Sunday, November 8, 2015

DOC NYC starts Thursday -Here's links, capsules and our must see list

Starting Thursday and running to the 19th is America's biggest documentary film festival and one of the greatest film festivals I know of DOC NYC. It was started a few years back by Thom Powers the mad genius who is the documentary programmer for places like Toronto and elsewhere and it's exploded. While Powers  gets to pull all of the best films from festivals around the world he also saves lot so goodies for this festival as well, it's full of world premieres. The festival is also a running almost daily symposium on how to make documentary films as well.

At this point there really is no point in telling you to get off your butt and go get tickets because if you've been reading Unseen for any amount of time you know you have to do this. You know this is one of the best fests ever  and that is where you want to go to see truly great films.

As of this posting I've personally seen around three quarters of the films and there really isn't a truly bad one in the bunch.

In order to get you to go see some stuff I'm now going to provide you with some suggestions and links to previously reviewed films.

As in previous years the festival brings a whole bunch of docs from elsewhere to the festival and these are the films we saw previously and have already reviewed:

RAIDERS!- one of the weaker films at the festival. It plays like an over long DVD extra
WOMEN HE'S UNDRESSED- one of the best films of the year. I love letter to the glamour of old Hollywood and it's subject. This is a film that's entertaining in it own right.
THEORY OF OBSCURITY- one of the best films of 2015. A great look at the Residents and the drive to create
WHERE TO INVADE NEXT- Michael Moore's taking back of good ideas to save America
HUNTING GROUND- a shocking look at sexual assault on college campuses. Why hasn't this rattled more cages and why is Jameis Winston still walking free?
LOOK OF SILENCE-Shattering doc is an ugly look at the evil men do and laugh off. One of the best of any year
KURT COBAIN MONTAGE OF HECK- long rambling look at Cobain in his own words
SEYMOUR AN INTRODUCTION-Ethan Hawke's portrait of Seymour Bernstein is good but...
CARTEL LAND- Chilling look at corruption and drug running
WOLFPACK- over hyped look at a group of brothers who spend decades in their apartment watching movies.

The novel like MISSING PEOPLE will have you thinking about a lot of things

Here are a few capsule reviews of films playing at the festival:

GIMME SHELTER is a classic. If you've never seen it you have to because this portrait of the Rolling Stones and what happened at Altamont Raceway changed how concert films were put together. It's the sort of film that leaves you slack jawed and pondering what you've seen as opposed to humming a tune. And the chance to see it big with great sound makes it even more a must see.

HIGH ON CRACK STREET- people forget that when this film played back in 1995 it rattled cages. Here was the true cost of crack on people and a community in away that the five minute piece on the nightly news didn't bring home. For an hour we were in the middle of it  and it broke our hearts. Nowadays people know it only as the film about Christian Bale's character in THE FIGHTER, but it's so much more than that. Go see this film and understand why 20 years on we're still talking about it.

When I was given a screener for SYL JOHNSON: ANY WAY THE WIND BLOWS, they asked that the film not be reviewed in full, I do have to say that it's a really good little film  about a singer that most people have never heard of ,but probably most of us have heard performing either through his records or the large number of samples of his work. (Chocko saw the film at the press screening and insists its one of the must sees of the festival)

I've also seen Alex Gibney's GOING CLEAR abut the Church of Scientology but haven't reviewed it because it got such a huge buzz when it played HBO so I didn't think there was a need to. It's a very good film that lays out all you probably need to know about the Church and the crazy things it does. At the same time if you are a watcher of the Church odds are you know most of this already.

SISTERS IN LAW is a great film about two women in Cameroon, one a prosecutor and one a judge, who are giving women a say in their lives in the country. Watching the film again for the first time in years for the festival I forgot how good it was. This is one you have to see.

The must see MAD TIGER

Mr C knew the Chinatown Fair that is the subject of  THE LOST ARCADE and I asked him to take a look at the film and let me know what he thought. He sent me the following:

The Chinatown Fair on Mott Street was a dive of an arcade in lower Manhattan that was ultimately competing with the neon giants of gaming arcades that were propping up in Times Square. My memories of the Chinatown Fair was during the 80s-90s when it acted as a place of refuge for gaming & time away from the hustle and bustle of Chinatown while I wait for my mom to end her shift working at the sewing factory on Lafayette Street or when my Dr. Toothy dentist visit ended the grinding & clamping sessions early. What I experienced at the fair included watching a culture of passionate fighting game enthusiasts start to brew to catching wannabe Chinatown triad rebel rousers passby the arcade to take a break, or simply those just curious of the Live Tic Tac Toe playing Chicken! THE LOST ARCADE documentary brought back memories of a lost but not forgotten New York.
MISS SHARON JONES! is one the great films of the festival
I need to mention something about this years shorts- I’ve seen them all (except for the three or four where the links didn’t work)and reviews of each collection started going up last night. Reviews of each will be going up before they get their single screening. The shorts- are all for the most part- good. There are a few truly great ones, a couple of fair ones and no really bad ones. The trouble is that good bad or indifferent very few of them gave me very little to say. As I said most of the films I can tell you are good, but at the same time they only inspired a line or two of comment. My lack of commentary doesn’t mean the films aren’t worthy, simply they other than saying they are good and go see them, I didn’t have much to say and I wasn’t going to try to find words that weren’t coming.

I’m also reviewing all the pre-feature shorts with the exception of the one screening with the Claude Lanzman film, DREAMING AGAINST THE WORLD, since I’m going to see that at a public screening.

The title of SHE"S THE BEST THING IN IT is a wicked joke and the film is worth paying to see what it is

And if you're looking for something to get tickets for now, before the reviews go up- here's my must see short list

MISS SHARON JONES!- wonderful portrait of the singer and her life (Chocko seconds this recommendation)

BOLSHOI BABYLON- how the maiming of the artistic director of the famous ballet shook it to it's core

FRACKMAN- great portrait of a man never wanted to be an activist but had to take a stand when the gas company came to take his property

THE GREAT ALONE-the story of Lance Mackey, his life and the Iditarod. Its very moving. One of my favorite films of 2015.

A NEW HIGH- a look at a program where the participants work to get off drugs and then climb Mount Rainer when they complete it.

SPEED SISTERS- I have never seen Eden be as excited about any film as she was about this one. This is one of Chocko's must see as well. Word from the press corps was equally positive.

I AM SUN MU- great portrait of North Korean defector artist that forces you to see the country and art in a new way.

JAZZ LOFT ACCORDING TO W. EUGENE SMITH- a wonderful portrait of a man, his art , and a certain place and time

NO MAS BEBES- a movie sure to piss you off about how Latino women were sterilized in the 1960's and 70's against their will.

MAD TIGER- Literally added minutes before this posted it had to be here because the more I think about the more I love it. A portrait of a rock band, two of the band members and a quest for self all in one.

Chocko saw a a bunch of films I haven't yet and he adds the following to the must see list:

DADDY DON'T GO (Ariela is reviewing this here at Unseen and is equally high on it)

And from the list of previously reviewed films the absolute must sees are:

Reviews really start start hitting tomorrow (five or more reviews a day all this week) and run all the way to the 22nd simply because we are covering so many films (by the time all is said and done we'll have seen all but 20 of the 200+ films) I can't fit them all in a week.

Keep reading because this is going to be ground zero to find about about pretty much every film at DOC NYC.

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