DOC NYC early bird highlights

Pope Francis: A Man Of His Word, The Biggest Little Farm, The Eyes Of Orson Welles and Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

by Anne-Katrin Titze

Morgan Neville's Won’t You Be My Neighbor? on the legacy of Fred Rogers at the Angelika Film Center
Morgan Neville's Won’t You Be My Neighbor? on the legacy of Fred Rogers at the Angelika Film Center Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

John Chester's The Biggest Little Farm, the Opening Night 2018 DOC NYC selection; Mark Cousins' The Eyes Of Orson Welles with Beatrice Welles and executive produced by Michael Moore; Pope Francis: A Man Of His Word directed by Wim Wenders with an original song by Patti Smith, and Morgan Neville's Won’t You Be My Neighbor? on the legacy of Fred Rogers (Tom Hanks is set to star in Marielle Heller's take on Rogers) are four of the early bird highlights.

Tom Hanks is set to star in Marielle Heller's take on Fred Rogers
Tom Hanks is set to star in Marielle Heller's take on Fred Rogers Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

Ben Niles's The 5 Browns: Digging Through The Darkness (on siblings Deondra Brown, Desirae Brown, Melody Brown, Gregory Brown, Ryan Brown who confront family abuse) and Jeremy Workman's The World Before Your Feet on Matt Green's feat of attempting to walk every block of New York City, are two other films of note.

The Oscar-winning director (for 20 Feet From Stardom) Morgan Neville's They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead on the making of Welles's The Other Side Of The Wind screened in the Special Events programme of the 56th New York Film Festival.

At the fifth annual DOC NYC Visionaries Tribute luncheon on November 8, Wim Wenders and Orlando Bagwell (A Hymn For Alvin Ailey in Docs Redux) will be presented with Lifetime Achievement Awards. Wenders will also be attending a screening of Pope Francis: A Man Of His Word at the University of Notre Dame the evening before as part of the forum The Catholic Artistic Heritage: Bringing Forth Treasures New and Old.

Pope Francis: A Man Of His Word

Pope Francis: A Man Of His Word
Pope Francis: A Man Of His Word

The insightful and intimate interviews Wim Wenders conducted with Pope Francis are interspersed with footage of his extensive travels that show the meaning of his words. Indifference is killing us. "God created us free," Francis states and "without freedom we cannot love." He speaks at Yad Vashem on the Mount of Remembrance in Jerusalem, we see him walk through the gate at Auschwitz, on a boat off the coast of Lampedusa (the crisis is documented in Gianfranco Rosi's urgent Fuocoammare) and in a refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos. "Time flies," Wenders says off camera, as we look down over the town of Assisi, at the beginning of ?Pope Francis: A Man Of His Word?. If you catch yourself finishing that sentence in your mind with "when you're having fun," you are not at all on the wrong track, because fun, or as Pope Francis puts it, the importance to "enjoy life" is as much part of the thrust communicated here as is "the dignity of work" or the quest for "fraternal peace." And then there is the importance of play. "Do you play with your children?" he inquires from families - a very serious question. "The more power you have, the more humble you have to be," is a directive that needs constant reminders.

Short List - Thursday, November 8 at 6:30pm - Cinepolis Chelsea; Thursday, November 15 at 10:00am - Cinepolis Chelsea; Expected to attend: Wim Wenders

The Biggest Little Farm

The Biggest Little Farm
The Biggest Little Farm

Animated sequences in a documentary can be a tricky thing, but not here, where youthful drawings accurately represent the uninhibited wish that started this marvellous project - to build a farm out of a children's book, in harmony with nature. John Chester a cameraman with experience in wildlife documentaries and his wife Molly, a chef, felt the time was ripe to embark on this endeavour, when their lovely but very loud rescue dog Todd, made it impossible to stay in their apartment in Los Angeles. Little did they know how many obstacle lay in store for them with failing harvests, wild coyotes, pond scum, tree snails and wildfires threatening the paradise they built on the formerly barren land which lies surrounded by neighbours whose idea of producing food does not match theirs. The Biggest Little Farm will give you nourishment on many different levels. Emma the pig and her rooster pal, barn owls, beehives, birds' nests, all the variety of fruit trees you can imagine, and the crop-saving revelation of what ducks like to snack on even more than duckweed - the film gives us the ups and downs, the seasons and the changes of this heroic quest. At one point, John, amused, shows us what Molly decided to pack in a hurry during an emergency - a back roll and Joseph Campbell's The Power of Myth.

Opening Night - Thursday, November 8 at 6:30pm - SVA Theatre; Expected to attend: John Chester and Molly Chester

The Eyes Of Orson Welles

The Eyes Of Orson Welles
The Eyes Of Orson Welles

Mark Cousins' documentary takes a good look at the one aspect of Orson Welles's artistic creation we know the least about - his paintings and drawings and seemingly random sketches he made from boyhood onwards. There is his famous obsession with noses, and speculation about Chicago and why he might be the "greatest filmmaker shooting upwards." Welles hand-painted lots and lots of Christmas cards, with not a single tree drawn like the other. There is his mother, who died when he was nine. A boat brought him to Ireland at 16 to draw and paint and he faked his way into Dublin's Gate Theatre. A trip to Morocco - frames within frames, later echoed in Mr. Arkadin. The eyes guide the journey taken in this engaging documentary approach. The famous Macbeth production in Harlem, Cradle Will Rock, the rise of fascism in Europe, a boy who had been beaten blind by a police man, making The Trial by Kafka in Paris - new associations emerge about the genius filmmaker you thought you knew. A chapter called Knight, delves into his love life and watercolours of Arizona. With first wife Virginia on West 14th Street in New York. Rita Hayworth looking glorious and glowing in Lady From Shanghai. Is chivalry the appeal of a bullfighter or a dragon slayer? We get to understand the importance of Falstaff and see how Mantegna's breathtaking ceiling painting in Mantua found its way into Othello. Kings And Jesters, Bees And Honey - Cousins depicts a life of calligraphy.

Behind the Scenes - Monday, November 12 at 9:45pm - Cinepolis Chelsea

Won’t You Be My Neighbour?

Won’t You Be My Neighbor? 2
Won’t You Be My Neighbor? 2

Even if you have never seen the children's television program Mister Rogers’ Neighbourhood, which launched in the late Sixties, Morgan Neville's loving documentary will make you mourn for the very best memories of your own childhood. There is a quality of sincerity and playfulness to Fred Rogers and a stern belief that children deserve to hear the truth that makes this film the perfect antidote during these unsettling times. Avoiding the traps of the saccharine and the abstract, as well as violence for violence's sake, for over three decades with the help of makeshift puppets, great guests, and a bag of kindness, the show's real revolutionary power should be celebrated. And this is precisely what Neville does. This is not a film about cardigans in primary colours. This is a film about self-respect instead of self-hatred, caring instead of tolerance, and communication instead of sarcasm. Co-produced with Caryn Capotosto (Best Of Enemies on the stormy relationship between Gore Vidal and William F Buckley Jr.) and Nicholas Ma, Yo-Yo Ma's son, whom Morgan met when he was directing The Music Of Strangers: Yo-Yo Ma And The Silk Road Ensemble.

Short List - Friday, November 9 at 12:45pm - Cinepolis Chelsea; Wednesday, November 14 at 10:15am - Cinepolis Chelsea; Expected to attend: Morgan Neville and producer Caryn Capotosto on November 9

The ninth annual DOC NYC runs from November 8 through November 15.

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