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DOC NYC is known for its 15-feature film shortlist and for its annual Visionaries Tribute luncheon, which attracts the who’s who of the docu community from both coasts.
But, while the festival, which begins on Nov. 8, is a key campaign stop for filmmakers hoping to garner a spot on the Oscar documentary shortlist, it has also become a place where more documentarians are choosing to premiere their work.
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This year 33 films out of the 253 featured on the main slate will have their world premieres at the fest.
Many of those films debuting at DOC NYC are profile docus including: “June,” a profile of June Carter Cash; “The Cowboy and the Queen,” about Queen Elizabeth II’s friendship with a California horse trainer; “Candace Parker: Unapologetic,” the story of the WNBA superstar; “Ashima,” about Ashima Shirashi, the Japanese-American rock climber who set world records in her teens; “Shari & Lamb Chop,” a biography of pioneering children’s television performer Shari Lewis;”The Trials of Alan Dershowitz,” about the famously controversial defense attorney; “How to Come Alive… with Norman Mailer,” a new examination of the American literary icon.
Dan Hartley’s HBO doc, “David Holmes: The Boy Who Lived,” about a Harry Potter stunt double whose life took an unexpected turn, is another portrait docu making its world debut at DOC NYC. Artistic director Jaie Laplante says the film will hit a chord with audiences.
“David was a young gymnast who had a tragic on-set accident that left him paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair,” says Laplante. “Having worked together in so many films in the “Harry Potter” series, Daniel Radcliffe and David stayed a part of each other’s lives. After the accident, Daniel rallied around David as did his family and other friends from the “Harry Potter” franchise as his life was taken in a different direction. It’s a beautiful film and quite heartwarming.”
Oscar nominated director Rebecca Cammisa’s “Yours in Freedom, Bill Baird” will also bow DOC NYC. The film follows the storied history of reproductive rights pioneer and activist Bill Baird. In 1973, Baird warned America that the religious right was working to overturn Roe v. Wade and were strategizing to bring legislation to give embryos status as people. The docu is partially told through the lens of 16-year-old Jada Portillo, who rediscovers Baird, now 91, and performs as him as part of National History Day competitions across the country.
“Aside from just wanting attention for our film at a festival, I really think it’s important that people learn who Bill Baird is,” says Cammisa. “I hope they learn about this history, and understand from Bill how to fight; how to fight to retain the rights we have or to get back the personal freedoms we lost.”
“Yours in Freedom, Bill Baird,” produced by Terra Mater Studios, is seeking distribution.
Another timely doc looking for distribution and making its debut during DOC NYC is Tarek Albaba’s “36 Seconds: Portrait of a Hate Crime,” about three Muslim-American students who were executed while eating dinner in their home in Chapel Hill, North Carolina in 2015.
“This film makes a case to revisit that event and consider it as a bigger symbol of Islamophobia in the United States,” says Laplante. “It’s (an event) that should be a rallying cry to fight Islamophobia.”
Sam Pollard and Llewellyn Smith’s HBO docu “South to Black Power” will premiere at DOC NYC when it closes the festival on Nov. 16. The film follows New York Times columnist Charles Blow as he calls for a “reverse Great Migration” of African Americans from the North back to the South to reclaim the land and culture they left behind, while building political representation.
“I’m a New Yorker and I’m a big supporter DOC NYC, so I’m ecstatic that our film is the closing night film,” says Pollard. “It’s a way for the film to get promotion and get exposure.”
“South to Black Power” premieres on HBO on Nov. 28.
DOC NYC 2023- World Premieres
36 SECONDS: PORTRAIT OF A HATE CRIME (U.S. Competition)
Director: Tarek Albaba
Producers: Sean Dash, Omar Altalib, Ahlam Muhtaseb
A family’s and a community’s journeys through grief and justice following the gruesome murder of three young Muslims in Charleston, N.C.
ASHIMA (Metropolis Competition)
Director: Kenji Tsukamoto
Producers: Kenji Tsukamoto, Minji Chang, Roy Choi, Dave Boyle
With her father’s coaching support, wunderkind sport climber Ashima Shirashi attempts to conquer South Africa’s toughest ascent.
AT THE BORDER (Come As You Are)
Directors: Braulio Jatar, Anaïs Michel
Producers: Braulio Jatar, Anaïs Michel, Julia Cheng
A gritty and uncompromising perspective on what has been termed a “migrant crisis.”
CANDACE PARKER: UNAPOLOGETIC (Game Face Competition)
Director: Joie Jacoby
Producers: Giselle Rodriguez, Julie Lilleby, Paige Bethmann, Carolyn Hepburn
WNBA superstar Candace Parker chronicles her life and career from the courts of suburban Chicago to basketball immortality. (ESPN Films)
THE COST OF INHERITANCE (Fight the Power)
Director: Yoruba Richen
Producers: Mehret Mandefro, Lacey Schwartz Delgado
In this exploration of reparations, those with family histories steeped in slavery are placed at the center of the debate with an opportunity to act.
THE COWBOY AND THE QUEEN (U.S. Premiere)
Director: Andrea Nevins
Producer: Andrea Nevins
A California rodeo cowboy trains horses through nontraditional methods. When he attracts the royal friendship of Queen Elizabeth II, the pair begin to change the world – and not just for horses.
DAVID HOLMES: THE BOY WHO LIVED (Special Presentation)
Director: Dan Hartley
Producers: Simon Chinn, Jonathan Chinn, Vanessa Davies, Amy Stares
After an accident leaves him a quadriplegic, a stuntman finds new meaning in life with the support of family, friends, and his beloved colleagues from the Harry Potter films. (HBO Documentary Films)
DIVERSITY PLAZA (Metropolis Competition)
Director: Kesang Tseten
Producer: Sienna R. Craig
A richly observed vérité look at the community and culture built by Himalayan immigrants in and around the Jackson Heights neighborhood of Queens, New York.
GARLAND JEFFREYS: THE KING OF IN BETWEEN (Sonic Cinema)
Director: Claire Jeffreys
Producers: Claire Jeffreys, Evan M. Johnson
Explore the remarkable journey of Garland Jeffreys, a mixed-race Brooklyn native whose unconventional music defied industry norms. This documentary reveals his underappreciated talent through interviews with famous fans, and sheds light on his extraordinary life and artistry.
HAPPY CAMPERS (U.S. Competition)
Director: Amy Nicholson
Producer: Amy Nicholson
Annual visitors to a seaside trailer park wistfully eke out the joys of one last summer together as a melancholic twilight hangs in the air.
HEAVEN RAIN FLOWS SWEETLY (Come As You Are)
Director: Shasha Li
Producers: Shasha Li, Xin Li, Julie Mallozzi
After wildfires force her to leave her home in Oregon, a young filmmaker reconnects with the rituals and the landscapes of her maternal tribe in Himalayan China.
HOLDING BACK THE TIDE (Metropolis Competition)
Director: Emily Packer
Producers: Emily Packer, Trey Tetreault, Ben Still, Josh Margolis, Liz Beeson
A quirky, lyrical love letter to oysters in NYC, this engaging documentary plumbs the history of the bivalves, their pollution-fueled decline, and their inspiring revival, finding poetry and charm in an unlikely subject.
HOW TO COME ALIVE… WITH NORMAN MAILER (U.S. Competition)
Director: Jeff Zimbalist
Producers: Jeff Zimbalist, Vicki Marquette
A controversial public intellectual with a tumultuous personal life, Norman Mailer sits in the pantheon of the greatest authors of the 20th century.
JUNE (Special Presentation)
Director: Kristen Vaurio Producers: Sarah Olson, Mary Robertson, Jason Owen, Josh Matas, Kristen Vaurio
June Carter Cash is revealed as the complex woman and outstanding artist she was.
LUCHA: A WRESTLING TALE (Metropolis Competition)
Director: Marco Ricci
Producer: Marco Ricci
Seeking to vanquish opponents and personal struggles alike, four young women from the Bronx develop the inner and outer strength to succeed on the high school wrestling team.
MEDIHA (U.S. Competition)
Director: Hasan Oswald
Producers: Hasan Oswald, Annelise Mecca, Fahrinisa Campana, Alexander Spiess, Stephen Nemeth
In this uniquely collaborative film, a Yazidi teen once held captive by ISIS turns the lens on herself and takes us into her world of grief, pain, and hope.
MERCHANT IVORY (Portraits)
Director: Stephen Soucy
Producers: Jon Hart, Stephen Soucy
A definitive presentation and tribute to the Merchant Ivory partnership, anchored by interviews with James Ivory and forty-one Merchant Ivory close collaborators detailing and celebrating their experiences of being a part of the “wandering company” helmed by legendary producer Ismail Merchant. (Cohen Media Group)
THE MINISTER OF DEFENSE (Game Face Cinema)
Directors: Ken Rodgers, Courtland Bragg
Producers: Courtland Bragg, Nick Mascolo, Ken Rodgers, Chip Swain, Kobi Theiler
Told through never-before-seen footage from an interview filmed just before his death, NFL Hall of Famer and ordained minister Reggie White holds forth on faith in the context of his life and career. (ESPN Films)
NAKED AMBITION: BUNNY YEAGER (American Stories)
Directors: Dennis Scholl, Kareem Tabsch
Producers: Konstantia Kontaxis, Dennis Scholl, Kareem Tabsch
Bunny Yeager was a trailblazing model, designer, and photographer who popularized the bikini, invented the selfie, discovered Bettie Page, and introduced feminist agency in her sexy portraits of the ’50s.
NO ONE ASKED YOU (Fight the Power)
Director: Ruth Leitman
Producers: Rachel Rozycki, Andrea Raby
Daily Show co-creator Lizz Winstead brings us on the road with her merry band of activists and comedians as they crisscross the U.S. to support abortion clinics and providers.
PRETTY UGLY – THE STORY OF THE LUNACHICKS (Sonic Cinema)
Director: Ilya Chaiken
Producer: Ilya Chaiken
In the ’90s, the Lunachicks, a fierce all-female punk band, rocked NYC’s underground scene, rebelling against music industry sexism to deliver high-voltage performances.
PSYCHEDELICIZED: THE ELECTRIC CIRCUS STORY (Metropolis Competition)
Director: Larry Confino
Producer: Larry Confino
In a psychedelic swirl of hippies, Hell’s Angels, circus performers, and good vibes, ‘60s club kids partied hard at the Electric Circus, a drug-fueled, multicultural dance club in NYC’s East Village.
THE RIOT REPORT (U.S. Competition)
Director: Michelle Ferrari
Producers: Connie Honeycutt, Michelle Ferrari
What happens when a government-appointed group goes rogue and speaks truth to power? The story of the Kerner Commission and the racist policies it exposed. (PBS-American Experience)
SCOOTER LAFORGE: A LIFE OF ART (Metropolis Competition)
Director: Ethan Minsker
Producer: Ethan Minsker
Enter the playfully subversive world of artist Scooter LaForge. Influenced by Basquiat, Pollack, and Saturday morning cartoons, and intent on creating art that is fun, he has commanded a place for himself in NYC’s seemingly impenetrable art world.
SHAKEN (U.S. Competition)
Director: Asher Levinthal
Producers: Asher Levinthal, Kellen Quinn
Following their baby’s flawed medical diagnosis, a young couple battles to stay together, weathering an unthinkable injustice.
SHARI & LAMB CHOP (Portraits)
Director: Lisa D’Apolito
Producers: Cassidy Hartmann, Nicholas Ferrall, Morris Ruskin, Douglas Warner, Lisa D’Apolito
The life and career of Shari Lewis, a multitalented ventriloquist who, along with her puppet friend Lamb Chop, charmed millions and changed the face of children’s television.
SOUTH TO BLACK POWER
Directors: Sam Pollard, Llewellyn Smith
Producers: Sam Pollard, Kelly Thomson, R.J. Cutler, Elise Pearlstein
New York Times columnist Charles Blow calls for a “reverse Great Migration” of African Americans from the North back to the South to reclaim the land and culture they left behind, while building political representation. (HBO Documentary Films)
TOMORROW, TOMORROW, TOMORROW
Director: Martina Radwan
Producers: Martina Radwan, Ruchi Mital, Alice Henty
When a determined, idealistic, and thoroughly unprepared American cinematographer decides to support three Mongolian orphans, emotional and ethical challenges ensue.
THE TRIALS OF ALAN DERSHOWITZ (Portraits)
Director: John Curtin
Producer: John Curtin
A fresh perspective on the provocative and controversial criminal defense attorney Alan Dershowitz, known for representing some of America’s most notorious clients.
Director: D.W. Young
Producer: Judith Mizrachy
A portrait of longtime Village Voice photographer James Hamilton, whose work during the heyday of alternative print journalism brilliantly captured some of the most remarkable people and stories of the past half century.
THE WALK (Kaleidoscope Competition)
Director: Tamara Kotevska
Producers: Harri Grace, Orlando von Einsiedel, David Lan, Tracey Seaward
Amal, a charming, gigantic puppet who represents millions of migrant and displaced children, walks from Turkey all the way across Europe in a journey of compassion and discovery. (Participant Media)
WHO’S BEHIND BLACK ART (Come As You Are)
Director: John Campbell
Producers: John Campbell, Phillip Michael Collins, Chandler Wild, Thomas E. Moore III
In this candid exploration of creative expression, five emerging African American artists reveal their inspirations, challenges, and the complexities of succeeding in the art world.
YOURS IN FREEDOM, BILL BAIRD (Fight the Power)
Director: Rebecca Cammisa
Producers: Walter Köhler, Sarah Nörenberg
The story of the pioneering activist who crusaded for reproductive freedom.
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