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DOC NYC Makes Its New York Bow

 

New York has always had an abundance of film festivals....some grand, some intimate; some broad, some specialized; some populist and some elitist. The city's major film institutions, the Film Society of Lincoln Center, the Museum of Modern Art, the Brooklyn Academy of Music and the Anthology Film Archives, present on-going film series that bring a new mini-festival to film buffs every week of the year. The city's other great film resources, including the Film Forum and the IFC Center, also are creating forums for difficult-to-find contemporary films and acknowledged and sleeper classics to make their mark in the city's varied film landscape.

However, up until now, there has been no film festival completely devoted to non-fiction work (the New York Film Festival and the Tribeca Film Festival, two of the city's biggest film events, have always had documentaries in their slate, but they were always mixed in with Hollywood and world cinema titles). That deficit is being addressed this week by the unveiling of DOC NYC, New York's Documentary Festival, a diverse and diverting program of 60 films being presented at the IFC Center and the Kanbar Institute of Film & Television at New York University.

 

The initiative is programmed by Thom Powers, the event's Artistic Director, a veteran of the Toronto and Sundance film festivals. DOC NYC will be a must-attend event for people with a passion for great storytelling,” he stated in a prepared statement. “Not only will audiences see great work, they can also engage with the documentary community in person.” DOC NYC was conceived by and is hosted by the IFC Center, itself one of the country's most important presenters of documentaries, both for theatrical premieres and through the weekly "Stranger Than Fiction" series, launched in 2005 and now New York's leading documentary showcase.

 

The Festival kicked off on Wednesday night with its Opening Night Gala, CAVE OF FORGOTTEN DREAMS, a 3-D nature/ecological film by iconic director Werner Herzog. Other highlights of the 7-day event include the Sunday evening premiere showing of TABLOID by documentary master director Errol Morris; RIDE, RISE, ROAR, an engaging music film about the legendary David Byrne, former lead singer of the seminal New York art rock band The Talking Heads; and on-stage talks with both Errol Morris and master archivist Kevin Brownlow (just days before he is set to receive an honorary Oscar for his devotion to chronicling the origins of filmmaking in the early years of the 20th century). The Festival runs until November 9.

 

Two competition sections will cover a wide range of new films, including several world premieres. The “Viewfinders” section will offer perspectives from around the world with 8 films, including titles such as ARMADILLO (Denmark), DISCOVERIES OF A MARIONETTE (Norway), and PINK SARIS (India) that have won critical acclaim at major international festivals. The “Metropolis” section will concentrate on New York stories with 6 films, including compelling profiles of rock critic Lilllian Roxon, puppet master Dan Hurlin, musician David Byrne and theater director Richard Foreman. Films in both of these sections will compete for Best Film honors, to be determined by juries of accomplished critics and journalists.

 

Two music-themed documentaries should be highlights of the Festival's inaugural slate. DARKNESS ON THE EDGE OF TOWN, a new concert film with Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band performing their classic album, will screen at the 1500-seat Ziegfeld Theatre on November 4. Directed by the Grammy and Emmy award winner Thom Zimny, the film was shot last year at the Paramount Theatre in Asbury Park, New Jersey. The film will be released on DVD as part of the box set “The Promise: The Darkness on the Edge of Town Story” later in November. A portion of the proceeds from this screening will be donated to the Danny Fund/Melanoma Research Alliance – a non-profit foundation devoted to advancing melanoma research and awareness set up after the 2008 passing of Danny Federici, longtime Springsteen friend and E-Street Band member. 

 

THE ROAD TO CARNEGIE HALL, a film by Stephen Higgins, is another world premiere gem that screens this coming weekend. The documentary follows musicians around the world who audition on YouTube for a chance to perform at Carnegie Hall. The film culminates in the performance of the YouTube Symphony Orchestra that took place in April 2009 under the direction of classical masters Michael Tilson Thomas and Tan Dun. The screening on November 7 will be followed by a live performance by the cellist Joshua Roman, a young sensation of the classical music world.

 

 

As part of its mission to inform and engage, DOC NYC will help launch a new promo campaign of shorts called “Moments of Truth”, in which noteworthy figures from the worlds of acting, music and politics describe particular documentary moments that moved them. In the first spot, actor Alec Baldwin recalls a moment from the classic Rolling Stones documentary GIMME SHELTER.  David Van Taylor of Lumiere Productions, creator of the documentary history TO TELL THE TRUTH, will be filming other testimonials to be viewed on the Festival's website: www.docnyc.net

 

On Friday and Saturday, DOC NYC will host two all-day conferences: “Doc Convergence” on November 5 will focus on the ways that documentary film intersects with photography, writing, performance and radio; and “State of the Art” on November 6 will gather documentary film directors, cinematographers, editors and others for dialogues on their crafts.

Finally, New York City has a major documentary event to call its own and DOC NYC, with its varied program, is already making a mark in its inaugural year. Timed to unfold immediately following the bruising national elections, this event's goal to inspire, enlighten and motivate could not be more prescient and important. Kudos to the organizers for reminding us all that our individual voices can make a difference and that there is no place for apathy when the stakes are so high. For more information, visit:  www.docnyc.net

 

Sandy Mandelberger, Film New York Editor 

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Mandelberger Sandy
(International Media Resources)

The Ultimate Guide to the New York Film, Video and New Media Scene.

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