Thom Powers is my nerd hero. Not only is he the documentary programmer for the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) but also the creator and host of ‘Stranger Than Fiction’ a weekly documentary series at the IFC Center. Last year he added even more doc cred to his resume when he started DOC NYC the largest documentary festival in New York. It’s like the comic-con of docs. And since many of the directors will be in attendance (including Werner Herzog!) there are lots of opportunities for us docu-nerds to awkwardly stalk the filmmakers after the screenings. For those of you who are less into stalking and more into watching movies (boring!) there is still a lot to look forward to. The films playing at this year’s fest are a mega-mezcla of funny, tragic, harrowing, inspiring, enlightening and disturbing stories. Here are some highlights of the Latin films playing at DOC NYC.
Directors: Nelson George & Diane Paragas
Running Time: 74 min | Language: English
Expected to Attend: Nelson George, Diane Paragas, guitarist Vernon Reid and author Toure
“Nelson George explores the fertile ground of Fort Greene, Brooklyn that gave rise to an African-American arts movement in the late 20th century as vibrant as the Harlem Renaissance. An insider in the scene himself, as a distinguished writer (Hip Hop America) and filmmaker (Good Hair), George teams with Diane Paragas to interview Spike Lee, Chris Rock, Branford Marsalis, Rosie Perez, Saul Williams, Lorna Simpson and more for a lively celebration of Brooklyn pride.” Ok, this one technically isn’t a Latino film but it looks cool and Rosie Perez is in it. Doesn’t that count?
Ingrid Betancourt – Six Years in the Jungle | US PREMIERE
Director: Angus Macqueen
Running Time: 95 min | Language: French, English, Spanish
Expected to Attend: Christoph Jörg (producer)
“For six years, Colombian guerrillas held Ingrid Betancourt as a hostage in the jungle while supporters around the world campaigned for her release. Director Angus MacQueen gains remarkable access to Betancourt to uncover the mystery of what she endured during those years. The film also gives a suspenseful account of the daring rescue effort that set her free without a single shot being fired.”
Lemon | US PREMIERE
Directors: Laura Brownson & Beth Levison
Running Time: 88 min | Language: English
Expected to Attend: Laura Brownson, Beth Levison, Lemon Andersen, Russell Simmons
“Three-time felon, one-time Tony Award winner, Lemon Andersen is an acclaimed poet who broke out on Broadway in Russell Simmons’ Def Poetry Jam. But Lemon has landed back in the projects, living with thirteen family members and desperate for a way out. He turns to the only things he has left, his pen and his story. This beautifully crafted film follows his efforts to stage a comeback at the Public Theater as he battles demons from his past. While crossing paths with Spike Lee and other New York tastemakers, Lemon’s life personalizes the anguish of men clinging to the margins of society but fighting for something more. The film features music by hip-hop phenoms Kanye West, Mos Def, Talib Kweli and Aloe Blacc.”
Director: Viviana García Besné
Running Time: 93 min | Language: Spanish, English
Expected to Attend: Viviana García Besné
“In the history of Mexican cinema, the Calderón family is known for building grand movie palaces and producing outrageous genre films disdained by critics yet loved by the masses. Filmmaker Viviana García Besné investigates their legacy from the inside as the grandniece of mogul José Luis Calderón. Her journey uncovers a hidden history full of curvy actresses, masked wrestlers, human robots and Aztec mummies – all driven by the most shameless commercial impulses.”
Shorts: Latin American Visions
Running Time: 63 min | Language: Spanish
Expected to Attend: La Toma Director Paola Mendoza, Ciénaga Director Sebastian Pinzón
“These three shorts from the southern hemisphere tell stories with ecological themes. Ciénaga (13 min, in Spanish; Sebastian Pinzón) looks at a community of fisherman struggling to recover from the legacy of a massacre and environmental damage. Between the Harvest (29 min, in Spanish; Scott Drucker) takes us to Ostional, Costa Rica where locals harvest endangered sea turtle eggs. La Toma, directed by Paola Mendoza, of Entre Nos fame, (21 min, in Spanish) examines the effects of a gold rush in Colombia.”
DOC NYC starts Wednesday, November 2 and runs through November 10, 2011. Most screenings are the IFC Center (on Sixth Avenue at West Third Street) and NYU’s Kimmel Center, just a few blocks away at 60 Washington Square South.