The Doc NYC Film Festival is kicking off at the IFC Center on 6th Avenue on November 2nd through November 10th 2011. Vimooz’s Francesca McCaffery is covering the Festival, and here are some of the first highlights of what is proving to be a truly inspiring, not-to-be-missed line-up:
The Island President: If you only go see a few films at the Doc NYC Film Festival this year, Jon Shenk’s “The Island President” should be at the very top of your list. Focusing on the pint-sized President Mohamed Nasheed of the Maldives Islands (the country comprised of a thousand scattered islands, South of India) and his amazing quest to crush the threat of global warming- which is literally threatening the life of the Island’s inhabitants. (The Maldives are literally sinking at a stomach-lurching rate, due to the additional CO2 in the air, which is raising ocean water levels.) Learning about his twenty years as a political activist and political prisoner before he was elected- this movie is a tribute to a brilliant, illuminating spirit, and absolutely MUST be seen. (Radiohead does the soundtrack, another great reason to see it!)
Kumare: Kumare is the story of a young, hip Indian-American filmmaker (Vikram Gandhi) who initially started out making a doc about spiritual leaders around the world. Quietly demoralized by many of their “fake” attributes, inauthenticity and very Western appetites, he sets upon an experiment: With two pretty young “assistants,” he gets his yoga certification, grows out his long, black beard, moves to Phoenix, AZ (where no one knows him) and literally remakes himself into a spiritual guru named “Kumare.” He then begins teaching self-created meditation and yoga techniques and life-enriching “seminars” at a local yoga studio. Soon, he has up to twenty students, all who start confiding in him their problems, anxieties and general fears about their lives, loves and relationships. The filmmaker now faces a great dilemma: How is he going to “reveal” his true self without breaking everyone’s heart, including his own? The film is being billed as a Borat-style stunt- and perhaps, it may have been originally conceived as such. But the message the filmmaker decides to make the crux of his highly inventive film is a beautiful one- and the film itself is a hilarious, warm, and extraordinarily thought-provoking. Please make sure to check it out!
Lemon: Another wonderful doc at the Doc NYC Film Festival this year, “Lemon” (directed by Laura Brownson and Beth Levinson) focuses upon the tough upbringing and truly resilient, genius spirit of performer Lemon Andersen, discovered By Russell Simons (and placed on both television and Broadway through the Def Poetry Jam series-winning Andersen an ensemble Tony award for the stage version) and chronicles his ups and downs, as well as his tragic Brooklyn childhood and fight to come up from the projects and become a star. The wonderful thing about watching this film is actually getting to observe an artist at work- we see the countless rehearsals of Lemon’s one -man show, his frustrations as he tries to find funding for it, what he must let go off in order to take the show to the next level, (to the historic Public Theatre) and his incredible drive to succeed. Through it all, we see that Lemon is not just a star performer, but a deft and dazzling poet, and we root for him all the way through. A well-conceived and stylized take on the American Dream, and what one has to do if they truly want to attain it. Also- the film is simply fun and beautiful to watch, just gorgeously well produced. You can say you saw it here first, because this will certainly be at a theater near you or on HBO, very soon.
Into the Abyss, A Tale of Death, A Tale of Life: Werner Herzog
Herzog again self-narrates another documentary- this time, a strange and stilted journey into the state of Texas, where he interviews two young men imprisoned for murder, one of them on Death Row, as well as the families of three of their victims. In this extensive investigation into the inhabitants of the small town, the family members, and the killers themselves, it is hard not to focus on the fact that these murders seemed to driven not by love, lust or greed, but by the need simply to possess, of all things, a new sports car. Herzog is not making a simple judgment call on materialism and society, or our literally wasted, orphaned-in-spirit youth. He seems be asking, simply: “Why do we kill? And why do states kill?” As Michael Perry proclaims, and scarily correct days before his execution, “The state of Texas wants to murder me!” I found a smaller film to be much more interesting and actually relevant, which was Grober Babcock’s and Blue Hadaegh’s “Scenes of a Crime.” This doc painstakingly picks apart the gaping holes in a grueling police interrogation of a father whose infant son has died in his care. As we learn how remiss the detectives were in this case, it makes one reflect upon the pressure we put upon our civil servants to keep our lives and our society tightly in line. This was a far more devastating commentary on how, as one hard-working lawyer for the defense put it, “Very few people put in the position of administering justice seem to really care about doing so.”
We will have continuing highlights and coverage of this wonderful documentary film fest. Please stay tuned, and please go to www.docnyc.net to get your tickets now!
By Francesca McCaffery