The New York-based documentary festival’s full lineup includes films about Kenny G, Dionne Warwick, and Dean Martin.
With the grand in-person return of the New York Film Festival in the rearview mirror, New York’s fall festival season barrels on with Doc NYC, the largest documentary festival in the country. This year’s festival will return to in-person theatrical screenings, with virtual options and passes available as well. The 2021 lineup includes more than 120 feature-length documentaries, including 32 world premieres and 34 U.S. premieres. World premieres include films on figures such as NBA legend Kevin Garnett, recently passed rapper DMX, rat pack crooner Dean Martin, and the late literary icon Kurt Vonnegut. They join previously announced titles on Kenny G and Dionne Warwick, as well as Matthew Heineman’s “The First Wave,” a penetrating look at the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic in New York City.
Doc NYC is also launching three new competitive sections this year: A U.S. Competition for new American nonfiction films, an International Competition for work from around the globe, and the Kaleidoscope Competition for new essayistic and formally adventurous documentaries. Those join the festival’s longstanding Metropolis Competition, showcasing New York stories.
“After pivoting in 2020 to present a completely online festival, we’re thrilled to be bringing films and filmmakers in person to New Yorkers again. But we’re very happy that we’ll also continue to serve our new audience across the country by once again presenting films online this year,” said the festival’s artistic director Thom Powers. “We’re proud to showcase such a wide spectrum of documentary representing the diverse perspectives of our programming team.”
Doc NYC runs from November 10-28. Festival tickets and passes may be purchased online here. Check out the full Doc NYC lineup for 2021 below.
LISTENING TO KENNY G (NYC Premiere)
Dir: Penny Lane
Prod: Gabriel Sedgwick
A witty and provocative profile of Grammy-winning saxophonist Kenny G that also asks a bigger question: what makes music good or bad?
THE FIRST WAVE (NYC Premiere)
Dir/Prod: Matthew Heineman
Prod: Jenna Millman, Leslie Norville
A powerful look at the doctors, nurses, and patients on the frontlines during the “first wave” of Covid-19 in New York City from March to June 2020.
CITIZEN ASHE (NYC Premiere)
Dir: Sam Pollard
Dir/Prod: Rex Miller
Prod: Beth Hubbard, Anna Godas, Steven Cantor, Jamie Schutz, Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe
This penetrating biography of the tennis legend Arthur Ashe charts how he navigated between a conservative sports culture and the activist politics of the Civil Rights movement.
DIONNE WARWICK: DON’T MAKE ME OVER (NYC Premiere)
Dir/Prod: Dave Wooley
Dir: David Heilbroner
In this career-spanning portrait, richly illustrated with vintage musical performances, Dionne Warwick is a marvelous raconteur sharing candid stories behind her hit songs.
14 PEAKS: NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE (World Premiere)
Dir/Prod: Torquil Jones
Prod: Drew Masters, Barry Smith, John McKenna, Catherine Quantschnigg
In 2019, Nepalese mountain climber Nirmal “Nims” Purja set out to do the unthinkable by climbing the world’s fourteen highest summits in less than seven months.
THE AUTOMAT (NYC Premiere)
Dir/Prod: Lisa Hurwitz
Led by the irrepressible Mel Brooks, this lighthearted trip through the history of the iconic eateries features an impressive roster of celebrities (Colin Powell, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Carl Reiner, to name a few) waxing nostalgic on their experiences at the nickel-driven restaurants.
KEVIN GARNETT: ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE (World Premiere)
Dir/Prod: Daniel B. Levin, Eric W. Newman
Prod: Mike Marangu
Over the course of a Hall of Fame NBA career, Kevin Garnett transformed from a brash kid fresh off the prep circuit into a grizzled veteran lauded for his trademark passion for the game.
IN CONVERSATION WITH JOAN CHURCHILL
DOC NYC’s 2021 Lifetime Achievement Award recipient reflects on a prodigious career, from her work as a cameraperson on Gimme Shelter through her collaborations with Nick Broomfield and beyond, and shares her new short documentary, “Shoot from the Heart.”
ANONYMOUS SISTER (World Premiere)
Dir/Prod: Jamie Boyle
Prod: Marilyn Ness, Elizabeth Westrate
Filmmaker Jamie Boyle turns the camera on her own family when her mother and sister become dependent on opioids.
BE OUR GUEST (World Premiere)
Dir/Prod: Diane Tsai
A family in a small New Hampshire town learns to balance their needs with their unconventional home life when they open their doors to those recovering from addiction.
BOYCOTT (World Premiere)
Dir/Prod: Julia Bacha
Prod: Suhad Babaa, Daniel J. Chalfen
Award-winning filmmaker Julia Bacha (Budrus) looks at the recent explosion of laws designed to penalize Americans who push boycotts against Israel.
EXPOSURE (NYC Premiere)
Dir/Prod: Holly Morris
Prod: Eleanor Wilson, Michael Kovnat, Jill Mazursky
Eleven women, many from Arab countries, embark on a long, dangerous trek to the North Pole.
GRANDPA WAS AN EMPEROR (World Premiere)
Dir/Prod: Constance Marks
Prod: Corinne LaPook
Yeshi, great granddaughter of famed Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie, investigates what happened to her beloved father after the 1974 coup that landed most of her family in prison.
NEWTOK (World Premiere)
Dir/Prod: Andrew Burton, Michael Kirby Smith
As the effects of climate change become ever more apparent throughout the world, the Yup’ik people and their lands on the western outskirts of Alaska face a much more imminent threat.
OBJECTS (World Premiere)
Dir/Prod: Vincent Liota
An NPR correspondent, a literary author and a graphic designer let us in on the secret life of the special objects they keep as a way to preserve memories, conjure experiences and find meaning in their lives.
ONCE UPON A TIME IN UGANDA (US Premiere)
Dir/Prod: Cathryne Czubek, Hugo Perez
Prod: Gigi Dement, Matt Porwoll, Kyaligamba Ark Martin
Two men from opposite sides of the world (Uganda and New York) come together over a shared love for action cinema and start making films together in the slums of Kampala.
REFUGE (World Premiere)
Dir/Prod: Erin Berhardt, Din Blankenship
In a small, uncommonly diverse town in Georgia, a successful Kurdish doctor and a Muslim-hating white supremacist form an unlikely and healing friendship.
THE SLOW HUSTLE (NYC Premiere)
Dir: Sonja Sohn
Prod: Mahrya Macintire
Actress and filmmaker Sonja Sohn (The Wire, Baltimore Rising) delves into a detective’s mysterious death and unearths the seedy underbelly of a Baltimore police unit.
A TREE OF LIFE (World Premiere)
Dir: Trish Adlesic
Prod: Susan Margolin, Geeta Gandbhir
Survivors of the deadly white supremacist attack at a Pittsburgh Synagogue in 2018 recount their harrowing experience.
UNITED STATES VS. REALITY WINNER (NYC Premiere)
Dir/Prod: Sonia Kennebeck
Producers: Ines Hofmann Kanna
Award-winning filmmaker Sonia Kennebeck (National Bird, Enemies of the State), supported by executive producer Wim Wenders, digs into the case of Reality Winner, the whistleblower who leaked a classified document about Russian attacks on the infrastructure of U.S. elections.
AFTER THE RAIN (US Premiere)
Dir: Jian Fan
Prod: Richard Liang, S. Leo Chiang
After the sudden deaths of their daughters, two families set out to “replace” their children and rebuild their lives over the course of ten years.
BE MY VOICE (US Premiere)
Dir/Prod: Nahid Persson
Prod: Setareh Lundgren
Filmmaker Nahid Persson (Prostitution Behind the Veil, The Queen and I) follows journalist and activist Masih Alinejad, the voice of millions of Iranian women rebelling on social media against the forced use of the hijab.
THE BUBBLE (NYC Premiere)
Dir: Valerie Blankenbyl
Prod: Dario Schoch, Rajko Jazbec
A deeper look at the inner workings of Florida’s The Villages, the world’s largest retirement community, which offers everything that a pensioner’s heart desires but hides some darker secrets.
Dir/Prod: Gian Cassini (US Premiere)
Prod: Gabriel Guzmán S., Ana Medellín
Filmmaker Gian Cassini investigates the legacy of his father, El Jimmy, who was a hitman in Tijuana, in this a profound meditation on healing family wounds.
COME BACK ANYTIME (NYC Premiere)
Dir: John Daschbach
Prod: Wataru Yamamoto
A year in the life of a tiny neighborhood noodle shop in Tokyo, its master chef owners, and the loyal patrons who come for the camaraderie as much as the food.
THE DEVIL’S DRIVERS (NYC Premiere)
Dir: Mohammed Abugeth,
Dir/Prod: Daniel Carsenty
Despite the risk of jail, drivers Hamouda and his cousin Ismail smuggle Palestinian workers by car into Israel where labor is in high demand.
F@CK THIS JOB (US Premiere)
Dir/Prod: Vera Krichevskaya
Prod: Mike Lerner
Russian journalist Vera Krichevskaya covers several tumultuous years inside Dozhd, the only independent TV channel in Russia.
THE FORGOTTEN ONES (US Premiere)
Dir: Michale Boganim
Prod: Marie Balducchi
The Mizrahim —North African and Eastern European Jews—struggle for full rights of citizenship denied them by the Israeli government.
GO THROUGH THE DARK (World Premiere)
Dir/Prod: Yunhong Pu
Prod: Jean Tsien
A blind boy in China being raised by a struggling single father displays great skill at the ancient board game Go.
THE MOLE (US Premiere)
Dir: Mads Brügger
Prod: Peter Engel, Bjarte Mørner Tveit
Mads Brügger’s (Cold Case Hammarskjöld, The Ambassador) latest tells the impossible story of a spy who uncovers the worst of North Korea’s secrets.
ON THE OTHER SIDE (US Premiere)
Dir: Iván Guarnizo
Prod: Jorge Caballero
The filmmaker and his brother explore their late mother’s curious bond with one of the guerrillas who held her captive for more than 600 days.
YOUNG PLATO (World Premiere)
Dir: Neasa Ní Chianáin, Declan McGrath
Prod: David Rane
A visionary headmaster at a Catholic primary school in Belfast teaches ancient Greek wisdom as an antidote for pessimism, violence and historical despair.
Metropolis Competition: New York Stories
CHARM CIRCLE (NYC Premiere)
Dir/Prod: Nira Burstein
Prod: Betsy Laikin
A family wedding forces a Queens-bred filmmaker to explore a lifetime of tension between herself, her parents and her siblings.
END OF THE LINE (World Premiere)
Dir/Prod: Emmett Adler
Prod: Ian Mayer
A heartfelt and scrupulous look into NYC’s massive, troubled subway system, this film poses the question: what happens when that life line of the city goes flat?
HOLD YOUR FIRE (US Premiere)
Dir: Stefan Forbes
Prod: Tia Wou, Fab Five Freddy, Amir Soltani
Director Stefan Forbes, producer Fab Five Freddy and their team reconstruct a bungled 1973 robbery and what became the longest hostage seige in NYPD history, uncovering racial bias whose repercussions continue to this day.
MIMAROGLU: THE ROBINSON OF MANHATTAN ISLAND (US Premiere)
Dir: Serdar Kokceoglu
Prod: Dilek Aydin, Esin Uslu
An experimental portrait of legendary Turkish pioneer of electronic music İlhan Mimaroğlu, crafted out of his own archival recordings and footage.
MR. SATURDAY NIGHT (World Premiere)
Dir/Prod: John Maggio
Prod: Caroline Cannon, Seth Bomse
The untold story of Robert Stigwood, the impresario behind Saturday Night Fever and its record-breaking disco soundtrack.
THE PHOTOGRAPH (US Premiere)
Dir: Sherman De Jesus
Prod: Cécile van Eijk, Sherman De Jesus
Filmmaker Sheman De Jesus illuminates the legacy of prolific photographer James Van Der Zee and his portraits of the Black community during the Harlem Renaissance.
THE REVEREND (US Premiere)
Dir/Prod: Nick Canfield
A hard-rocking reverend finds faith and connection to community through his powerful revivalist style musical performances.
Kaleidoscope Competition: New Documentary Visions
COW (NYC Premiere)
Dir: Andrea Arnold
Prod: Kat Mansoor
Acclaimed director Andrea Arnold’s intimate observational portrait of bovine life as experienced on a farm in rural England through the eyes of Luna the cow.
EDNA (NYC Premiere)
Dir/Prod: Eryk Rocha
Prod: Gabriela Carneiro da Cunha
A woman living in Brazilian Amazonia uses her diary to recount memories of those she lost and stories of her own resilience during the military dictatorship.
INVISIBLE DEMONS (US Premiere)
Dir: Rahul Jain
Prod: Iikka Vehkalaht, Heino Deckert
Director Rahul Jain adeptly captures the effects of climate change in Delhi and the environmental cost of India’s fast-growing economy, while meditating on the aesthetics of human disconnection…