New York welcomed its first festival to focus exclusively on documentary film since the short-lived DocFest, with last night’s celebratory kick-off to DOC NYC, New York’s Documentary Film Festival, that runs until November 9. Werner Herzog’s first venture into the realms of 3D, “Cave of Forgotten Dreams,” served as the opening night film, with the doc auteur in attendance for a post Q&A moderated by DOC NYC’s Artistic Director, Thom Powers.
“I was initially skeptical of 3D for obvious reasons,” said Herzog on taking the 3D plunge with “Cave,” which first premiered in Toronto back in September. “I think in this case it’s a wonderful tool. It’s totally legitimate, and beyond legitimacy, it’s imperative.”
In “Cave,” Herzog takes audiences back in time over 32,000 years to explore the earliest known images made by humans in the Chauvet caves of southern France, which have remained a mystery to the general public since their discovery in 1994. To this day, more people have walked on the moon that have set foot inside the Chauvet caves. Herzog, inspired by a New Yorker piece written by Judith Thurman (credited co-producer), became the first filmmaker to be granted access by the French Ministry of Culture to shoot within the caves.
“I was very fortunate,” Herzog said. “Before I could say a word when I met with the Minister of Culture to explain how much I’d love to make this film, he stopped me for ten minutes and explained how much my films meant to him. I remember sitting there, kind of embarrassed, and deeply moved. He then gave word to me, and everything fell into place.”
Herzog’s fascination with caves dates back to his early childhood when he came across a book on cave painting, he revealed to Powers.
“I wanted this book, but I didn’t have the money at the time,” Herzog recalled. “It took me half a year to make enough money to purchase it. I remember hoping that nobody would by it, as it was the only copy in the store.”
Despite devouring this initial book, and a slew of others before tackling “Cave,” Herzog said he was still in no way prepared for how beautiful the cave was once he began filming.
“I was in awe,” he said. “It was very hard to remove myself from such a very, very powerful experience.”
Following the screening and subsequent Q&A at New York University’s Skirball Center for the Performing Arts, Herzog joined his many admirers and colleagues at the opening night festivities on the Rosenthal Pavilion overlooking the Manhattan skyline.
For the full lineup of DOC NYC, visit their website. “Cave of Forgotten Dreams” opens in April, 2011, through IFC Films.