DOC NYC: Our recommendations

From politics to perversity, we’ve got our picks for New York’s premier nonfiction film festival.

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  • The Final Member

  • A Fragile Trust: Plagiarism, Power and Jayson Blair at The New York Times

  • Geraldine Ferraro: Paving the Way

  • Is the Tall Man Happy?

  • Kink

  • Misfire: The Rise and Fall of the Shooting Gallery

  • The Punk Singer

  • What Is Cinema?

  • The Unknown Known

The Final Member


“Gimme some truth,” John Lennon once sang—and DOC NYC is happy to oblige anyone with similar requests. A celebration of both nonfiction filmmaking and those that have helped shape it, the fourth edition of the documentary fest offers a hodgepodge of panels, encore screenings of recent Oscar short-list faves (The Act of Killing, Twenty Feet from Stardom, Stories We Tell) and the latest vérité on everything from punk rockers to political trailblazers to porn sites. Here are nine titles we truly recommend.

The Final Member
The Icelandic Phallological Museum is the only institution dedicated to the study of penises. (Cue your tittering inner middle-schooler.) But this quirky and strangely touching doc, which follows curator Sigurður Hjartarson on his quest to obtain the first human scrotal specimen, has a lot more on the brain than glib gonad humor. (Nov 15 at 11:45pm, IFC Center)—KU

A Fragile Trust: Plagiarism, Power and Jayson Blair at The New York Times
One of the Gray Lady’s most embarrassing moments comes to complex life in this tough-minded analysis that explores issues of race, affirmative action and institutional inertia. Director Samantha Grant scores an interview with Blair himself, ready to go deeper into his own deception. (Nov 16 at 7pm, IFC Center)—JR

Geraldine Ferraro: Paving the Way
Despite being made by the subject’s daughter (or perhaps because of it), this profile cuts smartly to the inspiring essence of Ferraro’s 1984 VP run, a watershed moment for female political representation, swaddled in no-nonsense Queens toughness. (Nov 17 at 1:30pm, SVA Theatre)—JR

Is the Man Who Is Tall Happy?
A meeting of two very distinct minds—activist-philosopher Noam Chomsky and filmmaker Michel Gondry—provides the backdrop for this eccentric extended conversation. As the intellectual discusses his life and work, the hilariously befuddled director imaginatively illustrates his subject’s heady discourse with lovingly handcrafted animation. (Nov 21 at 7pm, SVA Theatre)—KU

Kink
Produced by James Franco, this penetrating (ahem) look at the largest Internet producer of BDSM pornography pulls no punches—though you will see punches thrown, as well as canings, floggings and some genuinely not-for-the-fainthearted practices. Kink neither judges nor condones; it simply shows the pleasure and pain going on behind closed doors and pay walls. (Nov 16 at midnight, IFC Center)—DF

Misfire: The Rise and Fall of the Shooting Gallery
Conceived as a scrappy, indie–film backing upstart, New York–based production company the Shooting Gallery quickly rose to industry prominence, the brains behind such awards-feted movies as Sling Blade and You Can Count on Me. Its fall was just as swift (a victim of rampant mismanagement and the dot-com bubble), something this engrossing doc from former Gallery employee Whitney Ransick chronicles with can’t-look-away fascination. (Nov 17 at 7pm, SVA Theatre)—KU

The Punk Singer
Singer, songwriter, feminist, activist, agitator, icon: Kathleen Hanna is all of these things and more. Very few have tried to explore who the person beneath the riot-grrrl persona is, however, which is where Sini Anderson’s doc comes in. While this occasionally fawning portrait of an artist offers the usual mix of performance footage, testimonials and DIY history lessons, it also gives you a glimpse into her personal life and medical problems in the most respectful, least voyeuristic way possible. (Nov 16 at 7:15pm, SVA Theatre)—DF

What Is Cinema?
Best known for his viva-the-movies Oscar montages, Chuck Workman extends his mash-up approach to feature-length to answer the titular question. Commentary from filmmakers and programmers offers insight, but the real treat here is the juxtaposition of clips: a hall-of-mirrors tour that is a cinephile’s nocturnal emission. (Nov 19 at 9:30pm, IFC Center)—DF

The Unknown Known
He’s grilled Holocaust deniers, alleged cop-killers and the architect of the Vietnam War. Now, Errol Morris turns his lens on former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and the result is a fascinating exploration of power, political one-upmanship and the ability to use language as a tool to both clarify and obfuscate. (Nov 14 at 7pm, SVA Theatre)—DF

Follow David Fear on Twitter: @davidlfear

Follow Joshua Rothkopf on Twitter: @joshrothkopf

Follow Keith Uhlich on Twitter: @keithuhlich

DOC NYC runs Nov 14–21. Go to docnyc.net for a complete rundown of showtimes.


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