New York International Documentary Festival Announces
by Eugene Hernandez
Thirteen films have been selected to screen at "docfest", the first
New York International Documentary Festival, running May 27 - 31 in
Manhattan. Documentary filmmaker Gary Pollard founded the event and
has spent the past two years putting it together as the first project of
a new organization called The New York Documentary Center.
In a conversation with indieWIRE yesterday, Pollard said that docfest
emerged as an answer to New York's defunct Global Village Documentary
Festival which ran for over 15 years at Manhattan's Public Theater -- it
ended in 1991. On board as founding sponsors for docfest are The
Atlantic Monthly, FILMMAKER Magazine, Independent Film Channel, The
New York Times, Sharff Weisberg Inc., and Zuma Digital. Pollard
explained that "once the first few sponsors came on board it did not take
a big pitch," although, likening the creation of a film festival to the
making of a documentary film, he laughed, "The biggest obstacle was
getting over my fear of asking for money."
David Douglas' IMAX film "FIRES OF KUWAIT" opens the festival at
Sony's Lincoln Square on May 27. The film chronicles the battle by
hundreds of firefighters to contain the oil well fires left in the wake
of the 1991 Gulf War. "Morley Safer's Vietnam: A Personal Report"
and "The Anderson Platoon" kick off the festival's run at the Director's
Guild Theater on 57th Street, the main venue for the event. The
two screenings are CBS News Special Reports documenting the
Vietnam War -- they originally aired in 1967 and are presented
by noted journalist Morley Safer. On closing night the festival
offers the U.S. Premiere of Susan Muska and Greta Olafsdottir's
"The Brandon Teena Story", an exploration of the 1993 Nebraska
murder case of Brandon Teena, a 20-year old who was raped and
murdered after it was discovered that she was actually Teena
Brandon, a 20-year-old woman living as a man.
Also on tap are a host of premiere screenings: Bennett Miller's LAIFF
premiere, "The Cruise" (New York Premiere) which shadows the
philosophical and poetic Timothy "Speed" Levitch as he gives tours
of Manhattan; Mark Daniels' "Melvin Van Peebles Classified X" (New
York Premiere), an exploration of the history of African-Americans
in Hollywood film, and "The Running Man" (U.S. Premiere), a look at
the life of filmmaker Melvin Van Peebles; "The Saltmen of Tibet"
(New York Premiere) from German filmmaker Ulrike Kroch; Paul
Wilmhurst's "Mob Law" (U.S. Premiere) a look at a Las Vegas mob
lawyer; "Midnight in Cuba" (U.S. Premiere) , a portrait of four
young Cubans by Dimitri Falk; Maggie Hadleigh'-West's "War Zone"
(U.S. Premiere) about "street-level Sexual harassment"; and Vicky
Funari's documentary of a Mexican woman, "Paulina" (New York
Premiere), which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival.
Jean Rouch's 1961 documentary "Chronicle of a Summer" will screen
as the festival's centerpiece event, while Li Hong's "Out of Phoenix
Bridge", Dan Katzir's "Out for Love...Be Back Shortly", and Elizabeth
Schub's "Cuba 15" round out the docfest lineup. Additionally, the
festival will host two weekend seminars: "Documentary Making in
the Digital World," an exploration of new digital technologies for
low-budget documentary production, and "Half a Century of
Documentary: Dialogues with Jean Rouche and other docfest
Directors. The 81-year-old filmmaker will join other makers in
a discussion about non-fiction filmmaking.
Festival founder Gary Pollard explained that docfest is the first
initiative for The New York Documentary Center, whose mission is
"to get the public more excited about documentaries (and) to expand
the audience and grow the demand." Additionally, Pollard hopes to
help documentary makers exhibit work through a relationship
with Manhattan's Quad theater, develop an annual retreat for doc
filmmakers on Block Island, inspire grass-roots doc festivals in
other cities and create a year-round documentary venue in New