The DOC NY documentary film festival kicks off in NYC today with a strong lineup, and noteworthy selection of films of the Diaspora that we strongly encourage you all to check out, if you live in New York, or will be here for the duration of the festival.
Tambay already highlighted a few of them, and reviewed 2 (Venus And Serena, the opening night film, and The Central Park Five, the closing night film – both he gave enthusiastic thumbs up to).
Looking at the line up Diaspora films, if I could identify a running theme it would be one of struggle. A few examples: A Journey With Mumia Abu-Jamal, to Melvin & Jean: An American Story, and The Central Park Five. Actually, you could probably find an element of struggle in the entire list below.
That just seems to be woven into the fabric of “blackness,” or life as a black person in the current incarnation of the world.
Music is also at the heart of some of these films, including Under African Skies, Sweet Dreams, and the vault classic Wattstax.
Rounding out the list includes Drivers Wanted, The Prep School Negro, and Iceberg Slim: Portrait Of A Pimp.
Tickets are also available for purchase in-person at the IFC Center box office, 323 Sixth Ave. (at West 3rd St).
The festival, which runs from November 8 to 15, is produced by IFC Center.
Check out the list of films, descriptions of each, screening times and locations, below:
* OPENING NIGHT GALA *
VENUS AND SERENA, dirs. Maiken Baird & Michelle Major
Venus and Serena gains unprecedented access into the lives of the tennis-conquering Williams sisters during the most intimidating year of their careers. Over the course of 2011, Venus grappled with an energy-sapping autoimmune disease while Serena battled back from a life-threatening pulmonary embolism. But neither sister let adversity hold her back. Filmmakers Maiken Baird and Michelle Major (who worked in Peter Jennings’ documentary unit at ABC News) join forces with esteemed collaborators including editor Sam Pollard (When the Levees Broke) and musician Wyclef Jean. The film “gives a better sense of the sisters… than do reams of sports reportage” (Variety). (99 min)
In person: Michelle Major
THU, NOV 8, 6:45PM (SVA), FOLLOWED BY OPENING NIGHT PARTY 9:30PM (SVA)
Opening Night tickets to a screening of Venus and Serena is $25, or $75 to attend the 6:45 or 7:00 screening plus the official DOC NYC Opening Night party at the Maritime Hotel.
* CLOSING NIGHT GALA *
THE CENTRAL PARK FIVE, dirs. Ken Burns, Sarah Burns & David McMahon
In 1989, five black and Latino teenagers were arrested and charged for brutally attacking and raping a white female jogger in Central Park. News media swarmed the case, calling it “the crime of the century.” But the truth about what really happened didn’t become clear until after the five had spent years in prison for a crime they didn’t commit. This story of injustice finally gets the telling it deserves. The film recently made headlines when lawyers for New York City attempted to subpoena its outtakes for an ongoing lawsuit. A story whose aftershocks continue to shape the city, this promises to be one of the most high-profile documentaries of the year. (119 min)
In person: Ken Burns, Sarah Burns, David McMahon and members of the Central Park Five
THU, NOV 15, 7:00PM (SVA)
* GALA *
ICEBERG SLIM: PORTRAIT OF A PIMP, dir. Jorge Hinojosa
US PREMIERE – For the millions of readers who have been enthralled by Iceberg Slim’s books, this film fleshes out the life and legacy of the man who pioneered a new kind of street-wise writing. And for newcomers to his world, it’s a great place to start. Years in the making, the film includes archival footage of Slim along with interviews with his friends, colleagues, and famous admirers such as Chris Rock, Snoop Dogg, Quincy Jones and Ice-T. The story is enhanced with stylish pulp fiction iconography. (88 min)
In person: Jorge Hinojosa, Ice-T
FRI, NOV 9, 9:30PM (SVA)
SWEET DREAMS, dirs. Rob Fruchtman & Lisa Fruchtman
A decade after the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, Kiki Katese, a pioneering theatre director, founded Ingoma Nshya, the country’s first female drumming troupe, offering healing for women from both sides of the conflict. When Kiki met the owners of Brooklyn’s Blue Marble Ice Cream, she invited them to help Ingoma Nshya open Rwanda’s first local ice cream shop. Sweet Dreams follows this remarkable group of Rwandan women as they create their own unique path to a future of peace and possibility. (89 min, in Kinyarwanda & English)
In person: Rob Fruchtman, Lisa Fruchtman, special guests
SUN, NOV 11, 4:30PM (IFC) • TUE, NOV 13, 4:45PM (IFC)
LONG DISTANCE REVOLUTIONARY: A JOURNEY WITH MUMIA ABU-JAMAL, dir. Stephen Vittoria
Unlike any other film, book, or article produced about Mumia Abu-Jamal, Long Distance Revolutionary focuses on his career as a prolific author and broadcaster from Pennsylvania’s Death Row. This riveting film centers on the period after Mumia is convicted for the murder of Philadelphia patrolman Daniel Faulkner and exposes Mumia’s battles with the American court system to continue his work from prison—a battle he continues to wage to this very day. (120 min, in English & Spanish)
In person: Stephen Vittoria, Juan Gonzalez
SAT, NOV 10, 2:30PM (SVA)
MELVIN & JEAN: AN AMERICAN STORY, dir. Maia Wechsler
SNEAK PREVIEW – When Melvin and Jean McNair hijacked a plane from Detroit to Algeria in 1972 with their two babies on board, they called it an act of political resistance. The hijacking was also an act of desperation committed by two people in their early twenties who saw no other way to escape what they felt was the constant state of racial oppression in America. Living in Paris forty years after the hijacking and unable to return to the U.S., Melvin and Jean are still coming to terms with their crime and its lifelong consequences. (59 min, in English & French)
In person: Maia Wechsler, Susan Tippograph (Melvin & Jean’s criminal attorney)
FRI, NOV 9, 5:30PM (IFC)
THE PREP SCHOOL NEGRO, dir. André Robert Lee
André Robert Lee revisits the life-changing events of his adolescence when he gained a way out of Philadelphia’s ghettos with a scholarship to an elite prep school. As he moved into a different world, he grew distant from his sister and mother. In this poignant film, he explores thorny questions of race, education, opportunity and family. He also spends time with current day prep school students of color to see if anything has changed inside the ivory tower. (71 min)
In person: André Robert Lee
SUN, NOV 11, 4:15PM (SVA) • THU, NOV 15, 7:00PM (IFC)