DOC NYC Celebrates 10 Glorious Years
By Christine Connallon
There’s nothing like the fall. With it comes our favorite film festival: DOC NYC, which took place November 6-15 at the West Village’s IFC Center, Chelsea’s SVA Theater and Cinépolis Chelsea. Celebrating its tenth anniversary this year, the eclectically curated slate has become America’s largest documentary film festival and hailed by MovieMaker magazine as one of the “top five coolest documentary film festivals in the world.” With over 300+ films including 28 world premieres and 27 U.S or North American premieres, the festival is 10 days of documentary bliss.
Some brilliant documentaries that should stay on your radar are:
THE LONGEST WAVE by director Joe Berlinger (Brother’s Keeper, The Paradise Lost Trilogy, Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile) is an honest and raw three year journey with world champion windsurfer Robby Naish. As he seeks to surf the world’s longest wave, Naish is challenged by his own health, business and relationship issues, and the feeling of age creeping up on him. This portrait of an athlete who expects perfection from himself is showing in the festival’s Masters Section.
ONCE WERE BROTHERS: ROBBIE ROBERTSON AND THE BAND by director Daniel Roher is the Opening Night film and is making its US Premiere. The blend of insightful current interview footage of Robertson combined with the vintage clips of the members of The Band playing and interacting is fascinating. Additional insight from Bruce Springsteen, Van Morrison and Martin Scorsese adds color to this captivating film.
FOR SAMA is the haunting and harrowing look at the life of 26 year old Syrian filmmaker Waad al-Kateab who documents five years during the uprising in Aleppo. In collaboration with her co-director Edward Watts, we witness the good times and terrifying ones, as she falls in love, marries and gives birth to her daughter Sama while she and her husband struggle with the daily decision to keep fighting for the country they love even as horrific conflict strikes all around them. Prepare to have your mind and heart forever changed by this incredible film.
MIDNIGHT FAMILY, from director Luke Lorentzen, is an incredibly wild ride with the Ochoa family, who operate a private ambulance. In Mexico City, the government operates fewer than 45 emergency ambulances for a population of 9 million people, spurning an underground industry of for-profit ambulances, many who have little or no certification or training. We tag along with the Ochoa family as they struggle to do the right thing for the patients they try to save while facing financial hardships and moral dilemmas along the way.
RED PENGUINS is the incredible and enthralling tale of the joint venture between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the famed Red Army hockey team. This wild film from award-winning filmmaker Gabe Polsky has everything, from strippers, gangsters and live bears serving beer on a hockey rink! Not just for sports fans, this inside ride, courtesy of eccentric marketing whiz Steve Warshaw, is one you will not forget!
BIKRAM: YOGI, GURU, PREDATOR is the wild tale of Bikram Choudhury, the mastermind behind making yoga madly popular in North America. Filmmaker Eva Orner takes us through Choudhury’s life and lies, from his start in India to landing in Beverly Hills and the accusations of rape and sexual harassment that are a dark side of this charming guru. Archival footage is used masterfully to bring us to current times, where he has been successful in evading prosecution and still teaches students globally.
LOVE CHILD is the beautiful drama from Danish filmmaker Eva Mulvad who follows a man and woman in Tehran who have a child together though they are in a long-term adulterous relationship. We follow their journey for seven years as the three try to leave the country, fleeing the threat of the death penalty under Iran law for infidelity.
NARROWSBURG revolves around the small town of Narrowsburg, New York which was billed to the residents as the next “Sundance of the East” by a French film producer and her mafia man turned actor husband. Their plan? To start the Narrowsburg Film Festival to revitalize the town. The surreal story that ensues is truly stranger than any Hollywood blockbuster ever could be!
As always, the programming department at DOC NYC has elevated the game of festivals, leaving us to wonder how they always outdo themselves. Here’s looking forward to 2020!
Photos courtesy of DOC NYC.