By Roger Costa
Certainly one of the most polemic films ever, Oscar-nominated filmmaker Evgeny Afineevsky’s personal and revealing look at the Pope’s ideas, perspectives and reactions on the 21st Century is a powerful humanitarian statement. As the film explores urgent issues on society, nature and politics seen through the Vatican leader, it paints a timely and devastating canvas of our troubled times, while offering options of hope.
The definitive portrait of 2020, this exclusive all-access journalistic feature to Wuhan’s medical center is an accurate witness of our biggest fears. Tense, thrilling and highly emotional, directors Hao Wu and Weixi Chen with the collaboration of an independent crew have worked incessantly throughout the rooms and hallways of the hospital as medical teams run against time to fight COVID-19 and its killing spread. As they collect the crucial interaction between doctors and patients, and their individual dramas, the film captures revealing moments of anguish and hopelessness, but also of optimism, perseverance and compassion.
LESSONS OF LOVE
A lovely, touching and intimate look at an elderly lady’s affair, Polish duo Malgorzata Goliszewska and Kasia Mateja’s immersive feature is a remarkable meditation on aging, loneliness and the enthusiastic sense of never giving up on love. The directors follow the adventures of 69-year-old Jola as she finally leaves her abusive husband and starts a love affair with another gentleman. An absorbing analysis on the existential journey and its ups and downs, the film is a relevant and sentimental #metoo movement report.
The dreams of a Chinese student pursuing a PhD degree in America are interrupted when the talented girl goes missing from her college campus, forcing her family to leave their homeland China and start an intense search for her whereabouts. Investigative, poignant and edgy, director and fellow student Jiayan “Jenny” Shi follows her family’s quest for answers with intimacy and striking details, naturally demonstrating her promising skills.
The camera flirts with a famous young rapper, while exposing his place, and the surroundings filled with smokes, drinks, beats and empty bottles of pills. An electrifying, alarming and controversial look at Millennials in the world of rap music, fame, drugs and death overdoses, recklessness and self-presumption, filmmaker Justin Staple conceived an engrossing piece of contemporary history. Presenting the drastic changes in the music industry in the past decade, and the influence of streaming music, SoundCloud and similar platforms, it focuses on these kids’ struggles with personality, anger, responsibility, morality and humility, as they reflect on their phenomenal musical talents with incredible confidence. A revelatory study on this generation’s behavior.
ONCE UPON A TIME IN VENEZUELA
In Anabel Rodríguez Ríos’ inclusive portrait of an extremely impoverished community living on the margins of Venezuela’s Lake Maracaibo, a group of determined residents fight for their rights of living under better health and sanitarian conditions. Exposing the negligence, abuse and lack of opportunity suffered by this minority class, dividing attention between two rival political activists fighting for the same improvements in their beloved village of Condo, this exclusive material is a shocking tribute to humanitarian perseverance and community bond.
Filmmaker Elizabeth St. Philip’s outstanding and accomplished feature interlocks the lives of six youngsters who were among the students of a 2nd Grade class who met then President Bush on the day of the Twin Towers attack. Using this coincidental fact as core to the narrative, the director paints an important and utterly honest portrait of the American Dream, its achievements and failures, while listening to these youngsters’ motivations, battles, winning and losses based on their experiences since that tragic day.
(DOC NYC Festival 2020 runs virtually November 11-19. Go to https://www.docnyc.net/ for tickets and details.)