explores the case of Binyam Mohamed through the eyes of US Air Force JAG Attorney Yvonne Bradley who defended this case from 2005 at Guantanamo Bay.
Girl Gang: Director Susanne Regina Meures introduces us to Leonie, a German teenager who is finding success on the scene as an influencer. Her parents manage her career and as the pressures of being a celeb on social media increase, the audience can feel the pressure keg that is ready to blow. We’re a fly on the wall as Leonie’s drive to succeed leads to exhaustion, moodiness and the alienation of school peers as her global popularity grows.
Sam Now: This outstanding drama from Reed Harkness is the journey he took with his step brother Sam to find Sam’s mom when she disappeared from their lives. Thanks to their love of film, we are treated to archival footage that spans over two decades. It is truly the story of brotherly love, support and the intergenerational trauma that can change who a person becomes.
Immediate Family: Session musicians are the backbone of the songs that we’ve loved for ages. Pop music from the 1970s would not be the same without Danny, Leland, Rus, Waddy and Steve, incredible musicians who played on the iconic tracks we still groove to. With interviews from collaborators like Jackson Browne, Keith Richards, James Taylor, Don Henley and Lyle Lovett, we have a front row seat to amazing stories.
Lost Angel: The Genius of Judee Sill: If you haven’t heard of Judee Sill, you’re not alone. This wildly talented American singer-songwriter was discovered by David Geffen in the early 70s, but her brilliant work went often unrecognized until her untimely death at 35.
Outta The Muck: Directors Bhawin Suchak and Ira Mckinley take us to Pahokee, a small town in south Florida where football consumes Friday nights and places to fish are more plentiful than gated communities or malls. The Dean family welcomes us in to their warm circle of community.
Ellis: New Orleans is the stage and Marsalis is the family at the heart of this film. Ellis, the patriarch, leaves a legacy as a composer, educator and master jazz pianist. With interviews that are revealing and personal, told both by this master talent as well as his sons Wynton, Branford, Delfeayo, Jason and Ellis III, we have a unique view of this special man and the city he loved.
Buffy Sainte-Marie: Carry it On: With a career spanning six decades, Buffy Sainte-Marie has amassed lots of incredible milestones including the first internet album and the first Academy Award for an Indigenous person. This amazing folk singer-songwriter is an activist, philanthropist and incredible 80 year old woman who continues to make music and inspire.
Keep an eye out for these gems and start the countdown until DOC NYC 2023, which is sure to feature more brilliant films to keep us thinking, feeling and dreaming!
Photos Courtesy of DOC NYC.
Additional Article Contributions by Mike Perciaccante.