Reel Cinema Season: Fall Documentary Fests Hit New York

Reel Cinema Season: Fall Documentary Fests Hit New York

October 06, 2011 at 4:00 am

This year's documentary festival season offers an exciting array of non-fiction works for everyone. Flickr/Purple DeeBee

The film festival circuit is a multi-season business in New York. Springtime gets the Tribeca Film Festival and summer is the time for outdoor film series.

But fall is the most festival-heavy season for New York cinephiles, particularly documentary fans. Seven festivals, either specializing in or featuring multiple documentaries, are here for your autumnal viewing pleasure.

New York Film Festival

When: Now-Oct. 16

Where: Multiple venues in New York City

The 49th annual New York Film Festival, run by Lincoln Center, began on Sept. 30. Although the festival features many narrative films, including the U.S. premier of Roman Polanski’s “Carnage,” documentaries are featured prominently. Check out “Andrew Bird: Fever Year,” about the indie-musician’s struggle with aging, and “Patience,” an essay film dealing with W.G. Sebald’s mind-boggling breakthrough novel, “The Rings of Saturn.”

Paley DocFest

When: Oct. 6-29

Where: The Paley Center for Media

25 West 52nd St., New York, N.Y.

The Paley Center for Media’s annual documentary fest offers a mixed bag this year. From a career portrait of Rin Tin Tin to the New York premier of “Wham! Bam! Islam!” — the story of a Kuwaiti psychologist who dreamt of creating a Muslim superhero comic book — the month-long festival sways between the political and the playful, the purely representational and the ontologically nuanced. Per tradition, all films will be followed by an engaging Q & A between the audience, filmmaker and, in some cases, the documentary subjects.  Click here for tickets and more information.


Trailer for “Wham! Bam! Islam!” The film makes its New York premier at the Paley DocFest. Youtube/solotaroff.

Snapshots: Tourism in Cinema

When: Oct. 12-Nov. 16

Where: 92Y Tribeca

200 Hudson St., New York, N.Y.

The Robert Flaherty Film Seminar brings its annual fall Flaherty NYC series to 92Y Tribeca this year. Each Wed., a new documentary will be shown that relates to the subject of tourism in either form or content. On Oct. 26, the series takes the concept to a very literal level by screening actual tourist footage made with Super 8 film. The series closes on Nov. 16, with a showing of Maya Deren’s “Divine Horsemen: The Living Gods of Hait,” an experimental ethnography film about voodoo rituals.

Hamptons International Film Festival

When: Oct. 13-17

Where: Multiple venues in the Hamptons, L.I.

Now in its 19th year, the festival was founded to provide a forum for independent filmmakers. While the 120 films being shown include big-budget narrative flicks like “Melancholia” and “The Descendants,” documentaries play a crucial role. Check out “77 Steps,” a Muslim filmmaker’s self-portrait about her relationship with her Canadian-Jewish boyfriend, and “Jiro Dreams of Sushi,” about an 85-year-old sushi master. Click here for tickets and more information.

Media That Matters

When: Oct. 27-29

Where: SVA Theater

333 West 23rd St. New York, N.Y.

On Oct. 27, Art Engine’s Media that Matters festival will show 13 short documentaries that all clock in under 12 minutes in length. All of the films are premiering for the first time, and while they might not all be docs, they’re all meant to make a direct political impact on a specific current event. On Oct. 28, the public is welcome to join in three separate 90-minute long conversations with the filmmakers, followed by a series of filmmaking workshops. On Oct. 29, the last day of the festival, workshops and panels will deal with the lack of female representation in the contemporary filmmaking community. Click here for tickets and more information.

The late documentarian Richard Leacock. Several of Leacock's films will be shown at this year's DOC NYC festival. Flickr/nheigert.


When: Nov. 2-10

Where: IFC Center and NYU Kimmel Center in New York City

The two-year-old festival returns this year with a powerful lineup. The schedule is broken into categories, including midnight showing of new rock music documentaries, international perspectives, family documentaries and iconic biographical films. Several of Richard Leacock’s documentaries will be screened, in tribute to the cinema verite originator who passed away in March. Click here for tickets and more information.

Margaret Mead Festival

When: Nov. 10-13

Where: American Museum of Natural History

Central Park West  at 79th Street New York, N.Y.

At 35 years, The Margaret Mead Festival is the longest-running showcase for international documentaries. From indigenous community media to experimental works that blur genres, there’s something for non-narrative film fans of all stripes. This year’s festival jury is lead by “Black Swan” director Darren Aronofsky. Click here for tickets and more information.