DOC NYC: New York City's first annual documentary festival
My Best Fiend
From a pool of today's documentary filmmakers, the week-long affair showcased some of the most exciting and thought-provoking of films and creatives for New York's very first DOC NYC. Held between a number of art house theatres in Soho / West Village, I took an exclusive look at the cinephile's extravaganza which welcomed shorts and features from around the globe; the works of both established and contemporaries alike, and panel discussions featuring some of cinema's most treasured names – from Werner Herzog to Errol Morris.
The festival began with the gala opening premiere of Herzog's Cave of Forgotten Dreams, and New York City's documentary aficionados gathered for one of the festival's most popular events; In Conversation with Werner Herzog, whose Nicholas Cage and Eva Mendes- starring Bad Lieutenant, released last year, is perhaps irrelevant when compared to his back catalogue of documentary exploration ( Land of Silence and Darkness, My Best Fiend, Grizzly Man ). He talked in detail about his latest venture in-the-making, Nick Broomfield-style, into the world of prisons, death row and the politics surrounding the issue. Herzog excelled his fine reputation as a compelling real-storyteller, recounting tales from the making of 2005's Grizzly Man, during which its protagonist was eaten alive by a bear and audio tapes of which still exist.
Film organisations such as The Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program and Doc Convergence brought together an array of forward-thinking minds. Industry successes such as Pulitzer Prize winner David Turnley spoke, who has shot in conditions so basic that he's been forced to develop film using toilet water. Zana Briski talked about the harrowing life she led whilst filming in brothels in India, and her newest project - a self-labelled 'travelling museum of sorts'- including her portraiture of praying mantises inspired, she confessed by a dream that came to her one night.
Other guests were invited to discuss issues such as fights for funding, artistic licence versus reality, the troublesome debate regarding ownership over documentary material, and the ethics behind capturing personal footage. The charismatic and environmentally-concerned cartoonist / writer Lynda Barry, who worked with wind turbine drama's director Laura Israel on Windfall (winner of the festival's Grand Jury Prize), spoke about the usefulness of using comic / graphic novel format to tell real stories that need to be told in an dynamic and more digestible context.
One of documentary's most controversial pioneers, Errol Morris, premiered his newest offering Tabloid, a biopic of 'Mormon sex-in-chains scandal' Joyce McKinney. The screening was not without its own dash of controversy as McKinney took to the stage after the credits rolled to voice her own opinions on the film. Other highlights included Make Believe, ( dir. J. Clay Tweel ) a film following six teen magician prodigies, Kati With An I ( dir. Robert Greene ) a drama focussing on the life of a vivacious small-town girl struggling with conflicting relationships, and Ride, Rise Roar ( dir. David Hillman Curtis ), a concert film centred around David Byrne and his most recent live tour. The film was followed by an appearance from Byrne himself and some intriguing insight into the arduous tour and film process.
The festival highlighted a number of this decade's most exciting new filmmakers and the path which has preceded their work today. DOC NYC showed that documentary as a genre is becoming more and more accessible, and with it, the relationship between artistic licence and reality grows more interesting to experience.
Ride, Rise, Roar