Into the Abyss by director Werner Herzog

New York’s documentary film festival, DOC NYC, returns for its second year to Greenwich Village, running from November 2-10, 2011. The festival will showcase 107 events, including screenings of 52 feature-length films and 40 shorts as well as 15 doc-related panel discussions. All events will take place at IFC Center, New York University’s Skirball Center for the Performing Arts and NYU’s Kimmel Center.

Among the highlights:


GALAS – Opening Night (Nov. 2) will feature the New York premiere of Into the Abyss presented by director Werner Herzog in person at NYU’s Skirball Center. Critics have hailed this true crime story as “extraordinary” (New York Times) and “undeniably profound” (Variety), and the festival is especially pleased to welcome back the master filmmaker after presenting his box office hit Cave of Forgotten Dreams last year. The Centerpiece Gala(Nov. 4), introduced by Russell Simmons, will be the US premiere of Lemon, directed by Laura Brownson and Beth Levison, chronicling the theatrical comeback of Tony Award-winner Lemon Andersen. The Spotlight Gala (Nov. 8) selection is The Island President, directed by Jon Shenk, a look at the Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed and his campaign to save his country from environmental destruction. The film recently won the People’s Choice Documentary Award at the Toronto International Film Festival.

COMPETITION SECTIONS – The Viewfinders Competition showcases 10 films notable for their distinct directorial vision. The selection ranges widely, including the comedic Kumaré, about a fake guru; and the investigative Scenes From A Crime, a look into a questionable murder conviction in upstate New York. The Metropolis Competition features 7 films rooted in New York City. Included are the world premieres of I Want My Name Back, about hip-hop pioneers The Sugarhill Gang battling music industry corruption; and This Space Available, based on the writings of Marc Gobé (Emotional Branding), about the commercialization of public space. The two juried competitions each offer a prize of a 35mm blow-up and Digital Cinema Package courtesy of Post Works New York.

SPECIAL EVENTS – Five stand-out events include Charlotte Rampling in person to present Charlotte Rampling: The Look, a journey through the actress’s remarkable career; An Evening With Elliott Erwitt, featuring the great Magnum photographer on hand to discuss his lesser-known forays into doc filmmaking; A Force of Nature, Barbara Kopple’s profile of journalist and philanthropist Ellen Ratner; Werner Herzog’s reworking of Dmitry Vasyukov’s Happy People: A Year in the Taiga; and director Sarah McCarthy present for The Sound of Mumbai: A Musical, a unique Indo-twist on The Sound of Music.

NEW SECTIONS – The festival introduces five new sections this year:

Icons – Six films profiling iconic figures: Joe Frazier: When the Smoke Clears (featuring an in-person appearance by the boxing great); Eames: The Architect and the Painter; A Good Man, about choreographer Bill T. Jones;With Great Power: The Stan Lee Story; God’s Fiddler: Jascha Heifetz; and Beyond Iconic, a portrait of Magnum photographer Dennis Stock.

American Perspectives – Six films with diverse views on the national scene: Jonathan Demme profiling a proud resident of New Orleans in I’m Carolyn Parker: The Good, the Mad and the Beautiful; Nelson George exploring a cultural renaissance in Brooklyn Boheme; a Harvard lesbian basketball star in No Look Pass; a rising star of Ultimate Fighting in Fightville; women in prison raising children in Mothers of Bedford; and a controversy over sex abuse in Baltimore’s Jewish community in Standing Silent.

International Perspectives – Four globe-spanning films take us to Ireland (Ballymun Lullaby); Germany (Jealous of the Birds); Ukraine (My Father Evgeni); and Mexico (Perdida).

Shorts – Six programs of shorts grouped under the themes of “NYC Uncovered”; “The Power of Images”; “For Love or Money”; “DOC NYU @ DOC NYC” (featuring student work from New York University); “Latin American Visions”; and “Views on Japan” featuring a new work from Academy Award nominee Lucy Walker, The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom.

Short-List – Four films that stand to be contenders in the coming awards season, presented by their directors or other special guests: Buck; The Interrupters; Page One: Inside the New York Times; and Project Nim.

KALEIDOSCOPE FAMILY DOCS – Three films that will delight all ages: First Position, about a student ballet competition; Empty Hand: Real Life Karate Kids, about youths excelling at martial arts; and a 3D double feature from National Geographic, Sea Monsters 3D: A Prehistoric Adventure, playing with Flying Monsters 3D.

MIDNIGHT ROCK DOCS – Four films for the late night crowd: Better Than Something: Jay Reatard, a portrait of the garage rock icon; Cure for Pain: The Mark Sandman Story, about the lead singer of Morphine; Inni, which looks at the first ten years of beloved Icelandic band Sigur Rós; and the rarely seen gem from 1989, Depeche Mode 101, directed by David Dawkins, Chris Hegedus and D.A. Pennebaker.

PANELS – Four days of discussion, comprising fifteen panels, bring experienced filmmakers and industry players to share their insights under the themes of “State of the Industry”; “State of the Indie Doc”; “State of the Art”; and more.

TRIBUTE TO RICHARD LEACOCK – In honor of the cinéma vérité pioneer, who died on March 23, 2011, the festival will showcase his contributions to classics such as Primary and Crisis as well as rare gems such as Chiefs and Happy Mother’s Day, introduced by noted filmmakers and Leacock family members.

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