Featuring documentaries about an eclectic mix of subjects: from an unknown photographer and a family-owned strip club to missionaries in Rwanda and the 90s indie film scene, this year's DOC NYC lineup touches on the personal and political. "The films range from profound and mysterious to humorous and sexually provocative," said DOC NYC's artistic director Thom Powers, who also programs for the Toronto International Film Festival and curates DOC Club on SundanceNOW.
In its fourth year, DOC NYC, now the largest documentary festival in the U.S., will host panels and events featuring Errol Morris, Sarah Polley, Oliver Stone, Michel Gondry, Ricki Lake, Jonathan Franzen, Grace Lee Boggs, Jehane Moujaim and other filmmakers.
With such a wealth of rich material, it wasn't easy to pare down the list of 132 films being shown at DOC NYC to these 10 titles and they are by no means the only films worth seeing. Check out the full list of films screening at DOC NYC, which runs from November 14-21, here.
Here Are 10 Films to Watch at DOC NYC:
In the mid-1990's, televangelist Pat Robertson asked his followers to donate money to a fund that would be spent on a missionary aid deployment to the Congo. The region of the country on the Rwandan border was the site of settler camps full of those fleeing their country's Civil War and genocide, and the camps had well-publicized problems with sickness and disease. The only problem, according to the filmmakers of "Mission Congo," is that Robertson was using much of the funds raised and the planes hired for the mission to invest in a diamond mining expedition. Robertson responded to the film after its premiere at the Toronto Film Festival, and the filmmakers have yet to fight back. But the evidence against the pastor is fairly damning. See the film and decide for yourself.
Is the Internet going to bring with it a global village? Michael Kleiman's film answers this question in a variety of ways. Kleiman's tactic is twofold. In much of the film, Kleiman asks the world's luminaries in the technology field -- such as technology guru Clay Shirky, psychologist Sherry Turkle and Foursquare founder Dennis Crowley -- to give their two cents on what the networked world has done to us.
In the rest of the film, Kleiman develops a relationship with a Peruvian village that has just received a huge shipment of low-cost laptops for its young children from the non-profit One Laptop Per Child. Staying close to members of the village who both get access to the laptops (the children) and those who don't, Kleiman develops a relationship with many of the villagers as the generator-powered wireless router goes down, making it difficult to update the content on the machines. The film throws a lot of information at you and leaves it to you to try to figure out what this could all mean.
"Finding Vivian Maier"
In its US premiere here after a well-received world premiere at The Toronto Film Festival, this riveting documentary is about one of the 20th century's greatest photographers. But it's no ordinary artist biopic, because you've probably never heard of Vivian Maier. Until John Maloof purchased cartons at a storage locker auction and discovered Maier's negatives inside, which he then printed, almost nobody had ever seen a Vivian Maier photograph. A single woman of mysterious origins, Maier seemingly left behind no family and no legacy when she died, apart from the recollections of the now adult children she took care of as a nanny in Chicago.
But just as Maier's prints develop -- exposing a sharp eye and a true talent -- so does Maier's cryptic character and mysterious life story. Directed by Maloof and Charlie Siskel," "Finding Vivian Maier" is an homage to a previously unknown artistic talent, as well as to the forgotten life of Vivian Maier -- which, through her work and this cinematic exploration, is revealed to be a complex and compelling figure -- a chameleon who chronicled the lives of people who, like herself, lived on the fringes of society. This haunting film will leave you to wonder why Maier left her work in storage unseen -- and make you grateful that Maloof discovered it.
Sure, it's ostensibly about the eponymous strip club (The Manor) and the family who owns it, but don't go into this doc expecting glitzy sensationalism and lap dances. Shawney Cohen's heartfelt portrait of his dysfunctional Canadian Jewish family -- who happens to own and operate a small town strip club -- is about so much more than the sex industry. Although the film, which opened this year's Hot Docs, has some darkly humorous moments, it's more tragic than comic. As his obese father compulsively eats and balloons in size, Cohen's anorexic mother nibbles on lettuce and dwindles away until she's barely there, as the future of The Manor remains unclear and Cohen struggles with his family's legacy. Cohen portrays his family with brutal honesty and enough love that after leaving the theater, you'll undoubtedly be thinking about the Cohen family and wondering how they're faring -- a true sign of a story well told.