Basil Tsiokos on DOC NYC, part 2

Themes and perspectives.

by Anne-Katrin Titze

Amy Berg's An Open Secret
Amy Berg's An Open Secret

While the world premiere of Marjorie Sturm's The Cult Of JT Leroy joins DOC NYC, Amy Berg's An Open Secret is still up in the air.

Gracie Otto's The Last Impresario on Michael White, Andrea B. Scott's Florence, Arizona, Keva Rosenfeld's All American High Revisited, Thomas Wirthensohn's Homme Less, Dave Jannetta's Love And Terror On The Howling Plains Of Nowhere, Norah Shapiro's Miss Tibet: Beauty In Exile, Rich Hill by Tracy Droz Tragos, Little White Lie by Lacey Schwartz and Dan Rybicky and Aaron Wickenden's Almost There, connect with Richard Gere's performance in Oren Moverman's Time Out Of Mind, Marion Cotillard in Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne's Two Days, One Night to Michael Keaton's Birdman in Alejandro González Iñárritu's Birdman Or The Unexpected Virtue Of Ignorance, turning questions of identity into passages of time.

Almost There
Almost There

The fifth annual DOC NYC, running from November 13-20, will showcase 154 films and events, including screenings of now 92 feature-length films - if An Open Secret has its world premiere - and 37 shorts. There will also be 24 documentary-related panel discussions and master classes in Doc-A-Thon. They begin on the morning of November 13 with "The First-Time Filmmaker: Mapping Out Your Film: Story And Style". Chicken & Egg Pictures Program Manager Iyabo Boyd, along with filmmakers Farihah Zaman and Jeff Reichert (Remote Area Medical, This Time Next Year) discusses not only how to find a great story, but how to ensure that your film’s style matches the subject, moderated by Edwin Martinez (To Be Heard). Doc-A-Thon concludes on the afternoon of November 20 with Reach Your Audience: Making A Living As A Documentary Filmmaker. Amir Bar-Lev (Happy Valley), Marshall Curry (Point And Shoot), Liz Garbus (Love, Marilyn), and Nelson George (Finding The Funk) lead the discussion, sharing their insights into these and other challenges to nonfiction filmmakers. Moderator: Esther Robinson (founder, ArtHome, and producer, Strong Island).

All American High Revisited
All American High Revisited

Anne-Katrin Titze: Do you have any news concerning Amy Berg's An Open Secret after the press screening was cancelled?

Basil Tsiokos: I don't, unfortunately. No.

AKT: There is nothing you can say about whether the public screening is taking place?

BT: I'm not able to comment on that. No development as far as I know.

AKT: This is one of the films people are very very interested in but I can see you cannot talk.

BT: Okay.

AKT: Theme, for programmers, is one of the big no-no words. Themes are what comes afterwards. After you see films in a festival, you might say, this year for some reason, certain things seem to be in the air. At the New York Film Festival this year, for example, there were many movies that had characters who felt that they don't exist. From Marion Cotillard's character in the Dardennes' Two Days One Night to Michael Keaton's Birdman [Alejandro González Iñárritu]. Does this "trend" continue with DOC NYC? Can you think of 'I don't exist' films in your festival?

Florence, Arizona
Florence, Arizona

BT: That's a very good question.

AKT: Gracie Otto's The Last Impresario on producer Michael White places into the spotlight someone most people in the audience didn't know existed.

BT: I don't think there are films about people who think they don't exist. There's more of those kinds of hidden stories. Unexpected portraits of folks that you would not think of.

AKT: Miss Tibet: Beauty In Exile [Norah Shapiro], had some interesting surprises.

BT: Or I was thinking of Homme Less [Thomas Wirthensohn] or Penthouse North [Johanna St Michaels], these sort of forgotten people or people that are on the fringes. Or Florence, Arizona [Andrea B. Scott], a world premiere that is about small town people that are not used to being on camera.

Homme Less
Homme Less

AKT: We can construct some links there to the identity question I was talking about. Richard Gere talked about how it felt playing a homeless person on the street in Oren Moverman's Time Out Of Mind. The people who are not shown usually on film.

BT: Rich Hill, the film I was talking about fits in there as well. Impoverished youth are not usually the subject of a documentary that doesn't treat them as some kind of spectacle and instead looks at them as rounded characters. Another film that deals with larger questions of identity is Little White Lie [Lacey Schwartz], which is in our American Perspectives. It is about the filmmaker who grew up in a middle-class Jewish family, looked different from her parents but was told she just had Sicilian blood in her. It turns out that her biological father was actually African American and part of a background story that she wasn't aware of. That sort of changed her entire perception of 'Am I white Jewish?' Is this my identity?

The Last Impresario
The Last Impresario

A film in our Midnight section Love And Terror [On The Howling Plains Of Nowhere, by Dave Jannetta] is again about a weird small town which you wouldn't expect in a documentary portrait. Almost There [Dan Rybicky and Aaron Wickenden] is about the outsider artist. Part of the story is the discovery of this person by the filmmakers.

AKT: Are there any great surprises in this year's lineup? Something that you would say formally or content wise is really new? Something you haven't seen before?

BT: I like to think a lot of these films are showing me something in a fresh way, which is why I liked them.

AKT: Are there individual scenes or images, where you would say, this represents 2014 for me?

BT: Documentaries often track that passage of time. Again, that's not necessarily a new thing, I was struck by certain films that are playing with time. Like All American HIgh Revisited [Keva Rosenfeld]. It's not doing something dramatically different, but it takes a film that was made in 1984 and then essentially creates a high school reunion in front of you by catching up with people where they are now. It is done in a really entertaining fashion.

Love And Terror On The Howling Plains Of Nowhere
Love And Terror On The Howling Plains Of Nowhere

Also Marmato, the filmmaker Mark Grieco worked on that project for a number of years. He is able to flesh out a situation that is very complex in this Columbian mining town over time.

AKT: The New York Times recently had an article [Mired in Mediocrity by Vanessa Friedman] talking about the "new mediocre". Of course, it doesn't make something necessarily a bad film when it is conventional or great when it is new. Talk a bit about your masterclasses and panels.

BT: The Doc-A-Thon, sure. They are very much intended for filmmakers, whether it is a newcomer or an established mid-career filmmaker to get advice from step one to the conclusion. We make them very practical on that level. We have a Shorts focus day on Friday [November 14], that is really helpful.

Miss Tibet: Beauty In Exile
Miss Tibet: Beauty In Exile

Short film filmmaking has never been as respected in this country as it has in European nations. For the masterclasses, we didn't really want a panel 101. We want engagement with really practical solutions to problems. You want to bring in people that can speak very plainly but very specifically towards storytelling challenges.

DOC NYC Film Festival screenings:

  • An Open Secret - 9:15 PM, Fri Nov 14 - SVA Theatre; Scheduled to appear: Director Amy Berg
  • All American High Revisited - 9:15 PM, Sun, Nov 16 - IFC Center; Scheduled to appear: Director Keva Rosenfeld
  • Almost There - 6:45 PM, Sat Nov 15 - Bow Tie Chelsea Cinemas - 1:00 PM, Mon Nov 17 - IFC Center; Scheduled to appear: Directors Dan Rybicky and Aaron Wickenden
  • Florence, Arizona - 12:30 PM, Fri Nov 14 - IFC Center - 7:30 PM, Wed Nov 19 - IFC Center; Scheduled to appear: Director Andrea B. Scott, producer Devorah Brand, executive producers David Menschel and Julie Goldman
  • Homme Less - 9:45 PM, Sat Nov 15 - IFC Center; Scheduled to appear: Director Thomas Wirthensohn, producers, Karol Martesko-Fenster and Wolfgang Ramml, editor Josh Cramer, film subject Mark Reay
  • Penthouse North - 6:45 PM, Sun Nov 16 - Bow Tie Chelsea Cinemas; Scheduled to appear: Director Johanna St Michaels
  • The Last Impresario - 7:30 PM, Thu Nov 20 - SVA Theatre; Scheduled to appear: Director Gracie Otto, producer Nicole O'Donohue, other special guests
  • Little White Lie - 7:00 PM, Sun Nov 16 - IFC Center - 10:45 AM, Wed Nov 19 - IFC Center; Scheduled to appear: Director Lacey Schwartz, producer Mehret Mandefro, editors Toby Shimin and Erik Duggers
  • Love And Terror On The Howling Plains Of Nowhere - 11:45 PM, Sat Nov 15 - IFC Center; Scheduled to appear: Director Dave Jannetta
  • Marmato - 2:45 PM, Tue Nov 18 - IFC Center - 5:15 PM, Wed Nov 19 - IFC Center; Scheduled to appear: Director Mark Grieco
  • Miss Tibet: Beauty In Exile - 7:15 PM, Sun Nov 16 - IFC Center - 11:15 AM, Mon Nov 17 - IFC Center; Scheduled to appear: Director Norah Shapiro, producer Kelly Nathe, film subject Tenzin Khecheo
  • Rich Hill - 2:45 PM, Fri Nov 14 - Bow Tie Chelsea Cinemas - 9:30 PM, Sun Nov 16 - IFC Center; Scheduled to appear: Director Tracy Droz Tragos


In part 1, Wim Wenders and Juliano Ribeiro Salgado's portrait on Sebastião Salgado in The Salt of the Earth, Ben Cotner and Ryan White's The Case Against 8 on California's Propostion 8 banning same-sex marriage, Rory Kennedy's Last Days In Vietnam, Life Itself, based on Roger Ebert's memoir directed by Steve James, D.A. Pennebaker and William Ray's David on jazz trumpeter David Allen, Tracy Droz Tragos and Andrew Droz Palermo's Rich Hill and Divide in Concord directed by Kris Kaczor and Dave Regos entered into our conversation.

For full details of the schedule and to book tickets, visit the official DOC NYC site.

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