Susan Morris Surveys the 4th Edition of New York’s Documentary Film Festival, DOC NYC

East, On View
Friday, November 15, 2013
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Still from If You Build It. (Courtesy Long Shot Factory Release)

Still from If You Build It. (Courtesy Long Shot Factory Release)

DOC NYC
New York City
November 14-21
IFC Center and SVA Theater

This year the 4th DOC NYC documentary film festival boasts 132 films and events: 73 feature-length, 39 shorts, and 20 panels. Tucked into the schedule are films about architecture, design, and the arts amongst a wide array of subjectmatter. Only one, If You Build It, was also seen at the recent Architecture & Design Film Festival, so here’s your chance to view a new crop and to see the ones you’ve missed.

Still from Rebuilding the World Trade Center. (Courtesy Key Image)

Still from Rebuilding the World Trade Center.

Rebuilding the WTC documents the process of rebuilding at Ground Zero for six years with time-lapse photography, paintings, drawings, and interviews with the working men and women on site. Tiny: A Story About Living Small chronicles one couple’s documentation of their efforts to build a micro-house from scratch in the Colorado mountains raising questions on sustainability, good design, living in houses smaller than the average parking space, and countering the trend of MacMansions. In Michel Gondry’s (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) charming self-drawn animated film on linguist Noam Chomsky, Is the Man Who is Tall Happy?, he cites Frank Gehry’s work as 3D Mondrian. Toxic Hot Seat unpicks the history and consequences of regulations mandating fire-retardants for furniture, starting with the tobacco industry’s successful lobbying to blame house fires on upholstered furniture rather than lit cigarettes, and the resulting deadly chemicals inhabiting our interiors.

Still from Finding Vivian Maier. (Courtesy IFC Films)

Still from Finding Vivian Maier. (Courtesy IFC Films)

PHOTOGRAPHY. Photographer Ishiuchi Miyako muses on the personal artifacts of Hiroshima victims: “To most people they’re only objects, but to me I see them as living creatures. I’m willing them into existence, saying, ‘please become visible’” which she does in her haunting photographs that infer the stories of their owners in Things Left Behind. Another photographer, Saul Leitner, deals with the triple burden of clearing an apartment full of memories, becoming famous in his 80′s and fending off a pesky filmmaker in In No Great Hurry. A mysterious nanny, who secretly took over 100,000 photographs that were hidden in storage lockers and discovered decades later, is now the subject of an exhibition at Howard Greenberg Gallery (through December 14) and the film Finding Vivian Maier.

Levitated Mass.

Levitated Mass.

ARTS. If you followed the trail of moving the 340-ton granite boulder across 105 miles, through 22 cities to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art last year for Michael Heizer’s installation of Levitated Mass suspended over a V-shaped walkway, here’s a chance to follow the process. 88-year old outsider artist Al Carbee makes art featuring Barbie dolls in Magical Universe, while Grey City depicts the struggle of a Brazilian graffiti art whose works are painted over by the city of Sao Paulo. The graphic mindscape and journals of Leonardo pop to life in the third dimension in Inside the Mind of Leonardo: 3D, and three Italian master tailors display their disappearing Old World Craft in Men of the Cloth.

Is the the Man who is Tall Happy. (Courtesy IFC Films)

Is the the Man who is Tall Happy? (Courtesy IFC Films)

MUSIC. On the music front, there is Punk Singer Kathleen Hanna of Bikini Kill and Le Tigre (and wife of Beastie Boy Adam Horovitz); Revenge of the Mekons, the British punk-turned-country bank that’s been together since 1977 and is admired by Luc Sante, Jonathan Franzen, Mary Harron, and Fred Armison (who was married to the lead singer); We Always Lie to Strangers about the phenomenon of Branson, Missouri, the “live music capital of the world”; Harlem Street Singer, about the blind Reverend Gary Davis, whose blues and gospel mentored members of the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Peter, Paul & Mary and played with Leadbelly, Woody Guthrie, and Brown McGhee; Pleasures of Being Out of Step, a portrait of 88 year-old jazz writer Nat Hentoff, who champions the idea of free expression as the defining characteristic of the individual; the exhilarating 20 Feet from Stardom about heard-but-not seen backup singers; We Don’t Wanna Make You Dance, a twist on the 7 Up series of revisiting the same cast of a white teen funk band over time; and Mercedes Sosa: Voice of Latin America on the Argentinean singer’s 60-year career.

View the full schedule here.

Films and directors:
Finding Vivian Maier, JOHN MALOOF & CHARLIE SISKEL
Grey City, MARCELO MESQUITA & GUILHERME VALIENGO
Harlem Street Singer, TREVOR LAURENCE & SIMEON HUTNER
If You Build It, PATRICK CREADON
In No Great Hurry, TOMAS LEACH
Inside the Mind of Leonardo: 3D, JULIAN JONES
Is the Man Who is Tall Happy?, MICHEL GONDRY
Levitated Mass, DOUG PRAY
Magical Universe, JEREMY WORKMAN
Men of the Cloth, VICKI VASILOPOULOS
Mercedes Sosa: Voice of Latin America, RODRIGO H. VILA
Pleasures of Being Out of Step, DAVID L. LEWIS
Punk Singer, SINI ANDERSON
Rebuilding the World Trade Center, MARCUS ROBINSON
Revenge of the Mekons, JOE ANGIO
Things Left Behind, LINDA HOAGLUND
Tiny: A Story About Living Small, MERETE MUELLER & CHRISTOPHER SMITH
Toxic Hot Seat, JAMES REDFORD & KIRBY WALKER
20 Feet from Stardom, MORGAN NEVILLE
We Always Lie to Strangers, AJ SCHNACK & DAVID WILSON
We Don’t Wanna Make You Dance, LUCY KOSTELANTZ

Still from Grey City.

Still from Grey City.

Toxic Hot Seat. (Courtesy HBO Documentary Films)

Toxic Hot Seat. (Courtesy HBO Documentary Films)

Tiny. (Courtesy Kevin Hoth)

Tiny. (Courtesy Kevin Hoth)

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