NYFF52 Spotlight on Documentary

It’s a commonplace to think of documentary as an add-on to fiction, something extra, and of course nothing could be further from the truth: cinema started with documentary, and it will always be at the core of the art form. These 15 films, so vastly different in outlook and method and tone, represent the best in documentary filmmaking today.

The 50 Year Argument

The 50 Year Argument

The New York Review of Books, a renowned NY literary institution that’s played a substantial role in American cultural and political life, gets the royal treatment in this celebration of a half-century of critical engagement and dissent that features guest appearances by James Baldwin, Gore Vidal, Susan Sontag, Norman Mailer, Joan Didion, and a host of other literary and political luminaries.

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Sunday, September 28

9:00pm

Sunday, September 28

9:30pm

Monday, September 29

3:30pm
Dreams Are Colder Than Death

Dreams Are Colder Than Death

Arthur Jafa’s haunted cinematic meditation begins with a question: what does it mean to be black in America in the 21st century? The many troubled and troubling answers comprise a powerful choral work of sustained, burning intensity.

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Wednesday, October 01

7:00pm
Iris

Iris

World Premiere

The latest film by the great documentarian Albert Maysles is a portrait of fashion- and interior-design maven Iris Apfel as she celebrates the late wave of popularity she enjoyed on the heels of a 2006 exhibition of her collection, advises young women on their fashion choices, and cheerfully bargains with store owners.

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Thursday, October 09

6:00pm

Friday, October 10

3:45pm
The Iron Ministry

The Iron Ministry

This thrilling new film from J.P. Sniadecki, shot over three years during a series of train journeys across China, is a great work of ethnographically grounded cinema.

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Sunday, October 05

3:00pm
The Look of Silence

The Look of Silence

Emotionally wrenching, Joshua Oppenheimer’s The Look of Silence is a companion piece to his first film, The Act of Killing (ND/NF 2013), about the mid-1960s Indonesian genocide. In a society where the populace has been cowed into silence, the adult brother of one of the hundreds of thousands of victims tracks down and confronts the killers and their families.

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Tuesday, September 30

6:00pm

Wednesday, October 01

9:00pm
Merchants of Doubt

Merchants of Doubt

In his witty yet chilling documentary, Robert Kenner introduces us to scientific spin doctors who are really magicians at sowing seeds of doubt into the public perception of climate change. In sharing their trade secrets, they give a step-by-step account of how political subterfuge in the unspoken name of corporate greed can hijack the scientific process.

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Wednesday, October 08

7:45pm

Thursday, October 09

3:30pm
National Gallery

National Gallery

U.S. Premiere

Frederick Wiseman’s glorious new documentary is about the energies of and around painting—discussing, framing, mounting, lighting, repairing, restoring, creating, and looking at painting. But, perhaps above all, it’s a film of faces: the faces of those looking and the faces of those who look back from the canvases, in an endless, joyful exchange.

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Sunday, October 05

4:00pm
Non-fiction Diary

Non-fiction Diary

U.S. Premiere

Chronicling a history of violence and death from society’s lower depths to its corridors of power, Jung Yoon-suk’s gripping documentary is a quietly devastating indictment of pervasive injustice nested within the post–military dictatorship economic breakout of South Korea in the 1990s.

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Tuesday, September 30

6:00pm

Wednesday, October 01

3:00pm
One Cut, One Life

One Cut, One Life

The final film from Ed Pincus, one of the key figures in the history of documentary cinema, made with his creative partner Lucia Small, is not a film about death but a joyous demonstration of the necessity of love, work, and beauty.

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Monday, September 29

6:00pm
Red Army

Red Army

The Cold War is played out on ice in Gabe Polsky’s wildly entertaining portrait of the great Soviet players of the Red Army hockey team. Following team captain (and one-time NHL star) Slava Fetisov, Polsky examines how sport both embodies and reflects social, political and cultural realities.

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Saturday, October 04

3:15pm

Sunday, October 05

9:00pm
Seymour: An Introduction

Seymour: An Introduction

Ethan Hawke’s warm, lucid portrait of pianist and teacher Seymour Bernstein is also a film about the patience, concentration, and devotion that are fundamental to the practice of art and life.

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Saturday, September 27

12:00pm

Monday, September 29

9:00pm
Silvered Water, Syria Self-Portrait

Silvered Water, Syria Self-Portrait

U.S. Premiere

Syrian filmmaker in exile Ossama Mohammed’s cinematic collage of the horrors and deprivations of life in his home country, made in collaboration with Wiam Simav Bedirxan, is a brave and frightening movie that embodies freedom through the very act of filming and making cinema.

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Wednesday, October 08

6:15pm
Stray Dog

Stray Dog

This documentary portrait of biker and Vietnam vet Ron “Stray Dog” Hall is a moving film about community and the bonds that hold it together, and, in its surprising second half, a vivid snapshot of a changing America.

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Thursday, October 02

7:30pm

Friday, October 03

6:15pm
Sunshine Superman

Sunshine Superman

U.S. Premiere

Marah Strauch’s evocative movie, which tells the incredible story of Carl Boenish, the exuberant inventor of BASE jumping (parachuting from a fixed object), is in the end a film about joy and freedom.

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Monday, October 06

9:00pm

Tuesday, October 07

6:00pm