By Roger Costa
Showcasing the best in documentaries from around the globe, DOC NYC 2018 will present important revelations about our days, society, politics, behavior and other issues, making it one of its best years. Running November 8-15 at Chelsea Cinepolis, SVA Theater and IFC Center, here are some highlights.
THE OTHER RIO
A devastatingly touching account on poverty in Brazil, director Émilie B. Guérette documents the struggling lives of the residents of an abandoned complex, and how they manage to survive and to maintain happiness despite chaos. It also depicts the conflicts and obstacles to keep it legal, as they try to work during the Olympic Games, seen through their humble perspectives and unique view from the top of the slums.
After living the American Dream, a family of Latin immigrants is deported and now fights to be reunited with the 15-year-old son left behind. Following the anxiety, desperation and hope of all parts involved, and how a sudden separation drastically affects their emotional balance, Jonathan Schienberg’s feature debut is an utterly moving and urgent report on the controversial issue of refugees and human rights.
As Melody Gilbert’s camera observes modern love seen through the perspectives of synthetic dolls aficionados, the film paints a unique social canvas of devotion and passionate forces. Dealing with societal judgment and other obstacles, these people stand up for their right to behave as they wish, preferring an imaginary relationship rather than a real one. The result is a shocking, alarming voyeuristic account on their bizarre desire, the industry, the lush and the trendy influences.
WE ARE NOT PRINCESSES
Mixing dramatization, storytelling, animation and real testimonies, Directors Bridgette Auger and Itab Azzam explore the struggle and hopelessness of Syrian refugees women, trying to rebuild their lives from zero as they flee war. As they participate on a theater program in Beirut, literature, drama and reality merge together to create a delicate, inspiring and heartwarming observation on the power of community and resilience.
A lonely, self-destructive, hyper and temperamental pre-teen is the focus of Dutch filmmaker Maasja Ooms’ sophomore project. One of the most impactful examinations on human condition, fragility, co-dependence and rejection, this is a powerfully revelatory, striking look at the turbulence that goes inside a child in need of love. As we witness her limitless attempts to leave the social services and be reunited with her mother, the camera captures truthful moments of despair from all parts, herself, the social workers, the careless parents, showing all cards and reasons in this dysfunctional, heartbreaking issue. A masterpiece!
A vigorous self-portrait of the great, multi-faceted Award-winning actress and comedian Olympia Dukakis. At the age of 87, she is seen running around film festivals, meeting up colleagues and friends, rehearsing for a new play, and trying to avoid stress in the company of her husband. Director Harry Mavromichalis extracts powerful revelations from the actress herself, as well as captures intimate moments of simplicity, crafting an inspirational study on an unlimited artist.
Depicting the conflicts between the Native American Indians of Navajo Nation and the coal, miners companies, Directors Hunter Robert Baker and Jordan Fein create a strikingly beautiful and ritualistic ode to Mother Nature. It follows the daily routine of a father and his relationship with his teen daughter, who’s somehow forced to practice the same beliefs and traditions. Sensitive and filled with humanitarian messages, it reminds us of the importance of home.
A curiously funny and dramatically-charged look on the millionaire business of pre-wedding photos, the glamour, the excitement and anxiety that make it the most euphoric event leading to the big day. But Director Olivia Martin-McGuire’s debut goes much deeper than that, conceiving an accurate portrait of the industry, the political facts shadowing the shootings, the repression of both family expectations and forbidden love, and how the young generation reacts to traditions. Intriguing.
A nail-biting experience following a group engaged on the most successful memory championship in the world, held in Indonesia. With top contenders such as a German disabled man, an American veteran and a phenomenal Malaysian girl, Directors Janet Tobias and Claus Wehlisch’s brilliantly capture their eagerness and powerful brain skills, as well as their fragility and insecurity. An exhilarating and thrilling account on the immeasurable ability of the human memory.
In this compelling look at redemption and second chances, Grammy-winning hip hop artist Todd Thomas sets up a project in a Federal jail in Virginia, to help inmates develop their talents and exorcise their traumas through music. As we witness a transformative experience, Director Samuel Bathrick collects important revelations about human nature and the need of forgiveness and acceptance.
A social worker develops a program for boys as to guide them into manhood and prevent any future sexual crimes in India’s “BOYS WHO LIKE GIRLS”. The inclusive look at a great choreographer, the process of creation and his muses in “CRAFTING AN ECHO”. New Yorkers fight the streets and laws to protect abandoned cats in the affecting “THE CAT RESCUERS”; An unusual romance and their collaborative artwork is the focus in the provocative “THE ARTIST AND THE PERVERT”; The touching and controversial “BEI, BEI” follows the drama of a woman fighting for freedom after being indicted for killing her unborn child; The sensitive “BRAVE GIRLS” is a collective coming-of-age story, presenting a group of girls, their ideas and expectations as they educate themselves and prepare for womanhood; In the outstanding “FALSE CONFESSIONS” an attorney stands up for righteousness and reveals NYPD’s corruption system, defending innocent people who were forced to confess crimes they didn’t commit; “WRESTLING GHOSTS” is a heartbreaking and striking look at a modern family, and the unexpected reactions of a depressed mother towards her children. And “THE GREAT MOTHER” follows an immigration activist fighting to protect over two-thousand children, in a battle for respect and human rights.