Sherief Elkatsha’s "Cairo Drive," Thomas Wirthensohn’s "Homme Less" and Danielle Schwartz’s "Mirror Image" won the three jury prizes at this year’s record-breaking DOC NYC festival, while "The Hand That Feeds" took home the audience award for directors Rachel Lears and Robin Blotnick.
The four winners were crowned after successfully competing in their given categories. "Cairo Drive," a film about exploring Cairo through the eyes of its taxi drivers, won the Viewfinders Competition for its distinct directorial vision. "Homme Less" qualified for the Metropolis Competition because its story about a photographer who appears well-off but sleeps on various Manhattan rooftops was unique to New York. "Mirror Image" topped the Shorts Competition made up of 37 competitors, while "The Hand That Feeds" beat out more than 20 competitors for the SundanceNow Doc Club Audience Award thanks to the votes of the almost 25,000 patrons.
The attendance figures marked a 28 percent increase for the festival over last year’s program, marking major growth for what is already the largest documentary film festival in the United States. There were more than 50 sold outs screenings at DOC NYC, now in its fifth year of existence.
"DOC NYC has grown to its present size in response to a clear desire for a world-class documentary event by New York City’s vibrant community of non-fiction filmmakers, industry and film lovers," said DOC NYC artistic director Thom Powers in a statement. "We are encouraged by the festival’s success to make each edition better than the previous one. Now that our fifth edition has wrapped, we’ll happily get to work on number six!"
The increasingly-popular festival showcased 155 films and events between November 13-20. Ninety-two feature-length films screened with 20 world premieres and eight domestic premieres. The festival was held at the IFC Center, SVA Theatre and Chelsea Bow Tie Cinemas in Manhattan.
Below, you can find the jurors’ statements for each winning film.
"‘Cairo Drive’ is a funny, endearing, deeply humane look at the everyday struggle to navigate the crazy streets of Egypt’s capital. Director Sherief Elkatsha introduces us to a range of Cairenes—secular, religious, young, old, rich, poor, traditional, cosmopolitan—and somehow never manages to lose sight of them as individuals. The film’s amused look at the subtleties of honking, the informal rules of the road and the inevitability of commuter frustration points to deeper truths about recent developments in Egypt, even while carefully avoiding direct political or social commentary. With the Arab Spring as a backdrop, we see the enduring rhythms—and the often crushing inertia—of public life as experienced by the people of Cairo."
"New York is a city where anything is possible. So it takes a lot to surprise and shock us. It’s also rare to find a film that does this in such a skillful way—through a present-tense cinematic language that explores every dark nook and cranny of its subject’s life. We were impressed with this film’s craft, but we were even more impressed with its content. It portrays both the beauty and cruelty of New York. It also shows the city’s obsession with surfaces, and it gives us a figure who’s complex, troubling, and fascinating. For these reasons, the Metropolis Jury recognizes Thomas Wirthensohn’s ‘Homme Less.’"
"This perfectly titled film [‘Mirror Image’] holds a mirror up to the challenges of transferring knowledge and accountability through the generations, and how history changes over time. Schwartz’s surprisingly complicated portrait of war and possession explores social expectations and the justifications we tell ourselves. The films structure reflects how we grapple with history and how the nitty gritty is elided over time."