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The Look of Silence
The Look of Silence

10 movies you need to see at DOC NYC

The weeklong festival returns for its sixth edition, loaded with documentaries of an unusually high caliber

Joshua Rothkopf
Written by
Joshua Rothkopf
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Hugely evolved since its inaugural event in 2010, DOC NYC has become a critical one-stop shop for anyone hoping to glean the complete picture of the current state of the documentaries genre. Major titles from this year—along with ones still seeking distribution—will unspool over a week free of fantasy though not of the fantastic. There may even be a future Oscar winner in here. Chart your own exploration with these 10 movie screenings.

DOC NYC runs November 12–19, 2015, at IFC Center, SVA Theatre and Bow Tie Chelsea Cinemas. Visit docnyc.net for complete titles, showtimes and tickets.

10 movies to see at DOC NYC

Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah
  • Movies

Director Lanzmann spent 11 years shaping his landmark Holocaust documentary Shoah (1985), so it’s astounding that within the making of this film’s fleeting 40 minutes, we come to an emotionally rich appreciation of the project that marked him for life. Among the highlights: Lanzmann’s door-to-door search for a Bronx barber who cut women’s hair in a concentration camp and a scary anecdote about being beaten up by German thugs while secretly interviewing (and taping) a Nazi.

Gimme Shelter
  • Movies
  • Documentary

Is this 1970 concert film the greatest rock documentary ever made? It’s got a lot going for it. First, you get the Rolling Stones at the absolute zenith of their craft, performing songs like “Sympathy for the Devil” and the title track. More troublingly, this is the film that captures the death of a teenage gun-wielding audience member who was taken out by the Hells Angels guarding the stage. The incident goes beyond tragedy—it might be the metaphorical end of the ’60s. This screening is in memory of recently departed director Albert Maysles.

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Hitchcock/Truffaut
  • Movies
  • Documentary

New York Film Festival director of programming Kent Jones has done a connoisseur’s job of bringing to life the famous series of interviews that director François Truffaut conducted with the Master of Suspense, Alfred Hitchcock. The result of those smoky sessions was the essential 1966 film book Hitchcock/Truffaut, but in Jones’s hands—along with the fearsomely intelligent insights of David Fincher, Martin Scorsese and others—the text comes alive in a celebration of film culture and deep-shadowed influence.

Janis: Little Girl Blue
  • Movies
  • Documentary

Who else could it be but Janis Joplin? The singer’s raw-throated sincerity still moves rock fans 45 years after her drug overdose at age 27, and Amy Berg’s sensitive portrait includes a trove of live footage that makes the posthumous case for greatness. Along with this year’s Amy and Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck (both, sadly, about the lives of talented 27-year-olds cut short and both replaying at DOC NYC), it’s a major act of cultural excavation.

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Left on Purpose

5. Left on Purpose

Documentarians pray for radical developments—rare blessings from the film gods. But it’s safe to say Justin Schein was blindsided (not in a good way) when his subject, the downbeat antiwar activist Mayer Vishner, announced his final piece of protest would be his own suicide, which he wanted the director to catch on camera. It’s a film suffused with ethical quandary and pain.

The Look of Silence
  • Movies
  • Documentary
Don’t even begin to admit you missed this one during its July theatrical run. You can make amends. A staggering follow-up to Joshua Oppenheimer's radical The Act of Killing (2012), this doc about Indonesia's genocidal leaders, still feared nearly 50 years after their anti-Communist purge. But this time, the provocative presence of Adi, an optician whose older brother was among those killed, makes these boastful military men squirm. It might be the movie Oppenheimer wanted to make in the first place.
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The Lost Arcade

7. The Lost Arcade

As fun as Barcade can be, it has nothing on the legendary Chinatown Fair, Mott Street’s intimidating mecca for video-game players, one that’s survived more challenges than an expert-level Street Fighter obsessive. Tracking a closing and triumphant return, Kurt Vincent’s electro-scored ode is a shot of downtown pride.

Raiders!: The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made

8. Raiders!: The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made

If you were a kid in 1981, chances are you pretended to be Indiana Jones, rolling under the descending garage door or jumping into the swimming pool. (No? Maybe that was just us.) A small band of Mississippi teens did that and more, constructing realistic sets out of cardboard, enlisting their dog to play a monkey and re-creating Steven Spielberg’s action classic on low-grade video, shot for shot. This documentary is the story of their quixotic quest to finish the movie, even as adulthood beckoned.
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Where to Invade Next
  • Movies
  • Documentary
Weeks in advance of its official release, DOC NYC presents the latest from Michael Moore, still the baseball-hatted icon of lefty discontent. Refreshingly, it turns out to be one of his more hopeful efforts. After setting up his slightly wacky premise—a fictional meeting with military generals who send the director out to plant the U.S. flag on foreign soil and steal resources—Moore examines how foreigners live, work, play and punish. The policies he comes to know will shock all viewers who settle for less.
Winter on Fire: Ukraine's Fight for Freedom
  • Movies
Though distributed by Netflix, this one’s actually worth seeing in a theater, just to feel an audience get swept away by inspiring winds of change. The subject is Ukraine’s student-led revolution of 2013 and 2014, a series of increasingly violent demonstrations that led to a corrupt president’s resignation.
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