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.
Including Top Ten Broken-Marriage / Divorce Movies. So: Marriage Story, a stylish romantic comedy written and directed by Noah Baumbach with an all-star cast led by Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver and featuring top-notch talent such as Laura Dern, Alan Alda and Wallace Shawn, opened as the centerpiece of the 2019 New York Film Festival. Helen Highly Loathes this movie. I think perhaps I wouldn’t loathe it so much if everyone else wasn’t loving and lauding it so much. Sigh. Something about the gushing acceptance of this film into the “canon” of broken-marriage and/or divorce-themed movies creates a feeling of outrage in me – a feeling much deeper than any inspired by the self-consciously sentimental moments in the film.
Following up on my previous What-to-See article, which focused on Archival Movies at Tribeca Film Festival, I am listing a few more Top Picks that I could not exclude. Here are some films that grabbed my attention during the pre-festival screenings, and which you cannot fail in seeing. I am recommending two Magic Realism films that are beautiful and dramatic, and two Activism films that are urgently important. Plus, one of the several Music Documentaries that I haven’t seen but is sure to be a winner.
It’s Spring in New York and that means one thing to cinephiles: Tribeca Film Festival. I will offer a select list of films that fall into a category defined by my own tangled and perhaps questionable perspective: Archival Movies. This seems to be an unofficial theme this year – films that begin and end with images of VCR tapes or microfilm, drawers full of old photographs or scrapbooks of newspaper clippings, etc. Archival materials are typical components of well-researched documentaries (and TFF is always wonderfully rich with documentaries), but this year the focus seems to be as much about the archival material itself as it is the subject of that material.
Of the 96 Tribeca Film Festival 2018 feature films, 46% of them are directed by women, the highest percentage in the Festival’s history. And there are 28 female-centric feature films. #TribecaToo. ha. But what struck me as I was watching my way through this year’s screenings is how many films deal specifically with the mother-daughter relationship. Some make that relationship the core subject of the film and others get around to that topic tangentially, and sometimes as an insightful way to end a story — giving context and emotional resonance to the rest of the film.