DOC NYC 2020 Recommendations
Many film festivals have been forced by the pandemic to recalibrate their models of presenting films from in-person events to online streaming. This has provided an opportunity to access premieres and exciting new work without the hassle of traveling the globe to be at the events. You can bring the festivals to your living room, computer, or tablet—virtually anywhere you can access the internet.
One issue with many premieres is that the distributors need to georestrict access to the films (make the films only able to be streamed around the area where the physical festival originated). This was the case for several hot titles that were in the Toronto International Film Festival and the Hamptons International Film Festival.
This isn’t the case for the DOC NYC 2020 Film Festival, America’s largest documentary film festival coming up November 11-29, 2020. They are promoting that their selection of over 200 films will be available for streaming rentals nationwide. There are a limited number of streaming links for each title, so there is still a possibility for films to “sell out.”
DOC NYC is providing a discount code for $2 off tickets to any film streaming in the festival (capacity permitting). Just enter the code DOCNYC-SPEEDART at checkout.
Here are my recommendations for this year:
40 Years a Prisoner
Director Tommy Oliver follows the fight by Mike Africa, Jr. for the release of his parents who were two of nine members of the Black revolutionary group MOVE. I had the opportunity to see it through the Toronto International Film Festival and it couldn’t be more timely in its discussion of justice and the penal system.
Shot by an independent crew in Wuhan, China, 76 Days details the COVID-19 lockdown from the view of the front-line hospital workers. The film has been noted for the cinematography and editing that highlight the immediacy and resilience of the staff working around the clock to address the siege of patients.
9to5: The Story of a Movement
Oscar-winning directors Julia Reichert and Steven Bognar shared a work-in-progress screening of their documentary on the women’s labor movement, 9to5, that inspired women to fight for economic equity. The organization inspired the hit film and song.
Acasa, My Home
The large Enache family have been thriving in their tract of land just beyond Bucharest where they have been able to live off the grid. When the area is slated for development, the family’s lives are in turmoil as they’re forced to adapt to a new life in the city. Winner of the World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award for Cinematography at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival.
This is one of the most important films demonstrating the urgent need for investigative reporting to hold institutions accountable. A group of intrepid Romanian journalists uncover levels of corruption that resulted in the death of dozens of audience members of a nightclub in 2015. The film has gripped audiences at Sundance, Venice, and the Toronto International Film Festival.
Breaking new ground in the investigation of the 2018 murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Oscar-winning director Bryan Fogel (Icarus) creates an intriguing new documentary. His probe uncovers the depth of online and cell phone surveillance that affected the case and spread throughout a network of people who were critical of Saudi Arabia.
Made You Look: A True Story About Fake Art
One of the most astounding cases of art forgery in New York destroyed the formerly respected gallery Knoedler & Company. It’s president, Ann Freedman, sold dozens of paintings purported to be by major artists like Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, and Robert Motherwell, only to find that they had been forged. The grift was deep and the unraveling of a the scam is fascinating.
Drawing on recently declassified FBI files, director Sam Pollard analyses the surveillance of Dr. Martin Luther King through wire taps, hidden microphones, and casing by agents at the request of J. Edgar Hoover. The files reveal the harassment and undermining of leader of the civil rights movement much in contrast with the esteem with which we hold Dr. King today.
Medicine Man: The Stan Brock Story
Many may remember Stan Brock as one of the presenters of the nature program Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom. He turned his passion for the caring of animals to focus on the access to healthcare to the most neediest in the U.S. through his nonprofit organization, Remote Area Medical, bringing in doctors and dentists to provide free services.
My Psychedelic Love Story
Oscar-winning director Errol Morris captures a wild period of the 1970s as he revels the life of Joanna Harcourt-Smith. Morris focuses on the period where she and Timothy Leary were the center of sexual and LSD experimentation leading to a his time in hiding as an escaped convict.
The Reason I Jump
Winner of the World Cinema Documentary Audience Award at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, this film is based on the book by 13-year old author Naoki Higashida. It takes you into the daily lives of five nonverbal autistic young people creating an empathetic and humane cinematic experience.
Winner of the Best International Documentary at HotDocs, this touching film shows the connection between three street dogs and a their bond with a trio of Syrian refugees in Istanbul, Turkey. Each of the dogs has a unique personality and they help to make up the richness of urban life.
Through the Night
The pandemic has created a new appreciation for access to childcare in the U.S. This documentary focuses on a specific need for the labor force—access to 24-hour childcare work those who work at night. It is centered on a home-based center run by a couple who provide a great service for those with unique work obligations.
One of the most iconoclastic musicians of his generation, Frank Zappa was a prolific artist with over 60 albums over four decades in several genres through his solo work and with his band, Mothers of Invention. Director Alex Winter delves deep into Zappa’s archive to reveal the stalwart of free expression, democracy, and free speech.