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2017 DOC NYC Festival Roundup

 A Murder in Mansfield

This year’s DOC NYC Festival, comprising dozens of non-fiction features and shorts, opened with The Final Year, a fly-on-the-wall look at Obama’s last 12 months in office.

Closing night’s Eric Clapton: Life in 12 Bars is directed by Lili Fini Zanuck, who made Rush in 1991, a movie highlighted by Clapton’s mournful “Tears in Heaven,” written after his young son Conor fell to his death from a midtown Manhattan high rise window. That incident looms large in this examination of Clapton’s life and career, which doesn’t skimp on the addictions, adultery and other sordid episodes. But it’s the glorious musicmaking that makes this 135-minute overview a must-see, even for those most familiar with Slowhand.

Another music doc, Ben Lewis’s The Beatles, Hippies and Hell’s Angels—Inside the Crazy World of Apple, looks at the latter half of the Beatles’ meteoric career through the rise and precipitous fall of the quartet’s company Apple, against a background of an increasingly fractured society. Again, there’s not much new here, but it’s related vigorously, with great anecdotes and background information.

Love CecilCecil Beaton—certified dandy and prodigious visual artist—was a world-class photographer who designed the films My Fair Lady and Gigi. His dazzling life of barely-closeted homosexuality is presented in Lisa Immordino Vreeland’s vastly entertaining and touching account, Love Cecil.

Comedian Hari Kondabolu, in Michael Melamedoff’s The Problem with Apu, takes a personal—and critical—look at how The Simpsons character who runs the Quik-E Mart (voiced by non-Indian actor Hank Azaria) is thought of by Asian performers like Kal Penn, who has sworn off the show, and others who feel conflicted about its stereotypical portrayal in a show that, after all, traffics in stereotypes.

Barbara Kopple teamed with Collier Landry for A Murder in Mansfield, an intensely personal account of the aftermath of Collier’s mom Coleen Boyle’s killing, and his coming to terms, more than 20 years later, with his father being in prison for the murder (which he denied having committed). The fluctuating dynamic between father and son—and an absent mother looming large—playing out contributes to a gripping and tough story to watch.

French actor Eric Caravaca directed Plot 35, a touching family puzzle in which Caravaca uncovers what happened to his sister Charlotte, who died before he and his brother were born.

The building of Manhattan Plaza—affordable housing on 9th Avenue for those in the theater community—is recounted in Miracle on 42nd Street, Alice Elliott’s incisive document about those who lived there then and now (including Larry David, Samuel L. Jackson and Angela Lansbury).

Like Kathryn Bigelow’s Detroit, Brian Kaufman’s 12th and Clairmount returns to an incendiary era in that city’s history: the riots of 1967. This is eyewitness testimony at its most explosive, with lots of home-movie and other archival footage providing a greater sense of immediacy.

Ninety-three-year-old retired gynecologist Mahinder Watsa is the title character of Ask the Sexpert, Vaishali Sinha’s amusing but rigorous study of the man behind a helpful (if often maligned) sex advice column in a country that remains torn between extreme conservatism and halting attempts at modernism.

SpiralKarin Jurschick’s Playing God introduces Ken Feinberg, the go-to arbitrator appointed to decide how to distribute the moneys of impossibly large funds like Sept. 11, among others. Jurschick shows Feinberg as a conscientious man well aware of the consequences of his decisions.

The Iconoclast is King Adz’s lively portrait of art forger Michel van Rijn, who intimates at something more: there are suggestions that Michel (who claims he’s related to Rembrandt) may have been involved in the infamous Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum heist and Mossad’s killing of Nazi Josef Mengele.

Contemporary racism is further revealed in Spiral, Laura Fairrie’s powerful dive into today’s burgeoning anti-Semitic movement in Europe. We hear from Jews who take refuge by returning to Israel and others deciding to stay in what are after all their original homelands, even if Holocaust deniers and other bigots are in their midst, often very publicly.

And Talya Tibbon and Joshua Bennett’s Sky and Ground follows several members of the Kurdish Nabi family in its seemingly endless quest of leaving their own war-ravaged Syrian home to a new life in Europe. The refugees’ plight is shown with insight, sympathy and even occasional humor, but never heavy-handed polemics. When the family finally reunites, perhaps not even Steve Bannon would remain unmoved.

To learn more, go to:

DOC NYC Festival
November 9-16, 2017

Yonkers Film Festival Features Shorts, Fists, & Broken Hearts

Mr. Muay Thai Nation

Having announced it's slate of films at the Empire City Casino earlier this year, the Yonkers Film Festival (or YoFi), which runs from November 3 to the 11th, looks to have a wealth of cinematic delights to share with the Yonkers/Westchester area. With the goal of promoting both filmmakers and production in Yonkers and Westchester, YoFi features local directors, actors, and producers of narrative and documentary films, and is being held at the YoFi Digital Media Art Center (66 Main Street, Yonkers, NY).

Films being shown include:

    Tom Klein returns home after an archeological dig abroad thinking he made a big discovery. However, after losing his keys during a night of passion, everything he finds out might change his life forever.

  • Mr. Muay Thai Nation
    Mr. Muay Thai Nation follows Yonkers native, Greg Melia as he prepares for the toughest fight of his amateur Muay Thai kickboxing career. This film explores the character of a driven man, and how his love of family drives him forward.

  • Danni​
    goes on a journey to explore relationship addiction and seeks to find out at what cost does one become "clean" - or not.

  • The Elysian Field
    An untraditional love story that takes place in segregated middle America in the early 1960's. One man will defy the odds to be with his beloved no matter the cost.

    When Emily’s boyfriend abandons her in the night, her only way home is through an alleyway where she is terrorized by the mysterious entity Alfred J Hemlock.

  • ​Addicted
    A father dealing with his own demons becomes suspicious that his son is hiding something from him.

    With the United States gripped in the panic of the Cold War, President Dwight D. Eisenhower deems homosexuals to be “security risks” and orders the immediate firing of any government employee discovered to be gay or lesbian. It triggers a vicious witch hunt that ruins tens of thousands of lives and thrusts an unlikely hero into the forefront of what would become the modern LGBT rights movement.

    A look at the powerful connection between a pair of outdoor ping pong tables in the heart of New York City and the unlikely group of people they’ve brought together, from homeless people to investment bankers to gangbangers.

To learn more, go to:

The Yonkers Film Festival
November 3 - 11, 2017

YoFi Digital Media Art Center
66 Main Street, Yonkers, NY 10701

11th Annual Other Israel FIlm Festival: Zoos, DJs, Bikes. & Borders

In Between

Now in its 11th year, the Other Israel Film Festival returns with a slate of films tackling difficult topics and shining a light on what life is like for young Israelis and Palestinians. The festival runs from November 2nd to 9th at the JCC Manhattan (334 Amsterdam Ave.) and other venues in NYC.  "This year, we focused our mission statement to present the festival as a platform for taking a deeper look and engaging with challenging perspectives surrounding Israel and its neighbors," says Isaac Zablocki, Director of the festival. "These films are the foundation for crucial conversations and inspire the community to grapple with universal themes of diversity and inclusion."

Films include Domino Street, a sort of twist on the Bicycle Thief as a boy goes in search of his stolen bike, A Land Without Borders, which addresses the hard and lengthy battle for a two-state solution for the West Bank, and In Between, about young Palestinian women in Tel Aviv navigating their lives around DJing, finding work, coming out, and living day to day.

To learn more, go to:

The 11th Annual Other Israel Film Festival
November 2 - 9, 2017

JCC Manhattan
334 Amsterdam Ave.
New York, NY 10023

And Various other venues across NYC.

Margaret Mead Film Fest Enlightens at Museum of Natural History


Held at the American Museum of Natural History (Central Park West & 79th St, New York, NY 10024), the Margaret Mead Film Festival (October 19 - 22, 2017) returns for a spectacular slate of inspirational cinema.

From the Museum of Natural History:

The American Museum of Natural History's Margaret Mead Film Festival screens documentaries that increase our understanding of the complexity and diversity of the peoples and cultures that populate our planet. The Mead Festival has evolved with the times while maintaining its important history and has grown steadily to reflect the ever-evolving incarnations of storytelling, technology and growing access to communities near and far. The Mead Festival presents the best in documentary, experimental films, animation, hybrid works, and more.

To learn more, go to:

Margaret Mead Film Festival
October 19 - 22, 2017

American Museum of Natural History

Central Park West at 79th St
New York, NY 10024


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