DOCNYC brings more than documentaries to a festival / by KirstenStudio

Although most film festivals offer more than a series of screenings, DOCNYC (Nov. 3rd-9th) is really bringing a range of interesting and diverse documentary happenings as well as major names to their first film festival. I am currently taking a NYU documentary development lecture class from Thom Powers, who is also DOCNYC's Artistic Director.  It's a terrific class whether you are an experienced filmmaker, already work in some professional capacity in the business or a novice curious about the possibility of making a documentary.  A real plus is the in-depth involvement Mr. Powers has with the documentary community that brings insight (and awesome guest speakers) to this class. It's also nice because we get to hear about first time film festivals right in our neighborhood.

DOCNYC has a number of unique and promising special events in addition to the film screenings.  There are three film competitions. VIEWFINDERS includes eight films that showcase unique directorial voices.  Filmmakers range from more emerging storytellers like Josh Freed to established artists such as Kim Longinotto.

Mr. Powers was kind enough to bring Robert Greene, who has a movie in the VIEWFINDERS category, as a guest speaker at the NYU class a couple weeks ago.  Mr. Greene is an experienced editor by trade, and now a producer/director with a few of his own films now under his belt.  His latest is Katie with an I (pictured here).  Mr. Greene showed a scene from this film and it inspired me enough to purchase a pass for the screening at DOCNYC.

The METROPOLIS competition puts the spotlight on stories that involve New York City. From Lost Bohemia by Josef Birdman Astor, about the residents of Carnegie Hall's artist studios to Rise, Ride and Roar, by David Hillman Curtis, which shows off the amazing David Byrne, METROPOLIS promises to bring new perspectives to a city never short on story.

There are several "spotlights" on certain major player in the documentary world.  Werner Herzog is bringing his 3D film Cave of Forgotten Dreams and Errol Morris, his film Tabloid.  The festival will also be featuring a selection of their previous films.  For those of us who never saw some of these films on the big screen or maybe have never even have seen them at all, this is a great chance to catch game changing documentaries like Morris' A Thin Blue Line (1988) or the unbelievable Herzog film Wings of Hope (1999). Last but certainly not least, is a tribute program to the great rescuer and expert of the silent movie, film historian, Kevin Brownlow. All will be live in person guests and will be present for discussions on their work within each program which includes, Spotlight on Werner Herzog, Spotlight on Errol Morris and the Tribute to Kevin Brownlow.

There will be two Day Long Symposiums and I'm still on the fence whether to do to just the Saturday event or to both.  The first is on a Friday, entitled Doc Convergence.  This day begins with a 10am panel with An American Life that will bring in producers from the beloved radio show to talk about their experiences on the production.  The other is Story Leads to Action, which is of particular interest to me since it's focusing on social issue documentary and Judith Helfand of Working Films and Chicken and Egg Pictures will be there presenting case studies on Lost Bohemia (mentioned above) and To Be Heard, directed by Roland Legiardi-Laura, Edwin Martinez, Deborah Shaffer (love Deborah Shaffer!), Amy Sultan. The afternoon sessions include topics such as Photographers Becoming Filmmakers and Documentary Filmmakers and Confidential Sources, which takes a look at the Berlinger/Chevron case.

Saturday's Day Long Symposium entitled, State of the Art, presents a discussion with documentary film professionals about creative innovation. The morning brings Josh Fox of Gasland and others to Art of Directing, which will open talks about how directors push themselves creatively. Included in the morning line-up is State of the Archives, a dialogue between archivists and filmmakers to explore best practices for days concerns over imagery usage and licensing.

The afternoon will consist of three panels. The Art of Cinematography, the Art of Editing and Creative Producing.  Cinematographer Kirsten Johnson of Pray the Devil Back to Hell, editor Jean Tsien of Shut Up & Sing, and producer Lori Cheatle of 51 Birch Street, will be among the prestigious and well rounded guest speakers for these sessions.

There are even more events going on during this extensive documentary celebrations.  November 3rd through the 9th. DOCNYC is currently seeking volunteers.  It's a great way to get to see some of these films, symposiums and other happenings as well as meet other filmmakers and enthusiasts. Click here for details and check back to this blog for post event thoughts and opinions.