The DOC NYC documentary film festival wrapped Thursday evening doling out jury prizes and celebrating a 21 percent hike in attendance in its sixth outing, which ran from November 12 through 19 at IFC Center, SVA Theatre and the Bow Tie Chelsea Cinemas. There were more than 60 sold out screenings and close to 30,000 attendees. Filmmakers in attendance included Michael Moore, Frederick Wiseman, Barbara Kopple, Jon Alpert, Ethan Hawke, Amy Berg, Kirby Dick, Alex Gibney, Kim Longinotto, Liz Garbus, Davis Guggenheim, Asif Kapadia, Brett Morgen, Morgan Neville, Stanley Nelson, and Joshua Oppenheimer. Other special guests included Hillary Clinton, Martin Scorsese, Susan Sarandon, Danny DeVito, Sharon Jones, Dick Cavett, Omar Epps, Malik Yoba, Bill Binney, Sonia Sanchez, Gilbert Gottfried, Yvonne Rainer, Elizabeth Streb, and Beau Willimon.
Juries selected films from each of the festival’s Viewfinders, Metropolis, Shorts and inaugural DOC NYC U sections to recognize outstanding achievements in form and content. Festival audiences voted for the SundanceNow Doc Club Audience Award.
Motley’s Law, a portrait of Kimberley Motley, the only Western lawyer licensed to work in Afghanistan’s courts and directed by Nicole Horanyi, was the winner in the Viewfinders Competition, which included 10 films representing distinct directorial visions. “Motley’s Law brings the audience into the world of the fascinatingly brave Kimberley Motley,” read the jury statement. “The film offers an unapologetic view of Motley’s practice. The excellent construction of the film exudes strong filmmaking qualities. A brave documentary film in every way.” The jury included Caitlin Crowley, Director of Home Media Sales, Icarus Films; Ryan Harrington, Director of Acquisitions for Docs and Specials, Discovery Communications; David Nugent, Artistic Director, Hamptons International Film Festival.
The Metropolis Competition showcases films that exemplify the diverse range of stories in New York City. The winner was Class Divide, directed by Marc Levin, which look at New York’s gentrification and growing inequality by focusing on the Chelsea intersection of 10th Avenue and 26th Street. The HBO film, the jury said, “is a timely encapsulation of so many of the vital social and political questions facing New York City today. The film gives its viewers an of-the-moment window into so many of the tensions which define life in New York City – race, class, socio-economic injustice, real estate, opportunity and the lack of it… It’s a quintessential New York film.” The jurors were Ann Derry, Editorial Director, Video and Television Partnerships, The New York Times; Erika Dilday, producer at Maysles Institute; Sarah Lash, Acquisitions Consultant, Conde Nast Entertainment.
Winners of the Grand Jury Prize in the Viewfinders and Metropolis competitions will receive a one-week theatrical, awards-qualifying run at the IFC Center in 2016. They will also receive a deliverables package provided by Technicolor-PostWorks New York.
The winner of the Shorts Competition qualifies for consideration in the Documentary Short Subject category of the Academy Awards without the standard theatrical run, provided the film otherwise complies with the Academy rules. The Grand Jury Prize Co-winners were Pink Boy, an intimate portrait of a gender-non-conforming child growing up in conservative, rural Florida directed by Eric Rockey; and The Surrender, directed by Stephen Maing, focuses on a man who is indicted for allegedly jeopardizing national security..
“Creative and well-crafted, Pink Boy is a tender and heartfelt portrait of a transgender boy and his protective loving mother that stayed with this jury long after the film was over. The filmmakers clearly earned the trust of their subjects and managed to produce a film with editorial and emotional resonance.” Regarding “The Surrender,” they said, “This quietly powerful film documents Stephen Kim, a State Department intelligence analyst accused of espionage, in his last few days as a free man before facing a long prison sentence. The aggressive prosecution of leakers isn’t an easy story to tell. But, through beautiful imagery and intimate character moments, The Surrender builds to a gut-wrenching conclusion.” The jurors were Sarafina DiFelice, Associate Director of Programming, Hot Docs; Shayla Harris, Senior Producer for Digital Video, Frontline PBS; Eliza Licht, Vice President of Content Strategy & Engagement, POV.
The DOC NYC U Competition included the best short-form student work coming out of the city’s top documentary programs at New York University, Columbia University, The School of Visual Arts, and New York Film Academy. Their faculties chose the films and the festival provided a platform for their selections in this first-time category. The winning film was Fairy Tales, a profile of a rural working-class Chinese girl turned social media sensation, directed by Rongfei Guo of NYU.
“The jury recognizes this film for its unique character and story,” according to the sdtatement. “Fairy Tales employs creative techniques, attention to detail, and a confidence in directorial style.” The jurors were Iyabo Boyd, Manager of Programs, Chicken & Egg Pictures; Greg Rhem, Director of Documentary Programming, HBO; Bryce Renninger, Editorial Coordinator, Field of Vision.
The SundanceNow Doc Club Audience Award winner was Left on Purpose, directed by Justin Schein and co-directed by David Mehlman. It begins as the portrait of the life of an antiwar radical but instead threatens to become about his suicide. The winners will receive a package of DVDs and a one-year complimentary membership to the SundanceNow Doc Club, which offers streaming access to up to ten new documentaries each month, curated by DOC NYC artistic director Thom Powers.