Looking ahead to DOC NYC

Artistic Director Thom Powers on some of the treats coming up.

by Anne-Katrin Titze

DOC NYC Artistic Director Thom Powers at the IFC Center
DOC NYC Artistic Director Thom Powers at the IFC Center Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

This year's DOC NYC will open with Valentino: The Last Emperor director Matt Tyrnauer's latest, Citizen Jane: Battle For The City, and close with John Scheinfeld's Chasing Trane: The John Coltrane Documentary. Thom Powers and I covered a wide range of films including Dawn Porter's Trapped, Kirsten Johnson's Cameraperson, Werner Herzog's Into The Inferno, Roger Ross Williams's Life, Animated, Ben Bowie and Geoff Luck's Naledi: A Baby Elephant's Tale, Jon Nguyen, Rick Barnes and Olivia Neergaard-Holm's David Lynch: The Art Life, Claire Simon's Le Concours, Richard Ladkani and Kief Davidson's The Ivory Game, Tom Hanks, John Mayer and Sam Shepard in Doug Nichol's California Typewriter, Lara Stolman's Swim Team, Adam Irving's Off The Rails and scads more when I sat down with the Artistic Director for our in-depth conversation.

Fire At Sea (Fuocoammare) director Gianfranco Rosi in conversation with Anne-Katrin Titze on Boatman at BAMcinématek
Fire At Sea (Fuocoammare) director Gianfranco Rosi in conversation with Anne-Katrin Titze on Boatman at BAMcinématek Photo: Emilie Spiegel

DOC NYC Director of Programming Basil Tsiokos and Executive Director Raphaela Neihausen, along with Thom Powers, have outdone themselves by bringing in an even broader variety of films, events and panels.

Anne-Katrin Titze: Last night, I was doing the post-screening discussion for Boatman at BAM [Brooklyn Academy of Music] with Gianfranco [Rosi].

Thom Powers: Oh, yeah, terrific. I interviewed him for my podcast Pure Nonfiction and he talked about that movie.

AKT: What did he say?

TP: He talked about when he originally went to do it, he thought he would film one day. But, as he probably mentioned to you, he wound up having to go back several times over the course of ….

AKT: Five years almost.

TP: Yeah, a few years to capture the experience that in the film looks like as if it had taken place in one day.

AKT: Which is great. To think you have the beginning and the end of a day and then it takes five years to fill in the rest of the day. Gianfranco is on your Short List with Fire At Sea.

TP: That's right.

AKT: Your opening night film is Citizen Jane.

Swim Team
Swim Team

TP: Citizen Jane is a film that I showed in my role at the Toronto International Film Festival for its world premiere and I'm really honored to have the US premiere here at DOC NYC.

AKT: It's such a New York film.

TP: It is such a New York film! We've had to add a third screening at 9:45 that night to accommodate the demand for it. This is a film about a citizens movement standing up against a bullying developer from New York City. I think that's an idea that has a lot of resonance in this election year.

AKT: One of the protagonists is a name everybody knows and the other is really very unfamiliar.

TP: It's fascinating, lots of people know the great biography of Robert Moses [Robert Caro's The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York], The Power Broker. That book is about 1200 pages long and it doesn't anywhere mention the name Jane Jacobs. She is someone, I think, who has been left out of history unfairly and this film by Matt Tyrnauer does a beautiful job of restoring her place in history.

AKT: And very differently from Valentino: The Last Emperor.

TP: It's a very different film from his first film on Valentino, that's right.

AKT: You show Swim Team.

To Be Heard
To Be Heard

TP: Swim Team is a lovely film about a swim team from New Jersey made up of people somewhere on the autism spectrum. This is a film that exemplifies what is so much fun about doing a festival in New York City. Because there's so many great stories that come out of this area, not just New York City itself but nearby, like this story from New Jersey.

AKT: I loved the characters.

TP: So you got a chance to see it? I think it's going to be so special to show that film with so many of the characters and their families here. And that to me is something that really sets a festival experience apart from any other way you can watch movies.

You get to be there with the filmmakers and the participants most of the time and you get to watch it with a community and have those conversations later. For me that's much more special than sitting at home alone watching a film.

AKT: It makes all the difference in the world. I get a lot of positive feedback from my students when they come to events. I like bringing the two worlds together. Some of the college students have never been to a post-screening discussion.

Off The Rails
Off The Rails

TP: Make sure that we have your name on our list to offer specials. Like we're doing a free screening of the film To Be Heard, which won an award in our first year. This is about kids in the Bronx who use poetry to kind of make sense of their sometimes difficult situations in their lives. It's a really beautiful film, made by three filmmakers, one of whom passed away this year. So we're doing a free screening with the support of the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment.

AKT: Another very New York film is Off The Rails.

TP: Yes. Off The Rails - I think this is a story a lot of people are familiar with from headlines about this man [Darius McCollum] with Asperger’s syndrome who is obsessed with trains, so much so that he impersonates an MTA driver. He has driven buses and NYC subways. I think if you know the story from the headline, it's a head scratcher but when you take a longer, more careful look at this figure in the film, it's a much more complicated story.

AKT: A totally different person emerges. I did not expect him to be this way from the headlines.

TP: He is a pretty endearing character.

AKT: Very much so.

DOC NYC public screenings:

  • Opening Night Gala - Citizen Jane: Battle For The City - Thursday, November 10 at 7:00pm - SVA Theatre; 7:30pm - SVA Theatre; 9:45pm - SVA Theatre; Expected to attend: Matt Tyrnauer with producers Robert Hammond and Corey Reeser
  • Short List - Fire At Sea (Fuocoammare) - November 12 at 12:45pm - Cinepolis Chelsea - Expected to attend: Gianfranco Rosi
  • Metropolis - Off The Rails - Saturday, November 12 at 9:30pm - SVA Theatre; Expected to attend: Director Adam Irving
  • Jock Docs - Swim Team - Thursday, November 17 at 7:30pm - SVA Theatre; Expected to attend: Director Lara Stolman, producer Shanna Belott, co-producer Ann Collins with subjects Mike and Maria McQuay with their son Mike, Jr., and Rosa Justino with her son Robbie
  • Docs Redux - To Be Heard is a free screening presented by Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment as part of 50 Years of Magic, celebrating 50 years of film and TV production in New York City on Saturday, November 12 at 11:00am - SVA Theatre; Expected to attend: Directors Edwin Martinez, Deborah Shaffer and Amy Sultan; subjects Pearl Quick and Karina Sanchez

Coming up - Thom Powers on selections in the DOC NYC Short List, Behind the Scenes, Wild Life, Art & Design with Tom Hanks and Sam Shepard in California Typewriter and David Lynch: The Art Life, True Crime, Science Nonfiction, Sonic Cinema, plus so much more.

The seventh annual DOC NYC runs from November 10 through November 17

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