America’s largest documentary fest returns to NYC

In this press handout photo videographer Jon Alpert is seen with Cuban residents.
Tequila Minsky

It’s an exciting eighth year that DOC NYC — the nation’s largest documentary film festival — returns to inform and entertain New York audiences. This festival offers rich, meaningful stories on film in a varied program of 111-feature length films including over 12 films that focus on the Black and Brown experience and landscape.

Brooklyn and Queens as well as Detroit, Baltimore, Atlanta and Chicago are the American sites where some of these films take place. The festival takes you to Africa, Cuba, and Columbia, as well.

Boxing, the global fight against AIDS, and the evolution of American pop music are among the subjects where the Black experience is central. Films that explore the lives of public figures include performer Sammy Davis Jr., author Lorraine Hansberry, and former Mayor of Atlanta, Maynard Jackson.

“Documentary storytellers help us make sense of the tumultuous times we’re living in with artistry, humor and inspiring characters,” says festival programming director Basil Tsiokos.

“This year’s DOC NYC line-up gives audiences fresh insight into high profile figures and shines a light on lesser-known individuals who leave a big impression.”

The festival is divided into sections that include thematic sections on activism, music, crime, science and technology, unconventional families, animals, on artists, on filmmaking as well as short films — 85 in total.

The films that focus on Black and Brown individuals or environs include: “12th and Clairmount” (about Detroit), “Father’s Kingdom” (an African-American spiritual leader), Maynard (Atlanta’s first black mayor in 1973), Shot in the Dark (basketball team in Chicago’s West Side), Cuba and the Cameraman (40 years shooting in Cuba), “Sammy Davis Jr.: “I’ve Gotta Be Me,” “Baltimore Rising” (the city after Freddy’ Grey’s death), “Sighted Eyes/Feeling Heart” (playwright Lorraine Hansberry), and “Streetlight Harmonies” (music and histories of Doo Wop and a cappella).

“Antonio Lopez 1970: Sex Fashion & Disco” (fashion illustrator was Puerto Rican), “Still Waters” (alternative education and gentrification in Bushwick), and “Behind the Curtain: Todrick Hall (American Idol personality), “The Iron Triangle” (urban renewal of Willets Point), and “This is Congo” (sides of DRC’s fractious war), are among the other films that focus on people of or places of color.

On Nov. 9, Greg Barker’s “The Final Year” opens the festival. With incredible access, the film offers a look at the last year of President Obama’s administration particularly highlighting the shaping of United States foreign policy.

Along with Obama, the film focuses on the operating principles and the work of Secretary of State John Kerry, U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power and speechwriter Ben Rhodes (whose title was Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications). The film is a touching historical document on an administration with heart, whose absence is felt deeply.

The festival’s programming team also picks a “Short List,” 15 of the year’s best. For the past six years, the film that won the Oscar was on that list.

Additionally, the festival, which runs Nov. 9-13, includes a DOC NYC Pro series, eight daylong panels devoted to the “making of” documentaries. For more information, visit

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