New York City’s annual DOC NYC festival kicks off this week, including a full-to-bursting slate of some of this year’s most remarkable documentaries. If you’ve been looking to beef up on your documentary consumption, DOC NYC is the perfect chance to check out a wide variety of some of the year’s best fact-based features. Ahead, we pick out 14 of our most anticipated films from the fest, including some awards contenders, a handful of buzzy debuts, and a number of festival favorites. Take a look and start filling up your schedule now.
DOC NYC runs November 9 – 16 in New York City.
Donald Trump may seem like a sui generis figure, a one-of-a-kind monster who was forged in a perfect storm of racism, tweets, and chaos, but history suggests that he’s really just a new breed of an old type. You don’t even have to look into the past to find other leaders exactly like him — you just have to look across the Atlantic Ocean. Commonly dubbed “the Dutch Donald Trump,” Party of Freedom honcho Geert Wilders hasn’t only been an outspoken racist his entire life (he’s argued that the Koran should be banned like “Mein Kampf”), he also looks the part, sporting a slick helmet of unnaturally colored hair that has earned him the additional nickname of “Captain Peroxide.” Shot with unprecedented access to its controversial subject, Stephen Robert Morse and Nicholas Hampson’s “EuroTrump” provides a close-up portrait of Geert in all his glory, following his failed campaign for Prime Minister from the inside out. -David Ehrlich
Errol Morris directed a four-hour documentary/drama hybrid about the Cold War and CIA conspiracy theories. I repeat: Errol Morris directed a four-hour documentary/drama hybrid about the Cold War and CIA conspiracy theories. If you’re at all interested in nonfiction cinema, that’s surely enough to pique your interest; if not, know that Peter Sarsgaard, Molly Parker, and Bob Balaban are among the actors bringing this six-chapter story to life and that early word is highly positive. Morris, whose acclaimed body of work includes everything from “Gates of Heaven” and “The Thin Blue Line” to “A Brief History of Time” and “The Fog of War” (for which he won an Academy Award), has long pushed the boundaries of documentary filmmaking. “Wormwood” looks poised to continue that tradition. -Michael Nordine
“Lots of Kids, a Monkey and a Castle”
Flying under the radar at TIFF was a delightful passion project from Goya-winning Spanish actor Gustavo Salmerón: a documentary portrait of his indomitably charismatic 80-year-old mother (Julita Salmerón) and his sprawling family as they weather Spain’s financial crisis and unload the overwhelming contents of their castle. He adroitly blends vintage home movies, new footage, and interviews with his father and five siblings. And their comfortable intimacy yields amazing moments, like one in the bedroom when, his father asleep, his mother reveals a fork that stretches into a prod to keep her husband from snoring. “Lot of Kids, A Monkey and a Castle” won the top documentary prize at Karlovy Vary 2017, and is still seeking a buyer. -Anne Thompson
“Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood”
Out filmmaker Matt Tyrnauer premieres his deliciously scandalous portrait of unsung Hollywood legend Scotty Bowers, whose bestselling memoir chronicled his decades spent catering to the sexual appetites of celebrities — straight, gay, and everything in between. As documented in his salacious tell-all memoir, “Full Service,” Bowers ran a gas station in the shadow of the studio lots where he’d fix up his clientele with quickies, threesomes, and orgies. The books spills details on the sexual mores of Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, Lana Turner, Ava Gardner, and many more. Now 90, Bowers is a happy-go-lucky interview subject, and Tyrnauer follows him around town as he pals around with old acquaintances who corroborate his wild yarns. Formerly a journalist for Vanity Fair, Tyrnauer has an eye for a strong-willed subject, having previously directed “Valentino: The Last Emperor,” and last year’s “Citizen Jane: Battle for the City,” which both played TIFF. The provocative material is an easy sell, and if the movie really does have “a touch of ‘Grey Gardens,’” as the TIFF description says, Tyrnauer’s third feature could be his best yet. -Jude Dry
“One of Us”
“Jesus Camp” and “Detropia” directors Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady’s sixth feature follows a trio of Hasidic Jews who are each attempting to break away from New York City’s tight-knit community — while facing tremendous backlash from their former tribe. After bowing at TIFF, this vital window into a hidebound culture is now watchable by one click on Netflix all over the world. The film follows three very different people struggling to break free from a hermetic Hasidic community that shuns both outsiders and defectors. Subjects Etty, Luzer, and Ari have their own reasons for leaving – Etty’s are perhaps the most heartbreaking – but the fallout from their choices comes with discomfiting similarity. -Kate Erbland
It’s true that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give a movie credit for a clever title. “Donkeyote” has just that, with its punny allusion to Miguel de Cervantes’ sad, hilarious novel hinting at another strange story. Chico Pereira directed this film about his uncle Manolo, a 73-year-old intent on walking the Trail of Tears alongside his donkey Gorrión and his dog Zafrana; that quixotic journey, which begins in Spain and (if all goes as planned) ends in America, gives the impression of a nonfiction update to “Harry and Tonto.” “Donkeyote” has been making the festival rounds all year and has won acclaim at Rotterdam, True/False, Hot Docs, and elsewhere. -MN
Director-producer Lisa Immordino Vreeland made her documentary debut six years ago with “Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel,” a film about her husband’s late grandmother, who oversaw Vogue for eight years. The editrix — and the Royal Family — repeatedly sat before British photographer Cecil Beaton’s lens. In her third feature, Immordino Vreeland chronicles everything from when a nanny taught multi-talented Beaton how cameras worked to his second career as a two-time Oscar-winning costume designer (“Gigi,” “My Fair Lady’). During his 76 years, Beaton, had relationships with men and women, as well as an anti-Semitic controversy and a debilitating stroke. Currently seeking a distributor, “Love, Cecil” earned praise at the Telluride Film Festival and the Hamptons International Film Festival. -Jenna Marotta