DOC NYC 2013: Award Winners and More Reviews

Featured Critic; New York City, New York
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DOC NYC wrapped this past Thursday, and the jury awards have been announced. In the Viewfinders Competition, "chosen for their distinct directorial visions," according to the festival, the Grand Jury Prize winner was Mahdi Fleifel's A World Not Ours, a wry, humorous look at the Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon where the director grew up. From the jurors' statement: "Director Mahdi Fleifel has drawn on his family's home movies, archival footage, and his own extensive video diaries to invite us into a world completely unfamiliar to most viewers, and one from which most residents cannot leave. Unlike his friends and family who have spent decades living in the camp, Fleifel is free to come and go - but his portrayal of the world of the camp stayed with us long after his film ended."

In the Metropolis Competition, for New York City-centric documentaries, the Grand Jury Prize winner was David L. Lewis's The Pleasures of Being Out of Step, a portrait of renowned jazz critic and free speech advocate Nat Hentoff. The jurors' statement: "Nat Hentoff epitomizes the spirit of New York: an outsider, an underdog, an intellectual and iconoclast. The Pleasures Of Being Out of Step draws a fascinating portrait of a gifted jazz critic, linking the dissonances and syncopation of an American art form with the right to free speech. The film captures, through a series of interviews and great archival footage, the essence of Hentoff and shows how his self-examined life contributed to the cultural and political debates of the mid late 20th century."

In the Shorts Competition, the Grand Jury Prize winner was Kelly O'Brien's Softening, which explores the filmmaker's relationship with her disabled son. The jurors' statement: "In her deft mix of vérité, home movies, photographs, recreations, and experimental footage, director Kelly O'Brien bravely presents her own conflicted experience grappling with mothering a disabled child with emotional honesty, integrity and artistry."

The SundanceNOW Audience Award went to Michael Kleiman's Web, which follows Peruvian children living in remote regions who participate in the One Laptop Per Child program.

In all, DOC NYC was a great festival, with some very impressive films and interesting discussions with the filmmakers. Below are some more films I was able to catch at the festival.


The healing power of rock music, in this case the death metal and black metal kind, comes to Angola to soothe the souls of young people traumatized by the country's civil war. Metal may seem far removed from rock n' roll's blues-based origins, but as one person in the film points out, not so. The drum rhythms of metal, he argues, are almost identical to the tribal drums he has heard in Angola. "Death metal belongs to Africa," he declares. The one quibble is that we're not told how this music came to Angola; it's as if it suddenly just appeared to give a voice to people's pain. Still, this is a fascinating look at a rich subculture.

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American RevolutionaryChristina VorosDavid L. LewisDeath Metal AngolaDOC NYC 2013documentariesGrace LeeGrace Lee BoggsInside the Mind of LeonardoJames FrancoJeremy XidoJoe SarnoJulian JonesKinkLinda HoaglundMisfireNat HentoffThe Pleasures of Being Out of StepThe SarnosThings Left BehindWhitney RansickWiktor Ericcson