You have two choices. You’re very unlikely to watch two documentaries about elephants in the next few months. There is The Elephant Queen, which features “magnificent images of majestic animals” and follows a herd of elephants across the Kenyan savanna. By all accounts, that film is gorgeously shot, poignantly narrated and is an inspiring tribute to the power of motherhood. OR, if you want more from your movie than pretty shots of elephants at sunset as they run in slow motion across the plains, you could watch When Lambs Become Lions by Jon Kasbe, a brilliant documentary centered around African elephant poaching, which Helen Highly Recommends – what every documentary aspires to be.
At a time when archives are becoming a meaningful theme in documentary filmmaking – investigated and presented onscreen, almost as characters, rather than merely behind the scenes as research material, Shooting the Mafia is another excellent and compelling addition to the group. This film by Kim Longinotto considers the nature of Letizia Battaglia’s photographic archive – as historical documentation as well as a captivating collection of photojournalism that has risen to the level of art. Sicilian photographer Letizia Battaglia began a lifelong battle with the Mafia when she first dared to point her camera at a brutally slain victim.
Susan Sontag is having a moment 15 years after her death. Or at least in my personal life there has been a moment of Sontag convergence that has led me to write this article. Mostly my intent is to write a film review of the newly remastered re-release of Duet for Cannibals, written and directed by Sontag, released in 1969, screened at the New York Film Festival, and brought back to gorgeous, lush black-and-white life on its 50th anniversary as a Metrograph Pictures Release, starting 11/22, but I also have a personal story to tell.
With his new documentary, “Scandalous: The Untold Story of the National Enquirer,” director Mark Landsman delves into the incredible yet accurate story of the most infamous newspaper in US history, detailing its wild history and its surprising, continuing role in shaping what the news has become and what the enquiring public wants to know. Helen Highly Recommends this film as the timely cure for what ails us all right now as a nation – just the right, ironic cocktail of sexy, smart and shocking, with a cancerous red-dye-number-2 maraschino-cherry garnish.
Helen Highly Recommends what to see at DOC NYC 2019. Now that I’ve seen a few more films, I am updating and expanding my original DOC NYC 2019 Pick List. I am also explaining my bias and process in selecting which films to include in my list. Note that even after the festival ends, it’s still worth coming back to this list of film review and suggestions and to the DOC NYC 2019 website to find which films to see; they will be debuting in theaters and online throughout the coming year.
DOC NYC 2019 will run from November 6 – 15 and include more than 300 films and events, with 28 world premieres and 27 US premieres. Films are curated into 21 different Sections, or categories. It’s an overwhelming amount of content to contemplate, and I’ll do my best to help you sort through it. I would have liked to offer a catchy headline such as “Top Ten Docs to See,” but ten barely scratches the surface. Even twenty seems to leave out films that warrant a mention. So… without counting, here are the films that Helen feels Highly Compelled to suggest — my DOC NYC Picks, or DOC NYC Highlights.