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NYFF ’15: World Premieres from Laura Poitras, Docs About Nora Ephron, Ingrid Bergman, Kitty Genovese

NYFF '15: World Premieres from Laura Poitras, Docs About Nora Ephron, Ingrid Bergman, Kitty Genovese

The 2015 edition of the New York Film Festival (September 25 to October 11) will host the world premiere of Laura Poitras’ follow-up to her Oscar-winning documentary “CITIZENFOUR,” as well as those of new filmic portraits of Nora Ephron, Ingrid Bergman and Kitty Genovese.

In “Field of Vision: New Episodic Nonfiction,” Poitras offers a collection of shorts, including installments of “Asylum,” in which the filmmaker chronicles Julian Assange’s new life at the Ecuadorian embassy. 

Nora Ephron’s son Jacob Bernstein remembers his mother and her wit in “Everything Is Copy,” while actress Alicia Vikander brings Ingrid Berman’s thoughts to the screen in Stig Björkman’s “Ingrid Bergman in Her Own Words.” James Solomon dives into the life of Kitty Genovese, a woman who was made into a misleading myth after her violent death, in “The Witness,” and politics, activism and insurrection are explored and questioned in a trio of women-directed docs: Pamela Yates’ “Rebel Citizen,” Carmen Castillo’s “We Are Alive” and Michael Camerini and Shari Robertson’s “Immigration Battle.” 

Here are the women-directed and women-centric films that’ll screen as part of NYFF 2015’s doc lineup. Descriptions are courtesy of the Film Society at Lincoln Center.

Everything Is Copy
Jacob Bernstein, 2015, USA, DCP, 89m
Jacob Bernstein’s extremely entertaining film is a tribute to his mother Nora Ephron: Hollywood-raised daughter of screenwriters who grew up to be an ace reporter turned piercingly funny essayist turned novelist/screenwriter/playwright/director. Ephron comes vibrantly alive onscreen via her words; the memories of her sisters, colleagues, former spouses, and many friends; scenes from her movies; and, above all, her own inimitable presence. Watch any given moment of Ephron being her sparkling but caustically witty self (for instance, this response to a scolding talk show host—“You have a soft spot for Julie Nixon, don’t you. See, I don’t…”) and you find it hard to believe that she’s been gone from our midst for three years. Everything Is Copy (Ephron’s motto, inherited from her mother) is a lovingly drawn but frank portrait and, incidentally, a vivid snapshot of an earlier, livelier, bitchier, and funnier moment in New York culture. An HBO Documentary Films release. World Premiere

Field of Vision: New Episodic Nonfiction
Laura Poitras, USA/Germany, 2015, HDCAM
A selection of short-form episodic works, including installments of Asylum, in which Laura Poitras (whose CITIZENFOUR had its world premiere at last year’s NYFF) shadows WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange as he publishes classified diplomatic cables and seeks asylum in London’s Ecuadorian embassy. World Premiere

Immigration Battle
Michael Camerini & Shari Robertson, USA, 2015, DCP, 111m
Michael Camerini and Shari Robertson have been chronicling the protracted struggle for American immigration reform over the past 16 years, crossing the country numerous times to film politicians and activists on both sides of this great and divisive issue. They gained unprecedented fly-on-the-wall access to the key players in Washington as they rode the momentum toward the passage of a bipartisan bill, only to see it shot down, which meant that they had to begin pushing the boulder back up the hill all over again. Two years ago, NYFF51 screened Camerini and Robertson’s series of immigration films, How Democracy Works, and now we present Immigration Battle, their final film on the subject. The key player this time is Democrat Luis Gutiérrez, the charismatic U.S. Representative for the 4th congressional district of Illinois, who negotiates his way through this political minefield—past an obstructionist majority playing to an anti-immigrant base and a President who has just been dubbed the “Deporter-in-Chief” by the pro-reform community—while keeping his eyes firmly fixed on the prize. World Premiere

Ingrid Bergman in Her Own Words
Stig Björkman, Sweden, 2015, DCP, 114m
Swedish with English subtitles
This is a lovingly crafted film about one of the cinema’s most luminous and enchanting presences, composed from her letters and diaries (extracts of which are read by Alicia Vikander), the memories of her children (Pia Lindström and Isabella, Ingrid, and Roberto Rossellini), and a few close friends and colleagues (including Liv Ullmann and Sigourney Weaver), photographs, and moments from thousands of feet of Super-8 and 16mm footage shot by Bergman herself throughout the years. Stig Björkman’s focus is not on Bergman the star but on Bergman the woman and mother: orphaned at 13, drawn to acting on the stage and then on film, sailing for Hollywood at 24 and then leaving it all behind for a new and different life with Roberto Rossellini. Ingrid Bergman in Her Own Words is, finally, a self-portrait of a truly independent woman. A Rialto Pictures release.

Rebel Citizen
Pamela Yates, USA, 2015, DCP, 75m
Pamela Yates’s new film grew out of her friendship with master cinematographer and fellow activist Haskell Wexler, who’s still going strong at 93. Wexler asked Yates to represent him at a retrospective of his documentary work at this year’s Cinéma du Réel festival in Paris, and she responded by making a film portrait of her mentor and longtime collaborator. Wexler—in an interview with Yates shot by Travis Wilkerson, another comrade-in-arms—speaks with warmth, lucidity, and absolute certitude about his left-wing political beliefs, his craft, and his aesthetics, which are fundamentally one in the same. Rebel Citizen takes us on a revelatory tour of Wexler’s work, and it includes clips from his early documentary The Bus, shot aboard a bus on its way across the country to the 1963 March on Washington, as well as Medium Cool andUnderground, his film about the Weatherman co-directed with Emile de Antonio and Mary Lampson. A Skylight Pictures release. World Premiere

We Are Alive / On est vivants
Carmen Castillo, France/Belgium, 2015, DCP, 100m
French, Spanish, and Portuguese with English subtitles
What comprises political engagement in 2015? Is it still possible to influence the course of events in this world? These are the questions posed by the great Chilean filmmaker Carmen Castillo (her Calle Santa Fe was a selection of the 2007 NYFF) in this new documentary essay. Castillo, herself a one-time MIR militant expelled from Chile by the Pinochet regime, structures her film in dialogue with the writings of her late friend Daniel Bensaïd, organizer of the Paris student revolts in May ’68 and France’s leading Trotskyite philosopher. In Europe and Latin America, Castillo finds the ones who have resisted, from the masked Zapatistas of Chiapas in Mexico to the Water Warriors of Cochabamba in Bolivia, from the Landless Workers movement in Brazil to the striking workers at the Donges refinery in western France to the homeless squatters of Marseille. A mournful premise lays the groundwork for a radiantly hopeful film. North American Premieren its way across the country to the 1963 March on Washington, as well as Medium Cool and Underground, his film about the Weatherman co-directed with Emile de Antonio and Mary Lampson. A Skylight Pictures release. World Premiere

The Witness
James Solomon, 2015, USA, DCP, 86m
On March 13, 1964, in Kew Gardens, Queens, Kitty Genovese was stabbed, raped, robbed, and left to die by a man named Winston Moseley. On March 27, at the urging of Metro editor A.M. Rosenthal, The New York Times published an investigative report asserting that 38 eyewitnesses saw the attack and retreated to their apartments, and the case quickly became a symbol of urban apathy. Genovese’s family lost her twice: once to a murderer and once more to legend, a legend that would be questioned, dismantled, and discredited 40 years later in the very paper that had created it. James Solomon’s quiet, concentrated, and devastating film closely follows the efforts of Genovese’s brother Bill, 16 at the time of Kitty’s death, to track down the people who knew her, loved her, and tried to help her, to arrange a possible meeting with her killer, and to recover the presence of his beloved sister. World Premiere

[via Variety, Film Society at Lincoln Center]

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