Festival Returns to Theaters in NYC and Continues to Screen Online Nationwide; Slate Includes 30 World Premieres and 26 Us Premieres, Among More Than 200 Films and Events
DOC NYC, America’s largest documentary festival — running in-person November 8-16 at IFC Center, SVA Theatre and Village East by Angelika and continuing online through November 26 — announced its main slate lineup today. The 2023 festival presents more than 105 feature-length documentaries (including yet-to-be-announced Short List and Winner’s Circle titles) among over 200 films and dozens of events, with filmmakers expected in person at most screenings.
Opening the festival on Nov. 8 at SVA Theater will be Clair Titley’s jaw-dropping “The Contestant”, a breakout hit from the recent Toronto International Film Festival where it was described as “one hell of a wild ride” (Rolling Stone). The truly stranger-than-fiction story of the earliest days of “reality TV” in the 1990s features an aspiring Japanese comedian trapped alone and naked in an apartment for 15 months, unaware that his participation in a twisted reality show is being broadcast weekly to millions of viewers and has transformed him into a TV superstar.
Closing the festival on Nov. 16, also at SVA Theater, will be Sam Pollard and Llewellyn Smith’s “South to Black Power,” about New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow and his provocative writings. The festival’s Centerpiece screening on Nov. 11 at IFC Center is the World premiere of D.W. Young’s “Uncropped,” a look back at the arts zeitgeist of 1970s and ‘80s NYC through the lens (and memories) of Village Voice and Observer photographer James Hamilton.
Included are 30 World Premieres and 26 U.S. Premieres, with 20 films in the U.S. Competition, for new American-produced nonfiction films, and the International Competition, for work from around the globe, making their U.S. (or greater) premieres. The Kaleidoscope Competition for new essayistic and formally adventurous documentaries continues into its third year, while the festival’s long-standing Metropolis Competition, showcasing New York stories and personalities, also returns. In addition, the festival includes thematically organized sections that spotlight new films on music, sports, activism, and more.
“We are beyond proud to be celebrating the international documentary community’s incredible work this year,” said the festival’s artistic director Jaie Laplante. “These films reveal new insights into our interior lives and the world around us in complex, engaging and often prescient ways.”
The Special Presentations section of the festival opens with legendary filmmaker Wim Wenders in person presenting a 3D screening of “Anselm,” his breathtaking portrait of acclaimed German artist Anselm Kiefer.
Among films making their world premieres, several are complex profiles of pivotal figures, including “June,” a new examination of the life and talents of June Carter Cash; “The Cowboy and the Queen,” the unusual story of Queen Elizabeth II’s friendship with a California horse trainer; “Yours in Freedom, Bill Baird,” about a civilian male ally for women’s reproductive rights that argued in the U.S. Supreme Court three times on the issue; “Candace Parker: Unapologetic,” the story of the WNBA superstar; “Ashima,” about Ashima Shirashi, the Japanese-American rock climber who set world records in her teens; “Shari & Lamb Chop,” a biography of pioneering children’s television performer Shari Lewis; “The Trials of Alan Dershowitz,” about the famously controversial defense attorney; “How to Come Alive… with Norman Mailer,” a new examination of the American literary icon; and “David Holmes: The Boy Who Lived,” about the Harry Potter stunt double whose life took an unexpected turn when an on-set accident made him a quadriplegic.
The festival’s popular Sonic Cinema section of music documentaries includes world premieres of “Pretty Ugly – The Story of the Lunachicks,” about the 1990s NYC punk band; and “Garland Jeffreys: The King of In Between,” a look at the career of the multi-talented biracial New York singer-songwriter.
World premieres that explore topical issues include “No One Asked You,” about a stand-up comedian’s approach to fighting foes of women’s reproductive freedom; “The Cost of Inheritance,” a detailed examination of reparations; “36 Seconds: Portrait of a Hate Crime,” a study of the 2015 Chapel Hill slaying of three Muslim students; and “Shaken,” about young parents torn apart by medical misdiagnosis of infant trauma.
Other significant premieres include the International premiere of “Someone Lives Here,” a study of an unusual citizen contribution to Toronto’s unhoused problem; and the U.S. premieres of “Flipside,” Chris Wilcha’s Gen X existentially comic look at career introspection; “Total Trust,” a look at Chinese surveillance techniques on human rights lawyers and independent journalists; and the North American premiere of “Dancing on the Edge of a Volcano,” about the production of a feature film in Beirut while Lebanon teeters on the edge of economic collapse.
Short-form content continues to be represented in the festival’s Shorts Competition (104 films), and DOC NYC U (ten films representing student work from eight NYC schools).
More news, including the features and shorts named to the festival’s Short List sections for the year’s leading awards contenders, the Winner’s Circle showcase of international festival laureates, DOC NYC’s competition jury members, and other festival updates will be announced in the coming days.
Returning this year is the #MyJustice Film Award from Odyssey Impact that, with the generous support of Paramount and its initiative Content for Change Academy, will present a $10,000 cash prize and an Odyssey Impact led, six-month National Impact Campaign to one eligible submitted short film that has a social justice theme and a strong call to action.
A new partner this year is Subject Matter, which will award a $15,000 grant to support one social issue documentary’s marketing and impact campaigns, alongside a $15,000 grant to a nonprofit working on the issue featured in the film.
Three senior feature programmers oversee specific sections: Ruth Somalo on Kaleidoscope, Karen McMullen on Metropolis and Sonic Cinema, and Brandon Harrison on Game Face Cinema. They also selected other titles in the festival alongside feature programmers Bedatri D. Choudhury and Murtada Elfadl. Samah Ali is the festival’s senior shorts programmer, working with programmers DeWitt Davis and Anita Raswant.