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African Diaspora-Interest Films to See at DOC NYC, USA’s Largest Doc Festival (Nov. 13-20)

African Diaspora-Interest Films to See at DOC NYC, USA's Largest Doc Festival (Nov. 13-20)

DOC NYC, America’s largest documentary festival, kicks off its fifth edition today, in New York City, running November 13-20, at the IFC Center in Greenwich Village, and Chelsea’s SVA Theatre and Bow Tie Chelsea Cinemas. 

The 2014 festival will showcase 153 films and events, with over 200 documentary filmmakers and special guests expected to appear in person to present their films. This year’s lineup includes 20 world premieres, 7 US premieres and 39 New York City premieres among this year’s feature-length films. A total of 92 features, 37 shorts and 24 panel discussions and masterclasses are also on offer.

“Over the past five years, DOC NYC has brought together an exciting mix of filmmakers, special guests and influential audiences—providing the kind of experiences that happen only in New York,” said artistic director Thom Powers, who has led the festival alongside executive director Raphaela Neihausen since its beginning. “Our mix of premieres, classics, in-depth panels, and masterclasses span documentary past, present and future.”

“We’re pleased that DOC NYC‘s expansion this year enables us to expose New York audiences to a greater breadth of documentary storytelling and subject matter,” said director of programming Basil Tsiokos. “Our competition sections and thematic sidebars offer wonderful new discoveries, while the larger Short List enables us to showcase even more of the year’s most acclaimed docs as we head into awards season.”

Of specific interest to this blog, here are a list of African diaspora-interest films scheduled to screen at the festival, courtesy of the festival – some you’d recognize, as we’ve previously covered them on this blog; others are new, even to me. We’ll be covering the festival this year, so expect reviews of some of these films:

ALTHEA, Dir. Rex Miller
WORLD PREMIERE – In the 1950s, long before Arthur Ashe or Venus and Serena Williams, Althea Gibson was the first African-American tennis player to win Grand Slam tournaments. Breaking the color barrier of international tennis, her singles win at Wimbledon 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 reveals how a street kid from Harlem reached the pinnacle of an unlikely sport during the height of racial segregation.
7:00 PM, Fri. Nov. 14, 2014 – IFC Center
Expected to attend: Rex Miller, producers Nancy Buirski and Elisabeth Haviland James

BROTHERS OF THE BLACK LIST, Dir. Sean Gallagher
NYC PREMIERE – In the fall of 1992, despite efforts to recruit minority students, SUNY Oneonta set off a firestorm of controversy that led to the longest litigated civil-rights case in US history. After an attempted rape of an elderly woman off-campus, school administrators released a list of its black male students to the police. Sean Gallagher’s affecting film chronicles how this act of institutionalized racial profiling left an indelible mark on the university, its students, and the larger community.
12:15 PM, Wed. Nov. 19, 2014 – Bow Tie Chelsea Cinemas
9:30 PM, Thu. Nov. 20, 2014 – IFC Center
Expected to attend: Sean Gallagher

CAPTURING GRACE, Dir. David Iverson
NYC PREMIERE – Recognizing that music and rhythmic activity can help those suffering from Parkinson’s disease achieve greater control of their mobility, two dancers from New York’s Mark Morris Dance Group lead a workshop teaching dance and movement to a group of Parkinsonians. As the tenacious participants joyously regain a sense of bodily freedom, they rehearse for a public performance that celebrates the transformative power of art and community to upend expectations and provide hope.12:30 PM, Tue. Nov. 18, 2014 – Bow Tie Chelsea Cinemas
5:00 PM, Thu. Nov. 20, 2014 – IFC Center
Expected to attend: David Iverson, cinematographer Eddie Marritz, sound Peter Ginsburg, film subject David Leventhal

HOOP DREAMS, Dir. Steve James
Newly restored for its 20th anniversary, Hoop Dreams has never looked so good on the big screen. The film follows two Chicago teens, Arthur Agee and William Gates, over their four years of high school as they aspire to use their basketball skills to create better futures for their families. When the film was released, Roger Ebert wrote, “It takes us, shakes us, and make us think in new ways about the world around us. It gives us the impression of having touched life itself.”
1:30 PM, Sun. Nov. 16, 2014 – IFC Center 
Expected to attend: Steve James

KEEP ON KEEPIN’ ON, Dir. Alan Hicks
Celebrating mentorship as much as music, Alan Hicks’s inspirational and poignant film explores the common bonds between a 92-year-old jazz legend and his 23-year-old protégé. In his storied career, Clark Terry has played with luminaries like Count Basie and Duke Ellington, and counts Quincy Jones and Miles Davis among his past pupils. Now, as he mentors his latest student, blind piano prodigy Justin Kauflin, Terry faces failing health while Kauflin tries to persevere despite severe stage fright that threatens his chances for a professional career. RADiUS.
2:45 PM, Tue. Nov. 18, 2014 – Bow Tie Chelsea Cinemas
9:15 PM, Thu. Nov. 20, 2014 – Bow Tie Chelsea Cinemas 
Expected to attend: Alan Hicks

LITTLE WHITE LIE, Dir. Lacey Schwartz
NYC PREMIERE – Growing up in an upper-middle-class Jewish household, Lacey Schwartz knew she looked different from the rest of her family, but her darker complexion and curly hair were brushed off as traits inherited from her Sicilian grandfather. When she finally begins to dig deeper, Lacey uncovers unspoken family secrets and willful denial that cuts to the core of her very sense of self, inspiring an intriguing re-evaluation and redefinition of identity. 
Screening with Danielle Schwartz’s MIRROR IMAGE. An attempt to establish the provenance of an Israeli family’s heirloom becomes a debate over language and history.
7:00 PM, Sun. Nov. 16, 2014 – IFC Center
10:45 AM, Wed. Nov. 19, 2014 – IFC Center
Expected to attend: Lacey Schwartz, producer Mehret Mandefro, editors Toby Shimin and Erik Duggers

MONSIEUR LE PRÉSIDENT, Dir. Victoria Campbell 
WORLD PREMIERE – Volunteering in Haiti in the immediate aftermath of the devastating 2010 earthquake, Victoria Campbell encounters Gaston, a charming voodoo priest who shows leadership during the emergency, and later manages to open a small, much-needed medical clinic with the support of a foreign funder. He becomes a local hero, a symbol of ingenuity in defiance of the failure of conventional relief efforts. Over three years, he also becomes the filmmaker’s close friend—until an unexpected development causes Victoria to re-examine her entire experience in Haiti.
9:30 PM, Fri. Nov. 14, 2014 – Bow Tie Chelsea Cinemas
10:45 AM, Thu. Nov. 20, 2014 – IFC Center
Expected to attend: Victoria Campbell

A MURDER IN THE PARK, Dir. Shawn Rech & Brandon Kimber
WORLD PREMIERE – With his execution just 48 hours away, Anthony Porter’s life was saved by a Northwestern University journalism class. Their 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, as compellingly argued here, Porter actually is guilty, Simon is an innocent man and both are just pawns in a much larger plan.
9:30 PM, Mon. Nov. 17, 2014 – IFC Center
Expected to attend: Shawn Rech, co-director Brandon Kimber, executive producer Andrew Hale

RUBBLE KINGS, Dir. Shan Nicholson
NORTH AMERICAN PREMIERE – Confronting a bankrupt, decaying city and the dashed hopes of the civil rights generation, African-American and Latino teenagers violently took over the streets of 1970s New York. The South Bronx became a war zone ruled by gangs like the Savage Skulls and the Ghetto Brothers. Hypnotic archival footage and present-day interviews with former gang members reveal how peace was brokered at the peak of the bloodshed in a most unlikely manner, laying the foundation for what ultimately became hip-hop culture.
Screening with Fraser Munden & Neil Rathbone’s THE CHAPERONE. An action-packed, animated retelling of what happened when a drunken motorcycle gang invaded a 1970s school dance.
9:30 PM, Wed. Nov. 19, 2014 – IFC Center
Running time: 10 minutes
Expected to attend: Felix Endara

SOME KIND OF SPARK, Dir. Ben Niles
WORLD PREMIERE – Illustrating the transformative power not only of music, but of mentorship, Ben Niles’s film is an uplifting look at Juilliard’s Music Advancement Program for inner- city youth. Several diverse and inviting kids are followed for two years as they devote their weekends to developing their musical proficiency, receiving hands-on instruction typically impossible in their regular schooling. These are not an elite group of musical prodigies, and that’s the point—music education should be open to all children, enriching lives and instilling discipline and confidence.
2:00 PM, Sun. Nov. 16, 2014 – SVA Theatre
Expected to attend: Ben Niles, editor, Sara Pellegrini, select cast

STOP, Dir. Spencer Wolff
WORLD PREMIERE – After David Ourlicht was stopped and searched by the NYPD for no discernible reason, he filed a class-action suit against the City of New York, alleging racial profiling in the police department’s stop-and-frisk policy. Following the charismatic young man over three years as he awaits the trial, Spencer Wolff reveals how David has been shaped by the experiences of his mixed-race family and their own struggles with discrimination in a New York of a different era—prejudice that should have no place in the present.
2:00 PM, Sun. Nov. 16, 2014 – SVA Theatre
Expected to attend: Ben Niles, editor, Sara Pellegrini, select cast

TALES OF THE GRIM SLEEPER, Dir. Nick Broomfield
In one of his finest films, Nick Broomfield digs into a true crime story of a Los Angeles serial killer that raises larger questions about gender, race and class inequality. Broomfield enlists the help of a former prostitute, Pam, who shines as a lively, funny and courageous personality. Together they hit the streets to dig up information where the police investigation has run cold. The film builds to a powerful climax conveying a grave injustice that extends well beyond this one case. HBO Documentary Films, 2015 Broadcast.
4:30 PM, Wed. Nov. 19, 2014 – Bow Tie Chelsea Cinemas
6:45 PM, Thu. Nov. 20, 2014 – Bow Tie Chelsea Cinemas 
Expected to attend: Nick Broomfield

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