Monday, October 16, 2017

Margaret Mead ’17: Chomo (short)

Since the Dalai Lama and the leadership of Tibetan Buddhism were forced into exile, they have spread their wisdom and faith much wider around the world than would have otherwise been possible. It has also been a two-way exchange. In recent years, educational opportunities have expanded tremendously for Tibetan Buddhist nuns, at least for those living outside Tibet. The first class of nuns are poised to take the Geshema degrees following the requisite seventeen years of study. This is an especially significant milestone for a young nun contemplating her future in Maayan Arad’s short documentary Chomo, which screens during the 2017 Margaret Mead Film Festival.

Lobsang Chomo (“nun” in her local dialect) made the arduous journey to Dharamshala expressly so she would have educational opportunities that are not available in her native Tibet, where the Communist government insists it has the right to set policies for the religious faith. When we meet her, she has been studying in earnest for several years and has been recognized as one of her nunnery’s top doctrinal debaters. She is on track to sit for her Geshema exam (in a mere fourteen or fifteen years), but she will take time out to visit her family, now residing in a distant Northern India village, to reflect on her life choices so far.

The forty-two-minute Chomo is packed wall-to-wall with stunning visuals, but it is the charismatic Chomo who truly lights up the film. Even with her clean-shaven head, she is a stunning presence, but her wisdom and sense of humor are what really make her beautiful. Arad just quietly observes the daily goings-on at the nunnery and follows Chomo as she journeys through the wildly cinematic mountain passes on her way home. Yet, this film never feels hushed and airless like some In Great Silence-style documentaries. Instead, viewers always have the sense that a whole lot of life is happening.

We always knew Tibetan Buddhism offered more wisdom than its CP oppressors, but here is proof it is also more progressive. There might not be full parity yet, but some significant glass ceilings have been broken, quietly and philosophically. On a less optimistic note, the film also reminds us in passing of the arrest and conviction (on mystery charges) of Lobsang Jamyang, a Tibetan monk who wrote tracts advocating freedom of expression under the name Lomik. Nevertheless, Chomo is a positive, refreshingly life-affirming film. Very highly recommended, Chomo screens this Saturday (10/21) with Pixelating Holiness, as part of this year’s Margaret Mead Film Festival at the American Museum of Natural History.

Liberation Day(2017) opens Wednesday

Someday the North Korean’s are going to realize that the rest of the world is putting them on with some of their cultural envoys and get pissed off- until then we’ll have gems like LIBERATION DAY to pass the time.

A weird ass kind of real world THIS IS SPINAL TAP, except the band isn’t a joke, LIBERATION DAY shows what happens when co-director Morten Traavik sets up a cultural mission to North Korea by bringing art rock band Laibach to perform. The idea is that the group’s faux neo-fascist attitude would be easy for the Koreans to digest. What results is a clash of cultures that is not what anyone expected.

Funny, moving, and surreal Liberation Day is one of those films I desperately want to see again because it’s straight faced look at what seems to be a joke results in all sorts of laughs and most unexpectedly trains of thought. Sure I knew I would get a chuckle or two out of the culture clash but I didn’t expect to have my brain spin off in six different directions. This isn’t a straight forward us vs them tale, it couldn’t be since director Traavik had previously worked with the North Koreans. He was obviously going after more than a straightforward “mock” doc.

Having seen the film a couple of weeks ago in preparation for this year’s Fantasia I find I am still haunted by it. Normally I write up a film as close to when I see it but this time I had to sit and ponder it. I had to think about what I really felt. I’m still not sure. That’s a good thing.

I do know that I will have to see the film a couple more times before I can really discuss it.

I first heard of the film not long before it when Nate Hood told me about it when we were sitting at a concert. There was this film I had to see…. And now having seen it I know why he felt that way. This is a wild film that doesn’t play by the rules while sticking very close to them. It’s a film that forces us to reevaluate what we are seeing.

Having seen the film I can now do for you what Nate did for me and tell you there is this film you need to see and it’s called Liberation day…

Sunday, October 15, 2017

In very brief: The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) (2017) NYFF 2017

I filled in a NYFF 2017 gap by watching the MEYEROWITZ STORIES on Netflix.

The story of a New York family in stars Ben Stiller, Adam Sandler and Dustin Hoffman.

I really liked the film a great deal. While I wouldn't say the film is one of the best of the year I wouldn't have a problem with saying it contains some the best performances with everyone working at the very top of their game,

What keeps the film from being truly great is that the film has a New Yorker short story hipster artifice which prevented me from completely falling into it. Things are simply too neat and too perfect (including the one liners) for me to say it's real life.

Lack of reality aside I loved the crisp if overly perfect dialog and the sense that we are watching wonderful actors doing the best they can.

Definitely worth a look either on Netflix or in it's limited run

NYFF 2017- A kind of wrap up

NYFF is over and all I have to say is well done.

I had a blast.I saw good movies, hung out with friends and talked movies for weeks.

Out of the 50 odd films I saw, all except one were worth the effort and the one that wasn’t at least got me to see Isabelle Huppert up close.

I had such a good time (outside some really WTF audience behavior at a couple of screenings) that I have almost nothing to say other than let’s do this again next year.

My only request is that they press screen more of the films because not enough of this year’s crop of films are not going to get the coverage they deserve. Films like THE VENERABLE W which was not only one of the best of the fest but also its most timely and important film were left to flounder because word never got out. (If you're not going to screen the films not on the Main Slate, why run them?)

And what were my high points of what turned out to be a very good year?

BEFORE WE VANISH- Kiyoshi Kurosawa's alien invasion movie that is really about perception

HALL OF MIRRORS- Edward Jay Epstein rattled what we knew of our past and has grave doubts about one of out heroes. You will talk for hours after seeing the film

THE FOUR SISTERS- Claude Lanzmann revisits four stories and moves us even more

LAST FLAG FLYING- messily told but emotionally on target film about friends, honor and life.

NO STONE UNTURNED- Alex Gibney's tale of justice denied will leave you broken at the implications

The Richard Linklater talk- this was like hanging out in a living room talking movies with a buddy.

THE OPERA HOUSE The screening in the opera house was just the perfect marriage of film and location

ZAMA- beautiful and profound film about life and existence.

FIRST REFORMED- Paul Schrader's film is one of kind, not for all audiences and a glorious meditation on faith, belief and the human heart

BPM- moving bittersweet tale about the men and women on the front lines of an epidemic. It is also an amazing romance

The PANDORA’s BOX screening with orchestra was magic. All silents should get this treatment

The Vittorio Storaro/Ed Lachman Masterclass restored my love of cinema. It was an intellectual discussion of the beauty of movies

THE VENERABLE W/ WHAT ARE YOU UP TO.... Barbet Schroeder's warning to the future was the most vital and important film(s) at NYFF this year. Its importance can not be underestimated in a world increasing ruled by hate.

ZORN portrait of the artist by a friend is the first part of a longer film. It is unlike any other music film you've seen and one of the best music docs ever made.

Now to bed and to sleep until it's time for next year....

(Additional reviews will appear through the week)

A warning to the future: Barbet Schroeder's The Venerable W (2017) and What Are You Up To Barbet Schroeder (2017) NYFF 2017

The face of evil

Watching Barbet Schroeder's THE VENERABLE W is like being woken up by having cold water sprayed on you from a fire hose while someone with spiked gloves smacks you into consciousness. It is a film full of the full weight of history and it crushes us with the sense we've been here before (this really is similar to what happened with the Nazis). It is also a film that is a cinematic fire alarm about the road we all could end up traveling down. It shows how words can and will inflame people to the point of genocide. It is a warning to everyone, both now living and future generations that genocide could happen "here", where ever your here is.

Schroeder's  film  documents the crimes against humanity being committed by the monk known as The Venerable Wirathu in Myanmar. W is turning many Buddhists against the Muslim minority via carefully worded sermons and outright lies. It is a never ending cycle of violence as W's words spark killings which spark revenge killings which then cause more violence and more violence and....

THE VENERABLE W is just down right scary. It is a film that clearly shows what unchecked hatred can do- we see the bodies of the dead and dying. We see how, step by step, W gained prominence and how he gets his message of hatred out. Schroeder gives us video of important events, tracts by W and his followers and commentary by experts. It is a portrait of a truly evil man doing what he can to spread his mindset of unbridled hatred.

Most importantly Schroeder talks to the man himself. Full of certainty and the "right" answers W told Schroeder that he could ask any question he wanted. Knowing that he was going to be fed bullshit Schroeder didn't ask the obvious questions such as how he reconciles the hatred he spews with the Buddhist notion of not hating. Instead he simply lets the man talk and hang himself with his own words.

The combination of words and images presented here is crushing and the portrait of a man of peace having gone so far afield is damning. Sitting in the front row with nothing to separate me from the carnage I felt bludgeoned.I had to look away.

How is that so many seemingly good people can be lead by such a sociopath? Why would a man of peace turn to violence?

There are no easy answers and Schroeder doesn't pretend to have them. In the Q&A that followed the New York Film Festival screening he refused suggest a reason why W preaches hatred. Schroeder refuses to speculate because he doesn't have all the information. Similarly he refused to say outright that W is somehow connected to the military who ruled the country for years and who has tried to wipe out the Muslims themselves for decades. All he would say is that many of the money men who circle the military looking for contracts can be tentatively connected to W via donations to certain monasteries.

Watching the film one can not help but see the parallels to the course of human events both past and present. As I said above what W is doing is very similar to how the Nazi's spread their hate. His quietly fanning any already held prejudices into full on hatred is turning good men and women into bad ones. The horrific violence not only frightens the Muslims but in its way also anyone who would speak against it. It is frightening because the ones committing the acts of terror are not the police or military but friends and neighbors.

As for the future all one sees is how the suspicion and distrust of Muslims is running rampant in the world. It is a false feeling of fear (Schroeder shows us stats) fanned by the media who get viewership by fear. However the danger doesn't need be a turning against Muslims, but any group.  Living here in what is now a divided America, one need only watch how the President stokes the fires of hatred toward anyone he and his base dislikes to see that it could happen here (why else suggest building a border wall).

THE VENERABLE W is a film that will leave you broken and angry. It is a film of rare power, and singular filmmaking. Barbet Schroeder has made a masterpiece that will move you to try to do something even if it is to preach it's warnings and make you want to get word ot by talking the film up and pressing copies into the hands of people around you because word must be spread.

It is a singular achievement...

...even more so when you consider that the New York Film Festival screened the film with the short WHAT ARE YOU UP TO BARBET SCHROEDER? about the reasons behind the making of VENERABLE W.

Made for a complete career retrospective of Schroder's films  WHAT ARE YOU UP TO... beautifully explains how Schroeder's deeply felt Buddhist beliefs resulted in him needing to go to see how a religion that is about love and non-violence could be perverted into something so black.

What I loved about the film is that in 13 minutes not only does the film explain THE VENERABLE W but it also explains Schroeder's feelings for Buddhism and the religion itself. I have been studying Buddhism for decades and watching the film I had several wonderful "ah ha" moments. I was so moved that I'd love to see Schroeder tackle a full on exploration of Buddhism.

Like the film it is nominally about, WHAT ARE YOU UP TO... is a singular achievement. And like that film it is improved and enhanced when seen with its companion.

THE VENERABLE W and WHAT ARE YOU UP TO... make up one of the most important and vital films of 2017, or any year.  They are a cry for help for the Muslims of Myanmar and a warning that must be heard and answered.

See these films for they will change how you see the world.

Below are the introduction that Barbet Schroeder did for the films  as well as the Q&A with Amy Taubin which followed the screening at the New York Film Festival. They contain additional information on the film and W and his activities since the film was locked on January 1 of 2017. 


Brooklyn Horror ’17: 1974

In the 1970s, consumer 8mm was largely for A-V geeks. Most of them were not aspiring indie filmmakers. Instead, they used the format to document milestones, like weddings, graduations, and demonic possessions. Manuel (a man-child toy-maker) wants to capture his early days in a new house with his newlywed wife Altair, but he records some disturbing events when she falls under the influence of a mysterious force. She claims to be communing with angels, but that seems highly unlikely throughout Victor Dryere’s Mexican found footage 1974, which screens tonight during the 2017 Brooklyn Horror Film Festival.

Dryere really did shoot 1974 in 8mm and his cast sure look like they’re wearing polyester. The early 1970’s details are spot on, except for the appearance of a Rubik’s Cube (accurately called a “Wonder Cube,” as it was known at the time, but it did not break out with consumers until the awesome 80s). Whatever, at least it helps reassure us what we’re watching really isn’t real.

Sure, there are a few weird little things happening here and there, but Manuel doesn’t worry about them until a load of bricks and black paint mysteriously arrives at their doorstep. To his surprise, Altair starts using them to build a black door in their bedroom, because “the angels told her to.” As she becomes increasingly spacey, even her standoffish sister Tere grows concerned. Manuel’s stoner pal Callahan even moves into to somehow help, but a fat lot of good he’ll do.

Of course, we know it ends badly from the in media res prologue, featuring the baffled TV news report of the aftermath. Frankly, this is one of the few found footage films in recent years that looks totally credible. So many Blair Witch copy-cats cheat and cut corners, but this really looks like freaky events in 1974 that were caught on a crummy consumer 8mm camera. If just about any viewer saw a film like this in 1998 (pre-Blair) they would be easily convinced it was legit—and deeply disturbed by it.

Granted, the ending is completely insane, but Dryere still comes close to earning it. Although it features some relatively established cast-members (such as Diana Bovio playing Altair), 1974 is not a star-making kind of film. Instead, they mostly do their duty to blend into the yucky 1970s milieu, while Dryere films them from odd angles and in unflattering light. The results are indeed pretty scary. Recommended for horror fans attracted by the ‘70s setting, 1974 screens tonight (10/15) at the Wythe Hotel, as part of this year’s Brooklyn Horror Film Festival.

Brooklyn Horror ’17: Clementina

Difficult real estate markets force difficult decisions. Even though Juana suspects her husband was acting under the evil influence of their new apartment when he brutally assaulted her, she still refuses to move out. New Yorkers will understand. The square footage is considerable, but the terrible feng shui still makes their flat feel claustrophobic in Jimena Monteoliva’s Clementina, which screens today during the 2017 Brooklyn Horror Film Festival.

Mateo beat Juana so badly, he induced a miscarriage, yet she insists on covering for him when she wakes up in the hospital. The cop and social worker assigned to her case assume she is simply too scared to identify him, but she clearly believes there are extenuating supernatural circumstances. Yet, she insists on returning to their flat, presumably so he knows where to find her.

Juana shuts out everyone trying to help her, except their neighbor Olga. Sensitive to the spirit world, she recommends Juana pay close attention to what the ghosts are trying to tell her, especially when the unhinged Mateo finally returns.

Clementina is certainly a moody film, but it is a bit muddled. There are times when Monteoliva and co-screenwriter Diego Fleischer suggests the spirits intend to protect Juana, but they certainly could have made the job easier if they had not pushed Mateo into a state of violent psychosis. Granted, we are probably supposed to assume it was always in him, deep down, but it only comes out in the fateful flat.

Regardless, Clementina is rather smaller in scope and more conventional than many of the films screening at this year’s festival. Still, Cecilia Cartasegna gives a harrowing performance as Juana, powering the audience through some questionable decision-making. Emiliano Carrazzone’s menacing turn as Mateo will also have viewers holding their breath. However, the film’s inconsistent attitudes towards the paranormal goings-on muddies its effectiveness as a domestic violence parable. Frankly, Mateo is probably right when he tells her they should cut their losses and bolt from the flat.

A lot of talent went into Clementina, but they produced an unusually dour, downbeat horror film. It has good intentions, but the internal contradictions distract from the takeaway and the drama. The cast will impress, but Clementina should not be a priority for fans when it screens this afternoon (10/15), as part of this year’s Brooklyn Horror Film Festival.

Brooklyn Horror ’17: The Forest of Lost Souls

What happens in the suicide forest does not necessarily stay in the suicide forest. In the Portuguese equivalent of Japan’s Aokigahara Forest, an old man and a cynical teen meet as they make their final preparations. They will share their final moments together, until the film takes a sharp turn into left field slasher territory. Suicide is certainly not painless in José Pedro Lopes’ The Forest of Lost Souls, which screens today during the 2017 Brooklyn Horror Film Festival.

For Ricardo, it seems appropriate to end his life in the same forest where his older daughter Irene committed suicide. However, the punky Carolina makes him realize how little he thought through the practical matters. Not pre-writing a suicide note was a mistake, because the lack of closure becomes an invitation to procrastination. Likewise, the hunting knife he brought is ridiculously unrealistic. However, she could help on both scores, if he would just stop lecturing her on the failings of her entitled generation.

One twist later brings us to a suburban neighborhood, where an oblivious family is in mortal danger. It is connected to the first half, in an especially sinister way, but it would be no fair telling. There is definitely slashery business, but it is the anticipation that kills us, rather than the actual violence. Daniela Love and Jorge Mota are both terrific as Carolina and Ricardo, particularly during and after the big pivot.

Without question, Forest of Souls far scarier and creepier than Jason Zada’s similarly themed, but workaday The Forest, but it is not as horrifying as the sappy symbolism of Gus Van Sant’s Sea of Trees (but don’t hold that against it). Lopes stage-manages the prey-stalking sequences with clockwork precision. Yet, ultimately it is the irony of what happens that chills us to the bone.

Francisco Lobo’s black-and-white cinematography is even more stunning than that of Veronica, but there is still no denying this is a horror movie. Seriously, this is one that could keep experienced genre fans up at night. Highly recommended, The Forest of Lost Souls screens this afternoon (10/15) at the Wythe Hotel as part of this year’s Brooklyn Horror Film Festival.

Pandora's Box (1929) NYFF 2017

The standing ovation that followed the NYFF screening. (Note the first five rows were intentionally left empty because the orchestra blocked the sight lines otherwise it seemed to be a near sellout)

Tuesday night there was a screening of Pabst’s PANDORA'S BOX with Louise Brooks at the New York Film Festival. The classic film was digitally restored using three surviving prints to create the most complete version of the film possible. It was screened with an orchestra performing a newly written score. It was for the most part magical experience.

The film is the story of Lulu a beautiful girl who is the ruin of everyone who comes into her life. She has a series of lovers, the most prominent is a doctor. When the doctor comes to her and announces that he is getting married to someone else things begin to go out of control as Lulu’s life, and the lives around her, go into a death spiral.

Seeing the film for the first time in several decades and  big was a revelation. Details I had missed, the menorah in the background of Lulu’s apartment for example,added shading to the story. The details firmly planted the film in Germany between the wars not only for the social mores but also because no one was making films quite like this other than the German directors. This is melodrama raised to the level of high art.

Watching the film now the film occasionally seems silly. The heavy brooding and silent movie style of presentation brought some knowing chuckles from the audience. Watching the film some 90 years since it was made I was left to wonder if Pabst knew how campy some of this is. This is one of the most extreme femme fatale stories you’ll see and it’s pushed to the point of parody with Lulu’s end at the hands of mad killer. It’s tragic but it’s almost too much.

What I find interesting is how naive Lulu is. She is both aware and not. How could see be so clueless? I’m not sure. She drifts through life seeing but not. Perhaps it has to do with the way she lives her life- as one to which everything is given to her. She just has to be nice to men (and women) and things come her way. She does very little other than react. When she finally does something-turning a trick- it costs her her life. Seeing this twist after the fact makes me want to go see the film again. (Actually I want to see the film again and follow some threads)

The new score is for the most part excellent. While it seems in the opening minutes to be working against the film, it suddenly marries itself to the film and it drove the viewing experience as much as Pabst’s images.

Definitely worth seeing when the film appears either in a theater near you or on home video

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Wonder Wheel (2017) NYFF 2017

Yea Jim, the film is a mess
Imagine if someone took the form of O'Neil's The Iceman Cometh mashed it with William's Streetcar Named Desire and then added some jokes at the front and you'd have an approximation of how Woody Allen's WONDER WHEEL plays out. The practical result is an unwieldy and broken film that is striving to be more than an melodramatic romance.

The plot of the film has Kate Winslet and Jim Belushi living a barely above water existence at  Coney Island. She was once an actress who wrecked her her first marriage and her career with infidelity. He is a loveable shlub who is on the wagon thanks to her love. Unfortunately she feels trapped and is having an affair with lifeguard and would be playwright Justin Timberlake. Things become complicated when Belushi's daughter, Juno Temple, shows up. She'son the run from her husband, a mafia soldier, because she knows things which she told the FBI. She develops an interest in Timberlake as well.

Told from Timberlake's perspective the film is shaded by his love of dark European plays and especially Eugene O'Neil with overly dramatic scenes, arch dialog and a sense of drama that is only found in over cooked artsy fartsy theater.

Or at least I think that is what Allen is doing because I'm not sure.  Some scenes play out realistically, but others, like Belushi and Winslet's home, are purely a construct. This is bad theater on the screen with dialog so awful it hurts your ears. No one talks like they do in most of the scenes. Watch the scene where Temple tells Winslet that Timberlake gave her a ride in the rain and you will cringe as WInslet goes on and on in ways that no living human being ever would about "Did he touch you? Did he take your hand?" Yes I know this is the 1950's but I've never seen anyone talk like that- even in O'Neil.

The plotting of the film is extremely messy with plot threads left hanging and some bits used for comedic effect (I think) until they aren't. For example there is a plot line about Winslet's son from her first marriage starting fires. Its a joke at times until it's not. It's supposed to be a sign of the brokenness of the family but it is never integrated into the film because the character is always on the fringe and the only thing we know about him is that he burns things- constantly. Why is he in the film? I don't know, though I suspect that Allen may have had a longer story in mind which got cut down to 100 minutes.

The performances are mostly good, though it is extremely hard to tell since the dialog and all of TImberlake's narration is shite. There are very few people who could make the words work but unfortunately no one in this cast is up to the task.

Kate Winslet is being touted for an Oscar. I'm not sure that's going to happen with her mannered American accent and descent into Tennessee Williams style madness maybe the stuff of screen legends but it's also the sort of show-offy role that looks like she is trying way too hard. She is playing to the back row of the balcony, unfortunately she is on the big screen where that sort of thing doesn't work.

For me and for many of the people I spoke with after the film the point at which the film utterly confused everyone is the turn into pitch black melodrama. Somewhere about the time Winslet's Ginny breaks apart (say the where Juno Temple tells her about the car ride)  so does the film. The hystrionics go through the roof and what happens becomes midnight black.  It's a semi unexpected turn that leaves one with ashes in ones mouth. It's a turn that might have worked had we been prepared or in another film but the films turning from comedy to drama to Iceman Cometh via a lead character who is in a piss poor road show production of Streetcar is too much to ask.

I never bought it.

Full has to go to Woody Allen for this mess since he is the creative mind behind it.  Woody has always worked best when he worked with his own voice, his aping of the style of the greats of the theater simply doesn't work...

...though again I have to ask what was the script originally like because I suspect that this may have been something that worked on the page with out deletions.

Is this a bad film? Perhaps, I'm not sure. I know it's not a good one. I know that the film is way too messy, broken and at times lazy (come on the mafia bad guys were on the Sopranos so they are comforting instead of scary) to be anything close to good.  While I absolutely hate pretty much all of the dialog I find that I am drawn to the story. The theatrical story could have and should have worked in a better written script. Perhaps if Woody wasn't in a rush to do a film a year this might have worked (let's face it his need for quantity over quality hurts his films).

Ultimately this is an interesting misfire (failure?) from a filmmaker who, even in his crashing and burning is at least trying to do something different.

Now if he could have at just done something with the pyromaniacal son....

Brooklyn Horror ’17: Salvation

According to rumor, patients of this crummy metropolitan hospital know when their vitals take a turn for the worse when they are paid a visit by a certain doctor in his clown costume. He is like the Patch Adams of death, but at least he keeps busy. The outlook is not great for thirteen-year-old Cris, but she has been offered a rather unconventional cure from a fellow patient in Denise Castro’s Salvation, which screens tonight during the 2017 Brooklyn Horror Film Festival.

Cris is at the age when she wants to rebel against her mother and authority figures, which is natural enough, but does not make her a model patient. Walking the halls one night, she slips into a sequestered wing with only one occupant. That would be Victor, who is even less cooperative than she is. He also claims there are medical reasons for his isolation. He is not contagious, he is a vampire. Any day now, he will regain enough strength to slip away into the night. He might be willing to turn Cris and take her with him, if she shows sufficient commitment to the undead way of whatever.

This film is just dying for you to compare it to Let the Right One In—and there is a stylistic and thematic kinship. However, it is a stretch to call it a horror movie. It is more aptly described as a darkly fantastical coming of age story—unless you have a phobia of hospitals, in which case Salvation will scare the pants off you.

Marina Boti and Ricard Balada brood with fierce, anti-social intensity as Cris and Victor, but weirdly enough, the four or five-year age difference between them feels more awkward then the protective relationship Eli the little girl vampire shares with her parent-like familiar in Right One. However, Laura Yuste is absolutely terrific as Cris’s long-suffering mother, who still has to put up with her crap during some of the darkest days a parent can know.

There is no question, the art and design team created a massively creepy environment to putter around. José Luis Pulido’s cinematography also reinforces the darkly, moody vibe. Yet, Castro and co-screenwriters Lluís Segura and Laia Soler often undercut the potential suspense with frequent attempts to “de-mystify” the vampire elements. At times, Salvation feels like it believes it is better than a crass plebeian horror movie (and that attitude is always a bummer). Earning a decidedly mixed recommendation for some fine performances and its accomplished technical craftsmanship, Salvation screens this afternoon (10/14) at the Spectacle Theater and tomorrow (10/15) at Video Revival, as part of this year’s Brooklyn Horror Film Festival.

BPM (2017) NYFF 2017

Director Robin Campillo and his lead actors after the screening Monday
BPM was the first film that got a real thunderous standing ovation at this year’s New York Film Festival. When the film was done there was a roar of approval and the audience leapt to its feet. It got louder and more intense as the Robin Campillo and his cast appeared in the box over the audience. The light remained on them as the crowd cheered.

Yea It’s that sort of a film.

BPM is based on Campillo’s time in ACT UP Paris in the 1990’s. It is not a straight recounting of what happened but was based on what happened around him. The film follows a large cast of characters over a year or more of time. Which watch as the men and women of ACT UP meet and try to get AIDS safety information out to the public, regardless of orientation, and try to make sure that the latest therapies are available to those who need it. As the group struggle with the disease and their agenda, the film narrows the focus to Sean, an AIDS positive man and Nathan who is disease free who fall in love.

A film for the head and the heart this is a film that will move you to tears while it will make you glad that there are people out there fighting the good fight. A beautifully modulated film that is about life in the face of death, I found I was not so much moved by the sadness rather by the films heartfelt assurance that life goes on, sadder, but still forward. I cried not at the times of death but in the moments of life that followed, a memorial parade or the arrival of more and more people to the home of one of their fallen. While they all didn’t get along they were still friends.

While the film is just shy of two and a half hours it moves like the wind. I thought they were kidding when the person introducing the film said that the film doesn’t feel as long as it is, but it’s true.

This is a vital story that we all need to see. Best of all it is one killer romance. If you don’t want to see a film about AIDS see this because it is in the end a romance. The scenes between Sean and Nathan will both make you envious at the connection the men share and break your heart with the course of their story. As curmudgeonly as I can be, I am a sucker for a great love story and this is one.

Robin Campillo has made a wonderful film that is one of the most human and alive films of the year. It is a bittersweet tale that will break your heart and then heal it. One of the best films at New York Film Festival and the shining lights of 2017.

BPM has finished it's NYFF run but it opens Friday in theaters.
The standing ovation

Friday, October 13, 2017

Brooklyn Horror ’17: Rift

Seriously, if you had to choose between an axe-murderer and an ex, most of us would take the axe-murderer every time. At least we’d spare ourselves those awkward conversations: “So, how’ve you been? Great, great.” Yet, Gunnar reluctantly trudges out to the remote Icelandic boonies when he gets a distressing call from his former lover. Obviously, there is still unfinished business between them. Perhaps poor Einar is also somewhat predisposed to do something rash. However, Gunnar starts to suspect someone or something sinister could constitute more of a danger to Einar than himself in Erlingur Thoroddsen’s Rift, which screens tonight during the 2017 Brooklyn Horror Film Festival.

Apparently, Einar had forgotten about his drunk-dialing incident, because he is genuinely surprised when Gunnar turns up at his family’s cabin. Nobody comes to Rökkur without a darned good reason, but Gunnar starts to wonder if he really had one. Nevertheless, he figures Einar’s squirrely behavior merits a few days’ observation. He becomes legitimately concerned when he learns some kind of stalker-pranker has been harassing Einar with late night door-knocking and window-rattling.

It turns out these rocky windswept fields are riddled with bad karma. One of Einar’s nearest neighbors has a long history of abusing boys. It was also here that Einar nearly perished as a young lad, when his eerily realistic imaginary friend lured him into the wilderness. The imaginary friend presumably went away when Einar’s parents moved them into the city, but the predatory farmer is still there.

Rift is another slow-burning film that derives a lot of its potency from its unsettling ambiguous vibe. Yet, there are moments that are scary as heck. Without question, Rift represents a quantum step up from Thoroddsen’s rather conventional, in-your-face Child Eater. This time around, he generates more scares from what is unseen and implied than from a predictably orderly series of blood-lettings. Still, there is a similar atmosphere of mounting dread, except it is even more pronounced this time around.

As Gunnar and Einar, Björn Stefánsson and Sigurður Þór Óskarsson develop pitch-perfect dysfunctional chemistry together. We completely believe they had to break-up, yet can’t help periodically torturing each other again. They feel real together, unfortunately for the characters.

This is also an unusually accomplished horror film. John Wakayama Carey’s icy cool cinematography heightens the feeling of loneliness and alienation, while Einar Sv. Tryggvason’s minimalist music slowly worms its way under your skin. They are also both so very Nordic, which is important.

Frankly, you could replace the gay lead characters with a straight couple without losing much, but you couldn’t move the film to Los Angeles. From the Eero Saarinen-esque cabin to the desolate landscape suitable for an ECM Record cover, this is definitely a film set in Iceland, at its most Scandinavian. Highly recommended for sophisticated genre fans, Rift screens tonight (10/13) at the Wythe Hotel and tomorrow (10/14) at Video Revival, as part of the Brooklyn Horror Film Festival.

Vittorio Storaro and Ed Lachman held a Masterclass at the New York FIlm Festival

Storaro to the left. Lachman to the right.
It started even before the scheduled time when friends Vittorio Storaro  and Ed Lachman got and the stage and waited for Kent Jones to show up.

Then Kent showed up and handed out water before letting the two men talk.

It is impossible to  put into words what was said or how wonderful this talk was. Largely it was the Storaro show as he answered with long riveting answers. Lachman simply added punctuation to the master's words.

They began talking about the influences that made them cinematographers and moved on from there.

Interestingly Lachman's influence was Bertolucci and he told a charming tale of going to the New York Film Festival where he met Bertolucci and Storaro and thus started on his way.

Storaro brought pictures to illustrate his points, sadly they were not projected.

Topics included light and Shadow

Color as a physical representation of mood

Film vs Digital

Their films playing at the festival

The need to work with the whole crew (designers, writers, ect) to create the look of a film

And how the cinematography has to be there to to enhance and help the story.

Lachman took pictures of the proceedings while it was going on

It was an amazing talk that resparked my love of film. The grand passion and wonder of making films filled all of their words. I can't do it justice, I just hope the Film Society puts the talk on line. It was one of the high points of the festival and I feel sorry for anyone who missed it.

Brooklyn Horror ’17: Veronica

When was the last time a psychologist actually helped a patient in any movie? Perhaps Arnaud Desplechin’s Jimmy P? And before that? David & Lisa maybe? Do not expect a lot of breakthroughs when a reclusive analyst reluctantly takes on a difficult patient. Instead, she should worry about surviving with her sanity in Carlos Algara & Alejandro Martinez-Beltran’s Veronica, which screens tonight during the 2017 Brooklyn Horror Film Festival.

She might be a head-shrinker, but our unnamed psychologist still clearly wrestles with forms of agoraphobia and social anxiety. She continues to publish, but she no longer actively treats patients. Nonetheless, she cannot refuse her mentor when he refers a particularly hard case to her.

Veronica de la Serna has heard all the psycho-babble before and she takes perverse pleasure in spitting it back at the psychologist. Clearly, she has a great deal of anger and resentment. She also has sexual issues, which she recognizes in the psychologist, as well. After several rounds of testy verbal sparring, de la Serna focuses on her sexuality as her prime weapon for destabilizing the doctor. However, the shrink has a tool shed fully stocked with axes, chains, and sinister mushrooms.

Anyone who has seen their share of psych-you-out movies will probably guess the big old twist, but Algara & Martinez-Beltran execute it with great visual flair. Miguel Angel Gonzalez Avila’s stunning black-and-white cinematography has a Gregg Toland glow and the darkly ominous overtones of Dean Cundey’s work with John Carpenter. The good doctor’s lodge-cabin-villa is also a terrific horror movie location, making the Overlook in The Shining look conveniently subway accessible.

Olga Segura exudes danger and sexuality as the deeply threatening de la Serna. As the doctor, Arcelia Ramírez falls apart pretty spectacularly, while coyly maintaining her secrets. The two women play off each other quite well. Algara and Martinez-Beltran also keep them moving around the house and grounds at a sufficient clip to prevent a feeling of staginess from setting in.

Viewers of good conscience could debate whether Veronica really is a horror movie in the strictest sense or more of a psychological thriller. Either way, it is stylish and intense. Recommended for fans of dark mind-benders, Veronica screens tonight (10/13) at Video Revival and tomorrow (10/14) at Videology, as part of this year’s Brooklyn Horror Film Festival.

Claude Lanzmann's THE FOURS SISTERS (2017)

Over the last decade there has been a steady flow of films coming from Claude Lanzmann cut from the material left out from his legendary SHOAH. Despite being nine hours long there were things that simply didn’t fit. Some of the films were simply fuller interviews of what made the finished films. Other bits were things that simply didn’t make it because they didn’t fit into the finished film. As a result we have ended up with small gems such as THE KARSKI REPORT which hauntingly explains why no one did anything about the Holocaust- they simply didn’t believe the reports; or SOBIBOR, OCTOBER 14,1943,4PM which reveals one of the greatest tales of survival you’ll ever hear.

Joining the historical record is Lanzmann’s latest masterpiece THE FOUR SISTERS. the story of four women who somehow survived the wars. The films are exactly all his others quiet monologues that reveal what exactly happened. Yes, Lanzmann quietly nudges the tale but in all the films we are close on the faces of the women who dredge up a horrific time of their lives. As with all the other Lanzmann films we are at first surprised that the women tell their tales so calmly (relatively), but after a while we fall into their tale and the matter of factness overwhelms us and we are the ones left shaken.

While connected and billed as a series the four films are getting separate screening over several days at the New York Film Festival. Before I saw the films I thought this was a bad idea since I thought bingeing was the way to go. However now that I’ve seen the films I realize that the films are best seen away from the others. The films are such that they must be allowed to stand on their own. They shouldn’t be blended together. More importantly the films need to spaced because they are so quietly affecting that hours afterward you will still be thinking about them. I split up screening the films over the course of a about ten days, two on two days one week and two over two days the next and I found that I was still rocked and affected.

As “one” film they are a worthy companion to SHOAH in that they illustrate bits of history most people probably aren't aware of, more so since the events described are now close to a century old and have been replaced with fears of terrorism and cybercrime. And despite calling many of the enemies of freedom, real or perceived, Nazis or fascists most people really have no idea what the exactly happened. Because people don't really know these and all of Mr Lanzmann's films should be required viewing...unfortunately they are not and I don't think that most defenders of freedom will ever look toward the films, which is sad because they are truly compelling.

It should be noted that portions of each film appeared on SHOAH, however Lanzmann has recut the films so that the interviews run as one uninterrupted tale

One of the threads that run through all of the films is the question of what did people know about what would be called the Holocaust. Time and again Lanzmann asks the women what they knew about what was going on. They all say that they knew on some level what was happening. The how’s and whys they knew are explored in some cases. In the case of Paula Biren some interesting issues of memory since there is an implication that she and those with her in Poland knew on some level what was going to happen as early as the start of the war. Listening to her talk I’m left to ponder if her memory wasn’t 100% clear as to the time frame of events. I'm also left to ponder how our memories work when faced with something horrific as the extermination camps. I should stress that I have no doubt what they say happened did, more I'm left to ponder if the order was jumbled. (A side note- I had been scheduled to speak with Mr Lanzmann during his time in New York for the film festival however an illness forced a cancellation. I had hoped to ask him about the question of memory in the witnesses)

Looking at the titles of each film I was very curious as to what each one means. While not apparent going in the titles do make sense once you get through each film. I will not explain the titles since I would prefer you to discover the meaning on your own.


THE HIPPOCRATIC OATH
This was the one film of the four that was given a press screening for critics and was pushed as the one film to see. The trouble is that of all the four films the story of  Ruth Elias was the one I remember from SHOAH. While I remember Ruth's singing I also remember her tale of getting married during the time in the ghetto and the complications of being pregnant while in the camps. While it was nice to see her story not spread out over nine hours, this was the film that affected me least simply because her's was a story I still carry with me from the several times I've seen SHOAH


THE MERRY FLEA
Moving film about Ada Lichtman from Krakow Poland who ended up in in Sobibor Concentration Camp. Ada's tale of confinement is notable for the dolls she helped to collect from people coming into the cmp. She helped to prepare them for  new owners.

One of the most interesting things about the film is not Ada's tale as such, rather it’s the reaction of her husband who sits largely silent near her. His reaction to what she is saying is a commentary to just how bad thing were. He frequently winces with every sentence. That Lanzmann and his crew thought to record him is monumental because it says so much. It’s kind of like watching Dreyer’s JOAN OF ARC but in real life. It is his reaction shots which add a note of gravity to the proceedings that Ada's matter of fact testimony doesn't always convey. I was left shaken by the film and was haunted for days afterward

NOAH'S ARK
Sitting with her recently deceased husband’s diary in her hand Hannah Marton from Cluj recounts the story of Hungary’s Jewish population and the extraordinary tale of a handful of them. It’s a such an amazing story that I actually watched the film twice because on some level I wasn’t believing what I was hearing.

The story of the Hungarian Jews is an unlikely one in the face of all horrible things that happened. Since Hungary was allied to Germany they were not invaded by the Nazis until late into the war. As a result the Jews were much less oppressed when compared to what happened to the Jews elsewhere in Europe. When the Nazi’s finally took control in 1944 the Jews were rounded up and shipped out rather quickly. In a move that gives the film its title a number of Jews were given a chance to get out via train. It was a move that would echo down the years as people debated whether it was better that everyone should die together or if some should escape to continue on.

There is a great deal to the story and you need to see it for yourself. As this posts it’s been almost two weeks since I’ve seen the film and I’m still haunted by it and selling it to anyone who will listen.

Easily the best of the the four films and possibly one of the best individual films of the year.


BALUTY
This is probably the most run of the mill of the Four Sisters films. Don’t let that fool you, since it will still hit you like a ton of bricks in the end.

The story of Paula Biren who was a teenager when the Germans invaded Poland. She recounts in detail the existence of one of the ghettos. From the clearing of the designated areas by the Germans of gentiles, through the loading in of the Jews, its functioning and its destruction. It’s a cold matter of fact telling that is similar to other stories that we’ve heard before- however this is probably the first time where we’ve heard the story told by one person who was there from start to finish.

Paula‘s telling is intriguing because she seems at times to be one of the most dispassionate observers I’ve encountered in Lanzmann’s work. She rattles off details with a kind of clinical precision. Her story isn’t something that she tells as if it something she has to sit down to tell, rather she literally takes Lanzmann on a stroll by the sea and tells it to him as if it were a fond remembrance. Its disconcerting and it draws us in. It also provides for one hell of a kick in the end when the mask slips and we see the pain in the final moments.

While the screenings of the four films at the New York Film Festival are now completed I fully expect the four films to circle back over the upcoming months. When they do return I highly recommend that you make an effort to see them since they make clear  not only the horrors we humans are capable of, but more importantly that we can survive in impossible situations.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

The Foreigner: The Jackie Chan Crossover We’ve Been Hoping For

Jackie Chan is sixty-two and has broken more bones than most people knew they had. The same is true of Quan Ngoc Minh. The Chinese-Vietnamese Navy SEAL-trained commando lost nearly everything after the fall of South Vietnam, but he was content to watch his young daughter grow up safe and happy in London. When she is cruelly murdered in an IRA splinter group’s terrorist attack, Quan will stop at nothing to avenge her. Of course, he will need names, which he assumes the former IRA deputy minister for Northern Ireland Affairs can supply (and not without reason). A violent cat-and-mouse game thusly commences in Martin Campbell’s The Foreigner, which opens tomorrow in New York.

Quan and his family were part of the Vietnamese boat people exodus, but his first two daughters were murdered by Thai pirates before they reached Singapore. From there, Quan managed to immigrate to England and establish legal citizenship, but his wife died giving birth to Fan. When the so-called “Real IRA” blows up the dress shop she was patronizing, Quan’s American training kicks in.

Hardnosed Commander Bromley is leading the investigation. He doesn’t seem to have many leads or any love for the IRA, so Quan keys in on the super-slick Liam Hennessy, who is essentially deputy minister for keeping a lid on the hotheads. There was a time when he was the one planting the bombs, but now he is “reformed.” Hennessy is playing a dangerous game, trying to extract more concessions from the British in exchange for intel on the terrorists. Naturally, he patronizes and grossly underestimates Quan, until the grieving father starts leaving warning bombs of his own. He also seems to be more than Hennessy’s former IRA thugs can handle, but just barely.

Chan is not a superman in The Foreigner. Frankly, he acts his age and maybe a little extra, taking some beatings nearly as bad as those in the bizarrely under-appreciated Police Story: Lockdown. It is somewhat surprising how much screen time he concedes to the rest of the cast, but this still might be his best straight-up dramatic performance. Still, the fights and stunt work is first-rate, so fans will not be disappointed on that score.

Just as the dour, angsty Chan will be new for most fans, the sleazy, venal, self-pitying Hennessey is a Pierce Brosnan we haven’t seen before either. He is such an unpleasant character, we quite enjoy watching him take flak from all sides. Orla Brady makes a spectacularly evil Lady Macbeth type as Hennessy’s slightly disappointed wife Mary, while Ray Fearon’s Bromley swaggers with authority.

Screenwriter David Marconi also deserves tremendous credit for updating Stephen Leather’s Troubles-set novel to the post-Good Friday era. Frighteningly, the hidden IRA weapons caches that are frequently mentioned are very real. Marconi and Campbell also clearly establish the factional rivalries and alliances within the IRA and its subsidiaries that they suggest still persist to this day. Sure, this is an action thriller, but it leaves viewers convinced the current peace remains perilously fragile.

Frankly, a lot of the IRA infighting material would still work in a movie without Jackie Chan, but adding him as the destabilizing fuse kicks it up to another level. This really is the kind of polished crossover production Jackie Chan fans have been hoping. Campbell has had a few misfires, like Green Lantern, but The Foreigner should re-establish him as one of the top action directors in the business (along with Casino Royale). Very highly recommended for general audiences, The Foreigner opens tomorrow (10/13) in several New York theaters, including the AMC Empire.

Quick thoughts on Bladerunner 2049 (2017)


I’ve seen Bladerunner 2049

I spent the extra cash and saw it in IMAX because everyone said that was the way to see it. It probably is.

I don’t have it in me to do a full review but I did want to get a few thoughts down.

First the images are incredible. Hopefully they will get Roger Deakins his Oscar. They are so good that that they often carry the story and set the mood which the script often forgets to bring to the table.

The performances are quite good. This is possibly the best role Ryan Gosling has had.

The script is okay. The plot is such that the film doesn’t need to be almost three hours long. This is a classic noir tinged with science fiction and back in the 40’s this would have run half as long. This is a mood piece. The script picks up some ideas from the first film and few new ones and mixes them up to mixed results. The mixed results is a result of the film often just dropping an idea or thread for another.

I really like the film a great deal, but I don’t know why some people are going crazy for it? Its good but I’m not sure much beyond that, even if it has greatness in it.

Worth a look on the big screen

Sacrifice NYFF 2017

In what is possibly Andre Tarkovsky’s most accessible film the filmmaker asks us what we would give to save what we love. It’s a simple question that Tarkovsky spins off in several interesting ways.

I’m a big fan of Tarkovsky’s. I love several of his films (Andre Rubelev, Solaris, this film) , I like some (Stalker) and others I’m not too sure about. Even in the case of the films I’m not sure about I find that I return to them because they trigger thoughts feelings and god knows what else with each viewing. Tarkovsky’s films make me a participant in a dialog with the filmmaker. It may not always lead to anything but it always engages me.

With the Sacrifice we have a family away in the country. The world ends, or at least heads that way and our hero is forced to bargain with god in order to save everyone he loves. What makes the film interesting is that the main character isn’t particularly a believer or a non-believer, he is a man. His deal with god seems to cover from hopelessness and helplessness at saving his family.

As with most of Tarkovsky's films the story or the film itself is starting point for a discussion. I've screened The Sacrifice with several different friends and the discussions that the film starts- usually lasting for days afterward- go far and wide with the film frequently falling into the background.

I am haunted by the film, While it is not a film I carry with me completely (where I can conjure images and lines of dialog at the drop of a hat), The Sacrifice is always with me not so much as something I carry but as part of me and my psyche. I think I don't remember much of the film simply because it is something that that is me, much like say the back of my hand is.

Everyone should try this film at least once. You may not like it, it may not mean anything to you, but at the same time if it clicks with you it maybe come something truly special.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

DOC NYC ANNOUNCES FULL LINEUP FOR EIGHTH EDITION


Program Includes 23 World Premieres, 23 U.S. Premieres
Among Over 250 Films and Events

Greg Barker’s The Final Year Opens Festival;
Eric Clapton: Life in 12 Bars Closes Event
With Director Lili Fini Zanuck & Eric Clapton In Person;
World Premiere of Far From the Tree Screens As Centerpiece

New Films By Barbara Kopple, Errol Morris, Chris Smith, Sam Pollard, Joe Berlinger

 

NEW YORK, Oct. 11, 2017DOC NYC, America’s largest documentary festival, announced the full lineup for its eighth edition, running November 9-16 at the IFC Center in Greenwich Village and Chelsea’s SVA Theatre and Cinepolis Chelsea. The 2017 festival includes 111 feature-length documentaries among over 250 films and events overall. Included are 23 world premieres and 23 U.S. premieres, with more than 350 doc makers and special guests expected in person to present their films or participate on panels.

Special Events announced today include Closing Night Film, the NYC premiere of Eric Clapton: Life in 12 Bars, directed by Lili Fini Zanuck, with the acclaimed musician in attendance; Centerpiece Film, the world premiere of Far From the Tree, director Rachel Dretzin’s adaptation of Andrew Solomon’s bestselling book; and the NYC premiere of Wormwood, an ambitious new project from Errol Morris exploring the 1953 death of a CIA agent. Previously announced, the NYC premiere Greg Barker’s The Final Year, accompanied by members of the Obama administration, will open the festival.

World premieres at the festival include A Murder in Mansfield, by Barbara Kopple (Miss Sharon Jones!), which explores the impact of a 1989 murder on a family; Maynard, by Sam Pollard (Two Trains Runnin’), about Atlanta’s first black mayor, Maynard Jackson; Naila and the Uprising, by Julia Bacha (Budrus), about the hidden role women played in the First Intifada, a project that won last year’s DOC NYC Pitch Perfect competition; Father’s Kingdom, by Larry Feinberg, exploring the legacy of Father Divine, who attracted over a million followers and claimed to be God; The Iconoclast, by King Adz, about notorious art forger Michel van Rijn; and The Godfathers of Hardcore, by Ian McFarland, on the long-lived NYC hardcore punk band Agnostic Front.

Among this year’s U.S. premieres are David Bowie: The Last Five Years, by Francis Whately, an intimate look at the creative final years of the music icon; Antonio Lopez 1970: Sex Fashion & Disco, by James Crump, a portrait of the most influential fashion illustrator of 1970s New York and Paris; Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood, by Matt Tyrnauer, about the man who was the secret sexual procurer to the stars; The Stranger, by past DOC NYC award winner Nicole N. Horanyi, about a woman who discovers the man of her dreams has secrets; Armed with Faith, by Geeta Gandbhir and Asad Faruqi, which follows the heroic Pakistani Bomb Disposal Unit; Soufra, by Thomas Morgan, and executive produced by Susan Sarandon, about a woman who starts her own successful catering company in a Lebanese refugee camp; EuroTrump, by Stephen Robert Morse and Nicholas Hampson, on the Dutch Donald Trump, Geert Wilders; and The Beatles, Hippies and Hells Angels: Inside the Crazy World of Apple, by Ben Lewis, a look back at the wild early days of Apple Corps.

“Documentary storytellers help us make sense of the tumultuous times we’re living in with artistry, humor and inspiring characters,” said Director of Programming Basil Tsiokos. “This year’s DOC NYC line-up gives audiences fresh insight into high profile figures and shines a light on lesser-known individuals who leave a big impression." Tsiokos led the program selection in collaboration with Artistic Director Thom Powers and Executive Director Raphaela Neihausen.

The festival is curated in 18 sections that include two new strands: New World Order, with 6 films about global issues in the news, including Sky & Ground, which follows an extended family of refugees as they escape Syria; and Spiral, about the alarming rise of anti-Semitism in Europe. Centerstage, an 8-title section focused on performing and performers, presents the world premieres of The Problem with Apu, in which a South Asian-American comedian explores the impact of the character from The Simpsons; and Repeat Attenders, about musical theater superfans.

In the festival’s two feature competition sections, 8 films appear under the Viewfinders section for distinct directorial visions. They include the world premiere of Mole Man, about an autistic man who has built a 50-room structure in his backyard; and the U.S. premieres of The Judge, about the first female Shari’a judge in the Middle East, and Silas, about a Liberian environmental activist.

In the Metropolis competition section, 7 films are dedicated to stories set in New York City. They include the world premieres of The Iron Triangle, about the resistance to the urban renewal of Queens’ Willets Point; Vigilante: The Incredible True Story of Curtis Sliwa and the Guardian Angels, an unfiltered look at the founder of the controversial group; and Miracle on 42nd Street, about an apartment complex providing housing to performing artists, including past residents Alicia Keys, Terrence Howard and Angela Lansbury.

Other returning sections include high-profile Special Events; national and global takes in American Perspectives and International Perspectives; and thematic sections Fight the Power (on activism), Sonic Cinema (on music), True Crime (on crime), Science Nonfiction (on science and technology), Modern Family (on unconventional families), Wild Life (on animals), Art & Design (on artists), and Behind the Scenes (on filmmaking). Short-form content (85 films in total) is represented by the festival’s Shorts Competition and DOC NYC U (showcasing student work).

These sections join the previously announced slate of Short List titles, highlighting 15 of the year’s award contenders, and the eight-day DOC NYC PRO conference, focusing on panels and masterclasses.

DOC NYC will welcome over 350 filmmakers and special guests in attendance for Q&As after most screenings and for DOC NYC PRO panels. Among the notable visitors expected to appear in person are Steve Madden for Maddman, Fern Mallis for Larger Than Life: The Kevyn Aucoin Story, Dan Rather for Fail State, Susan Sarandon for Soufra, Sonja Sohn for Baltimore Rising, and more to be announced in the coming weeks.

For this year’s Short List section of awards season frontrunners, guests include Greg Barker (The Final Year), Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady (One of Us), Bryan Fogel (Icarus), Yance Ford (Strong Island), Amanda Lipitz (Step), Brett Morgen (Jane), Errol Morris (The B-Side: Elsa Dorfman’s Portrait Photography), Peter Nicks (The Force), Jeff Orlowski (Chasing Coral), Laura Poitras (Risk), Antonio Santini and Dan Sickles (Dina), Ceyda Torun (Kedi), and Agnès Varda and JR (Faces Places). (Other titles are Steve James’ Abacus: Too Small to Jail and Matthew Heineman’s City of Ghosts, which will be represented at DOC NYC by producers or other special guests.)  Filmmakers will also take place in the Short List Day of panel conversations on Nov. 10 at DOC NYC PRO.

Notable documentarians will also be honored at the previously announced Visionaries Tribute Awards event on Nov. 9: Sheila Nevins and Errol Morris will receive Lifetime Achievement Awards while Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady will receive the Robert and Anne Drew Award for observational filmmaking. Cara Mertes, director of the JustFilms initiative at the Ford Foundation, will receive the Leading Light Award for distinguished service to documentary in a role outside filmmaking.


The following is a breakdown of programming by section:


OPENING NIGHT

THE FINAL YEAR
Dir: Greg Barker (NYC PREMIERE)
Greg Barker gives an unprecedented look at the shaping of US foreign policy by following key members of outgoing US President Barack Obama’s administration.

CLOSING NIGHT

ERIC CLAPTON: LIFE IN 12 BARS
Dir: Lili Fini Zanuck (NYC PREMIERE)
An intimate, revealing musical odyssey on the life and career of guitar virtuoso Eric Clapton, told by those who have known him best.

CENTERPIECE

FAR FROM THE TREE
Dir: Rachel Dretzin (WORLD PREMIERE)
An adaptation of Andrew Solomon’s bestselling book examining how parents face their children’s extreme differences, challenging ideas of "normalcy."

SPECIAL EVENT

WORMWOOD
Dir: Errol Morris (NYC PREMIERE)
DOC NYC’s Visionaries Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Errol Morris (The Fog of War) investigates the 1953 death of a CIA agent in this innovative new project.


VIEWFINDERS COMPETITION