In its 14th year, the biggest documentary film festival in America, DOC NYC, is back this week. It will feature over 200 feature-length and short documentary films from all over the world, with many making their world, North American, or U.S. debut. Similar to previous years, the festival will offer in-person screenings in New York City as well as online streaming for viewers across the U.S.
The festival, taking place from November 8-26, will also feature panel discussions, workshops, and master classes led by renowned documentary filmmakers.
Descriptions of feature films are below. For lineup and schedule (including the festival’s short film programs), click here. For tickets and streaming passes click here.
Clair Titley’s “The Contestant” is a wild story about a comedian trying to make it big. He gets selected for a Japanese reality show in the ’90s, but instead of fame and fortune, he is locked in a bare apartment for 15 months. With only magazine sweepstakes prizes to sustain him, he is unaware that his every move is being watched by the entire world. This extreme reality TV experiment brings negative attention to the genre.
The main attraction of the festival is the debut of “Uncropped,” a film that focuses on the life and work of photographer James Hamilton. Hamilton’s career as a photojournalist for publications like the Village Voice, Harper’s Bazaar, and the New York Observer, as well as his documentation of the music and club scene in 1960s New York and his role as a set photographer for George A. Romero’s horror films, provides a dynamic glimpse into the era. The film also pays tribute to the vibrant individuals who were influential in the alternative press.
The final event of the festival is “South to Black Power,” a film directed by Sam Pollard (co-director of last year’s “Lowndes County and the Road to Black Power”) and Llewellyn Smith, and written by New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow. The film discusses the idea of a “reverse Great Migration,” where Black individuals are encouraged to return to the Deep South to reclaim their cultural roots and strengthen their political influence.
Some of the unique showings are the 3-D film “Anselm” by Wim Wenders, which is a depiction of the life and work of German artist Anselm Kiefer.
“David Holmes, also known as ‘The Boy Who Lived,’ is the subject of a film that highlights the life of a stunt double who worked on popular movies such as the Harry Potter series. Sadly, due to an accident on set, he became a quadriplegic. Another film, ‘Defiant,’ showcases the resilient nature of Ukrainians, including Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, during the first 18 months of Russia’s invasion.”
Chris Wilcha, an Emmy award-winning filmmaker, reflects on the highs and lows of his career in film and television. He shares his journey of striving for an artistic life and his special bond with a used record store in Pompton Lakes, New Jersey, in his production “Flipside.”
Kristen Vaurio’s documentary “June” delves into the life of singer, songwriter, and actress June Carter Cash. Meanwhile, “Patria y Vida: The Power of Music” showcases the global influence of a protest song by Cuban hip-hop artists in exile that champions freedom.
For the film “The Kind Stranger,” which explores influencers in the captivating and tingly realm of ASMR, it is recommended to watch online with headphones.
One of the biographies featured at DOC NYC is “The Lady Bird Diaries,” directed by Dawn Porter. The film includes audio recordings from first lady Claudia “Lady Bird” Johnson’s personal diary during her time in the White House, providing a unique perspective on a chaotic era in American politics.
This work, titled “Liv Ullmann – A Road Less Travelled,” explores the life of the extraordinary actress and director who was also a source of inspiration for Ingmar Bergman.
The film “Merchant Ivory” follows the successful collaboration between director James Ivory and producer Ismail Merchant, which led to acclaimed movies like “Howard’s End,” “A Room With a View,” and “The Remains of the Day.”
Filmmaker Lina Soualem’s “Bye Bye Tiberias” delves into the experiences of four Palestinian women from different generations, including actress Hiam Abbas (“Succession”), who is also the filmmaker’s mother.
The narrative of “Shari & Lamb Chop” follows the journey of ventriloquist Shari Lewis and her puppet companion.
Alan Dershowitz’s story is told in “The Trials of Alan Dershowitz,” where he reflects on his career as a lawyer and professor, and how his defense of controversial individuals has affected his reputation.
“Unlocking the Essence of Norman Mailer: A Visual Depiction of the Literary Fighter and His Impact as a Thought Leader Over the Years, Driven by His Unquenchable Ego and Hindered by Aggression.”
A unique artist is once again recognized in “Obsessed With Light,” which focuses on dancer Loïe Fuller and her impact during the turn of the century through mesmerizing performances that transformed silk and colorful lights into a form of enchantment.
In “Tomorrow, Tomorrow, Tomorrow,” Martina Radwan, the cinematographer, revisits Mongolia after documenting the struggles of homeless Mongolian children. This time, she helps three orphans who are unprepared for the responsibility of caring for and educating them. “36 Seconds: Portrait of a Hate Crime” delves into the aftermath of a tragic event in 2015 where three young Muslims were murdered in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The film explores how the affected family and community cope with the issues of gun violence and Islamophobia.
“The Cowboy and the Queen” recounts the tale of Monty Roberts, a horse trainer from California who forms a friendship with Queen Elizabeth II. In “Happy Campers” by Amy Nicholson, visitors to a trailer park on the Virginia coast must confront their final summer paradise as the land is purchased by a developer.
The 1960s Kerner Commission, formed to study the eruption of riots and unrest in Black communities, offered findings that proved to be equally inflammatory to the powers-that-be, as studied in “The Riot Report.” “Mediha” is comprised of a video diary by a Yazidi teenager from northern Iraq, a former captive of ISIS.
The film “Shaken” depicts the frightening experience of a new parents whose child faces a medical crisis, only to be faced with a legal battle as they are wrongfully accused of abuse.
Was there a plot by the U.S. government to secure victory for American artist Robert Rauschenberg in the 1964 Venice Biennial art competition? “Taking Venice” examines the Cold War backdrop.
The book “Dancing on the Edge of a Volcano” tells the story of a team of filmmakers in Beirut who faced challenges in continuing their work after the destructive port explosion in 2020 and the subsequent COVID pandemic.
In the book “The Dmitriev Affair,” Yuri Dmitriev, a historian known as the “archaeologist of terror,” strives to uncover the victims of Stalin’s 1937 “Great Terror,” which Russia would rather forget. The article “Total Trust” explores China’s monitoring of human rights lawyers and journalists.
In the documentary “Le Spectre de Boko Haram,” children attending school in Cameroon face a constant danger from the extremist group. A pregnant woman, her partner, and their young son leave Honduras in search of a better future in “The Caravan.”
Despite facing homophobia and dealing with his own troubled past, reggae artist Dalton Harris fights to achieve success in the music industry in his documentary, “Dalton’s Dream.”
In the film “Neirud,” director Fernanda Roth Faya delves into the enigmatic life of an elderly family acquaintance. This woman has a vibrant past that includes working in a circus and participating in wrestling.
Khaleel Seivwright, a carpenter in Toronto, defied government bureaucracy by constructing small shelters for the homeless in the city. However, he ended up caught in a conflict between local officials and the community in the documentary “Someone Lives Here.”
In the book “Al Djanat – The Original Paradise,” the passing of the head of the family in Burkina Faso causes a rift among its members as they grapple with conflicting beliefs between traditional Islamic teachings and the country’s legal system.
In the book “The Home Game,” supporters of football in a small fishing village in Iceland constructed a professional soccer field according to FA Cup standards, but it remained unused for 25 years. What actions are necessary in order to entice a team to come to Hellissandur (with a population of 369)? Perhaps forming a determined football team of your own?
The festival’s films about music include the world premiere of “Garland Jeffreys: The King of In Between,” an adoring look at the singer-songwriter whose music (a blend of rock, folk, soul and reggae) made him unclassifiable, and consequently less commercial than the affection for him expressed by his peers would suggest.
“Fanny: The Other Mendelssohn” traces the life and talents of the 19th century German composer and musician Fanny Mendelssohn, whose legacy was overshadowed by her much more famous brother, Felix, in a society more advantageous to male composers.
To experience the rhythms of African drumming, “Famoudou Konate – The King of Djembe” offers a glimpse into the life of the talented percussionist from Guinea.
“Exploring the Life and Writings of Irish Poet, Librettist, and Rock Lyricist Paul Muldoon through ‘Laoithe ‘s Liricí /A Life in Lyrics'”
Manuel Gagneux, a biracial Swiss-African American musician, creates a new genre of “Black Death Metal” with his band, Zeal & Ardor, in “Play With the Devil – Becoming Zeal & Ardor.” “Pretty Ugly – The Story of the Lunachicks” recalls the ’90s all-female punk band, which rocked New York City’s underground scene.
The animated documentary “They Shot The Piano Player,” directed by Fernando Trueba and Javier Mariscal (known for the Oscar-nominated “Chico & Rita”), recounts the origins of bossa nova.
“How to Have an American Baby” delves into the practice of birth tourism and the clandestine network that serves pregnant Chinese women seeking to have their children in the United States in order to obtain U.S. citizenship.
A 22-year-old man from Poland initially joins an anti-LGTBQ hate group, but four years later, he participates in a Gay Pride march with his girlfriend. The book “Polish Prayers” by Hanna Nobis delves into the events that occurred during those four years.
“Searching for Nika” follows filmmaker Stanislav Kapralov as he revisits Kyiv to assist in the rescue of pets, including his own parents’ dog, that were either lost or abandoned during the Russian invasion.
The book “Who I Am Not” delves into the experiences of two people who identify as intersex and their struggles against discrimination in South Africa.
The comic “Bull Run” focuses on cryptocurrency, while the effects of globalization in the Central African Republic are explored in “Eat Bitter.”
The phrase “A Disturbance In the Force” brings attention to the notorious and poorly received 1978 “Star Wars Holiday Special” that was broadcasted on CBS. It lived up to its terrible reputation.
The book “Between Life & Death” examines the controversy surrounding the “right to die” by examining the Terri Schiavo case.
The protagonist of “Caterpillar” receives a surgical procedure to alter his eye color.
The book “Naked Ambition: Bunny Yeager” recounts the life of Bunny Yeager, a model in the 1950s and a contemporary of Bettie Page. She played a significant role in making the bikini popular and is credited with the “invention” of the selfie.
In the documentary “One With the Whale,” a native family living on the isolated St. Lawrence Island in Alaska faces criticism on social media for their involvement in traditional hunting methods.
The book “Time Bomb Y2K” recalls the global panic surrounding the potential apocalypse as 1999 approached its end and 2000 began.
The book “Unbroken” chronicles the journey of seven siblings who fled from Nazi Germany following the tragic death of their mother at Auschwitz.
The film “Unseen” follows a legally blind man as he works towards a social work degree, all while facing uncertainty due to his undocumented immigration status.
Fight the Power
Edward McGurn’s “Rainbow Warrior” tells the fascinating origin story of the Greenpeace vessel used to protest nuclear testing in the Pacific, and the even more fascinating story of the covert operation by the French intelligence services to take it out.
In the book “No One Asked You,” Lizz Winstead, who co-created “The Daily Show,” and a group of comedians who support abortion rights, travel to promote clinics and providers.
“The Price of Legacy” explores methods of passing down wealth and providing compensation for the offspring of those who were enslaved.
In the film “3 Promises,” a man and his mother discover a collection of video tapes that document her life in the West Bank and the loss of her home.
Maremoto, also known as Mar, is the protagonist of “We Are Fire! (Draw for Change)”. This story takes place in Mexico City and follows Mar, an illustrator whose drawings bring attention to the issues of femicide and provide a welcoming environment for the LGBTQ+ community.
Rebecca Cammisa, the Oscar-nominated director of “Which Way Home,” presents “Yours In Freedom, Bill Baird,” a documentary that follows the life of activist Bill Baird as he continues his ongoing advocacy for women’s reproductive rights.
“Ashima” profiles an elite young sport climber, training to tackle her most challenging ascent, under the guidance of her father, a retired Butoh dancer with no climbing experience. “Lucha: A Wrestling Tale” is the redemptive story of members of the Taft High School women’s wrestling team in the Bronx.
In “Confessions of a Good Samaritan,” filmmaker Penny Lane delves into the concept of altruism by examining her own experience of donating a kidney to a stranger.
“Diversity Plaza” is a vérité look at the community of Himalayan immigrants and exiles in Queens, New York.
The “Nathan-Ism” page showcases the life of Nathan Hilu, a Jewish artist who, at the age of 19, was given the task of guarding Nazi war criminals during the Nuremberg trials.
In 1960s New York City, The Electric Circus was the ultimate destination for those seeking a nightclub where hippies and Hell’s Angels mingled with circus entertainers. “Psychedelicized: The Electric Circus Story” chronicles their unique journey.
The artist known as Scooter LaForge is the subject of “Scooter LaForge: A Life of Art,” a profile that delves into his subversive style.
The show “Grasshopper Republic” depicts trappers in Uganda gathering grasshoppers, which are considered a delicacy.
“Megaheartz” is a contemplation of the relationships between four young individuals in Stockholm, delving into themes of friendship, love, substance abuse, and mental health.
Puppeteers, led by a Syrian refugee, participate in performance art/activism across Europe to advertise the plight of millions of migrant and displaced children, in “The Walk,” from director Tamara Kotevska (the Oscar-nominated “Honeyland”).
“Ernesto’s Wolfpack” is a deep dive into the experiences of teenage criminals in the urban landscape of Mexico City.
Oskar Alegría, a filmmaker, embarks on a journey through the Andia Mountains in Spain with his donkey, Paolo, to follow the same path his grandfather, a shepherd, once took. Along the way, he captures footage using his father’s Super-8 camera.
Game Face Cinema
Movies that depict the world of athletics and rivalry include “Candace Parker: Unapologetic,” which follows the story of the WNBA’s top player. The growth of female boxing is highlighted in “Right to Fight.” “Jesszilla” showcases the journey of 15-year-old boxer Jesselyn Silva and her father as they fight against cancer.
“The Minister of Defense” delves into the life and spiritual beliefs of Reggie White, an NFL Hall of Famer and ordained minister. This documentary includes rare footage filmed shortly before his passing in 2004.
The Taliban targets a champion buzkashi rider in “Riders on the Storm” in Afghanistan.
The term “unsyncable” refers to seniors (90 years old and above) who are challenging themselves in the highly competitive realm of synchronized swimming.
A Serbian PhD candidate conducts her research at the Shaolin Monastery, where the practice of martial arts is intertwined with Buddhist principles in “Into the Shaolin.”
The festival will also showcase highly acclaimed documentaries from other festivals in the past year, such as “20 Days in Mariupol,” a powerful film depicting the Russian invasion of Ukraine through the lens of Associated Press photojournalists; “The Pigeon Tunnel,” a captivating conversation between filmmaker Errol Morris and spy novelist John le Carré; “Bad Press,” which explores the challenges to press freedom in the Muscogee Nation of Oklahoma; “Beyond Utopia,” a film about an underground network helping defectors from North Korea; “Going to Mars: The Nikki Giovanni Story,” a Sundance Festival award-winning biography about the poet and social commentator; and “Little Richard: I Am Everything,” a joyful account of the legendary rock ‘n’ roll icon and his impact on both the Black and queer communities.