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3 Must-See Documentaries at the 2019 New York Film Festival


By Roger Costa


An aerial shot contemplates the gorgeous mountainous Lebanese landscape, landing on a Syrian refugee camp where their lives are threatened by inhumane conditions, negligence and discriminatory political views. Children smile playful to the camera, hiding their hunger and sickness; women discuss their hard labor tasks and their “supervisor” manipulation; men complain about their salary and lack of food, opportunity and medical assistance; both Nature and authorities seem unfavorable to their claiming voices, living under falling-apart tents, on the side of a dangerous, desert road with open-sky sewer. French-Iraq filmmaker Abbas Fahdel, director of the hit “Homeland (Iraq Year Zero)” returns with this devastatingly moving, heartbreaking and alarming expose on this gravely ignored humanitarian issue. He deeply captures the hopelessness, despair and triumphant resilience of these people forced to fled their homes as war continues to destroy their history, registering one of the most horrifying acts of modernity. The numbers presented here are cruel: about 1.5 million refugees are living under such conditions in Lebanon, which half of it are children; the adults work on the land for about 4 dollars a day, after they pay 2 dollars to the “shawish” in order to keep employed and secure; and they must pay 500 dollars a year to Lebanese authority for their “property”. As the camera goes around the camp, capturing their daily activities and struggles, it also reveals their strength and integrity to remain truthful to their values and beliefs, despite the circumstances. An accomplished award-winning director, producer, cinematographer, and editor, Fahdel composes an urgent statement on endurance, faith and survival. (Screens 10/3.)


British director Nick Broomfield, director of “Biggie and Tupac”, “Kurt & Courtney” and “Whitney”, turns the lenses to himself in this poetical, inspiring overview on his relationship to his father, the acclaimed photographer Maurice Broomfield, who turned his factory-working experiences into great compositions and angles. The director spans decades in the history of industrial Britain, using his own memories and first steps into art as a backdrop to the advances in society and decline in the industry. Throughout the narrative, he points to the divergences between them: his provocative work, in contrast to his pacifist father’s, the influence and admiration of a devoted mother, his siblings, and the arrival of his son, who also became a photographer. Sensitive and inclusive, it’s an absorbing love-letter to fatherhood, art and preserved values. (Screens 10/5 and 8.)


A heartfelt, adventurous and utterly efficient journey through the history of book selling, collecting, preserving, curating and in most cases, living for it. Director D.W. Young investigates the New York City’s literary culture and businesses, opening up insightful and accurate conversations on the subject, their pleasures and sacrifices, the game and its risks; Collecting truthful testimonies from specialists, booksellers and collectors, it presents the historical and fundamental importance of written, print material, while pointing to the inevitable transformations in society, with the use of technology as the real threat. Among the heroes introduced here, as real-savers of the rare book culture in now-a-days America, three sisters who run a major book-store struggling to keep it open as their father’s legacy, and a man who turned his apartment into a gallery/storage, are examples of determination and perseverance on the fight for the print industry’s survival. And when the film spills the numbers and statistics of a decreasing interest in reading, it shows the urgency of the issue, and their courageous actions taken to defend the cause. Brilliant! (Screens 10/7, 9 and 13.)

Léa Campos: Greta Thunberg

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