JR's Faces Places (Visages villages) co-director Agnès Varda at her Blum & Poe exhibition Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze
Last year's DOC NYC Short List programme had the five Documentary Feature Oscar nominees - Ava DuVernay's 13th; Roger Ross Williams's Life, Animated; Raoul Peck's I Am Not Your Negro; Gianfranco Rosi's Fire At Sea (Fuocoammare), and the 89th Academy Award winner, OJ: Made In America, directed by Ezra Edelman.
Brett Morgen's Jane Goodall documentary Jane with a score by Philip Glass; Ceyda Torun's KEDi, and Agnès Varda and JR's Cannes Film Festival Golden Eye Award winner Faces Places (culminating in a visit to Jean-Luc Godard's front door) from the DOC NYC Short List selections and Blue Velvet Revisited (featuring David Lynch, Kyle MacLachlan, Isabella Rossellini, Dennis Hopper, Laura Dern, Jack Nance), directed by Peter Braatz (who was second unit on Wim Wenders' Wings Of Desire) in the Behind the Scenes program, are four of this year's DOC NYC early bird highlights.
Faces Places was in the Main Slate and Jane in the Spotlight on Documentary program of the 55th New York Film Festival. Blue Velvet Revisited had its world premiere in the 2016 London Film Festival and KEDi in the 2016 !f Istanbul Independent Film Festival.
Dr. Louis Leakey's secretary, a 26-year-old woman with no science degree but great patience and an even greater love of animals, was sent to Gombe Stream National Park in Tanzania in 1960 to get as close to the local wild chimpanzees as humanly possible. Jane Goodall did get phenomenally close and Brett Morgen's documentary, assembled mainly from 16mm archival footage shot by Jane's at the time soon to be husband, filmmaker and photographer, Hugo van Lawick, brings us right there into their world. The breathtaking animal footage, mostly colour, some black and white, he shot for National Geographic, is accompanied by an interview with present day Jane Goodall and an original score by Philip Glass. She talks about how as a child she dreamt - "as a man" - that she was going to go to Africa and live with animals. Goodall became the first person to ever study chimpanzees up-close in the wild and shocked the world by discovering their toolmaking abilities. The up to this point unseen footage gives us unforgettable glimpses into the Gombe chimpanzees' tactics of mothering and warfare, thievery and grooming. "The more I learned, the more I realized how much like us they were," says Goodall. She wanted to talk to them like Dr Doolittle and be "without fear" like Tarzan.
Short List - Friday, November 10 at 5:15pm - Cinepolis Chelsea; Tuesday, November 14 at 12:30pm - Cinepolis Chelsea; Expected to attend: Brett Morgen
Blue Velvet Revisited
Blue Velvet Revisited
Did you ever imagine what it would be like to time travel and get a glimpse behind the scenes to see how your favorite movie was made? If the answer is yes and the film in question happens to be Blue Velvet, you're in luck. Peter Braatz in 1985 had access to the shoot in Wilmington, North Carolina and brought back a wealth of Super 8, audio and video material that he combined into a "meditation" of sights and sounds, photographic stills and songs. There is no explanatory voice to guide us, the structure is loose with music for this re-visitation by Tuxedomoon, Cult With No Name and John Foxx. Remarkably, during three on-camera interviews with Lynch, weeks apart into the process, he talks about how lucky and happy he is, how much he enjoys the work on this film and how great the individual parts look and feel. Isabella Rossellini points to David's "innocence" that ultimately makes him "very poetic" and that the screenplay for Blue Velvet, read all together, could easily be understood as the monologue of one person. When Braatz captures her during a scene rehearsal, via shaky hand-held camera, singing the title song, the documentary for a moment lifts off to float into another sphere. We now know that Lynch was absolutely right with his good feelings - the result being one of the 20th century's most remarkable works of art.
Behind the Scenes - Tuesday, November 14 at 9:30pm - Cinepolis Chelsea
The cats of Istanbul very firmly, with a purr, a pounce, or an accusatory glance, tell us what is really important in life - to take care of each other. They arrived on boats from all over the world during the Ottoman Empire. The cuteness, which is undeniable, never comes across as escapist in KEDi, quite the contrary. Closeups of their faces abound. One cat is smacking its lips in slow motion, another one wakes up from a deep, restful sleep. People stop in their tracks and pet them stretched out on the hoods of cars or a park bench. If they are trouble, trouble is what we need more of. The skillful and entertaining editing by Mo Stoebe adds to the intimacy. Gulls swarming and squeaking above a city. As little E.T.s from the skies or deities in furry disguise from the heavens, they are here to test us, amuse themselves with us and teach us by their sheer presence. A cat on a hot tin roof. The tone of Ceyda Torun's sharp-eyed KEDi, shot by Charlie Wuppermann and Alp Korfali, is set. The documentary also is the portrait of a city in danger of losing its core where modern city development threatens the areas the cats call home. Snacks and water bowls mark alleys everywhere and signs warn tourists and cat agnostics not to mess with these offerings, or else.
Short List - Sunday, November 12 at 11:30am - SVA Theatre; Monday, November 13 at 1:30pm - Cinepolis Chelsea; Expected to attend: Ceyda Torun
Agnès Varda and her 21st century travelling circus companion, visual artist JR, roam the French countryside in a magical, special photo-booth outfitted, bus that allows them to produce gigantic posters of the people [and goats] they encounter. The images are slapped onto silos, shipping containers, walls, barns or bunkers and function as impermanent reminders that they and you are here right now in the present. JR, who is 33 years old during filming, is put on the spot by the 88-year-old with the two-tone monk's haircut, who says that she was exactly 33 (a loaded age if there ever was one) when she filmed Jean-Luc Godard as he took his dark sunglasses off for her. With Varda, you never know in advance what you glean. Maybe a sexton will explain how he maneuvers four big bells simultaneously. Maybe the fish bought at the local market will soon greet you from high up on a water tower. When something doesn't ring true, it may be simply the invention of that cat over there on the tree staring at us all in disbelief. Varda's legendary, unmistakable voice-over comments on their findings and what escaped. She loves to prod and poke at injustice as much as she revels in the celebratory. People are never abstractions in Varda's work and JR can hide behind his glasses for eternity, he does not escape the inspection of the grandmaster of quirky, socially conscious cinema.
Short List - Tuesday, November 14 at 5:00pm - IFC Center; Expected to attend: Agnès Varda
The eighth annual DOC NYC runs from November 9 through November 16.