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DOC NYC documentary film festival returns: Real life on screens and at home

DOC NYC, America's largest documentary film festival, returns for its 13th year, with screenings both in New York City and online.

The festival showcases an international lineup of more than 200 feature-length and short films, including many international, North American and New York City premieres. Held in-person today through November 27 at venues throughout New York City, the festival also has selected films streaming online through November 27. For ticket and streaming passes click here.

The festival also includes panel discussions, workshops and master classes with notable documentary filmmakers.

Most films have not been previewed at press time, but a listing of features is presented below.

"Maya and the Wave." DOC NYC


The festival's opening night feature is "Maya and the Wave," Stephanie Johnes' portrait of world-champion Brazilian surfer Maya Gabeira.

Dawn Porter's "Cirque Du Soleil: Without a Net" follows the circus troupe preparing to return a year after being shut down by the coronavirus pandemic. "Gumbo Coalition," by two-time Oscar-winner Barbara Kopple, is about activists fighting for racial justice in the era of Trump and COVID.

Werner Herzog's "Theater of Thought" examines the mysteries of the brain. Rory Kennedy's "The Volcano: Rescue From Whakaari" recounts the 2019 disaster in New Zealand in which nearly two dozen people died.

"The Conspiracy" is Maxim Pozdorovkin's exploration of the origins of antisemitic conspiracy theories. In "While We Watched" Indian journalist Ravish Kumar discusses the threats facing journalists, in India and around the globe.

"Idina Menzel: Which Way to the Stage?" is a profile of the Tony Award-winning actress, singer and working mom.

U.S. Competition

In "26.2 to Life," three inmates at San Quentin run a marathon inside the prison walls, while "The 50" features the California prison system's first-ever inmate substance abuse counselors.

Chef Jimmy Lee Hill teaches the culinary arts to inmates at Michigan's Lakeland Correctional Facility in "Coldwater Kitchen."

"1946: The Mistranslation That Shifted a Culture" examines how a mistranslation of the word "homosexual" in the Bible fueled homophobia in the Christian Church. "Casa Susanna" documents how a Catskills resort became a haven for cross-dressers in the 1950s and '60s.

Country music singers from Swaziland tour the American South in "Dusty & Stones." Pianist and filmmaker James Carson brings music to nature in "Cabin Music."

The student debt crisis is covered in "Loan Wolves," while "Dear Thirteen" looks at the lives of nine 13-year-olds around the world.

Vancouver's Overdose Prevention Society seeks to save lives in "Love in the Time of Fentanyl."

The life of the tennis legend and his namesake sneaker is traced in "Who Is Stan Smith?"

"African Moot." DOC NYC

International Competition

Law students from across Africa participate in the annual African Human Rights Moot Court Competition in "African Moot." Venezuela children join a unique government-sponsored classical music program, El Sistema, in "Children of Las Brisas."

"Big Fight in Little Chinatown" examines how Chinatowns in New York, Montreal and Vancouver innovate to survive.

"Closed Circuit" features testimonies from Arab and Jewish survivors of a 2016 terrorist attack in Tel Aviv.

In "Fati's Choice," an immigrant mother returns to her village in Ghana to reunite with her children. In Iran, an 18-year-old girl cares for her mentally disabled widower-father, in "Destiny."

A German teenager and her parents hit upon fame via social media in "Girl Gang." In "The Hamlet Syndrome," young Ukrainian actors stage a production of "Hamlet," to process their experiences of war.

"The Hermit of Treig." DOC NYC

"The Hermit of Treig" profiles a man in his 70s, living in isolation in the Scottish Highlands, who faces a health crisis that jeopardizes his ability to live on his own.

"How to Save a Dead Friend" is a love story filmed over 12 years under Putin's regime.

In "Ithaka" the father of Julian Assange campaigns to free his son.

The Carnival in Santiago de Cuba, and the in-fighting among conga bands, is explored in "Lázaro and the Shark: Cuba Under the Surface."

New York Stories

Avant-garde artist Jonas Mekas's own words tell the story of the legendary independent filmmaker in "Fragments of Paradise," while singer Roberta Flack is the subject of "Roberta."

"In Search of Bengali Harlem" explores the history of mid-20th century Harlem. "Photographic Justice: The Corky Lee Story" focuses its lens on the Chinese American photojournalist.

In '70s New York City, Chelly Wilson became a successful entrepreneur in an unusual field – porn theaters – in "Queen of the Deuce."

Kaleidoscope Competition

A taxi driver in Lima leaves his family to become a gold miner in the Andes in "Mother Lode."

A village in Chiapas, Mexico, is excavated 38 years after it was buried by a volcanic eruption in "White Night."

Director Tin Dirdamal embarks on a train trip through Vietnam with his daughter in "Dark Light Voyage." An artist transforms her home in Panama into a museum in "For Your Own Peace of Mind, Make Your Own Museum." "It Runs in the Family" is both a family history and the story of cinema in the Dominican Republic in the 1950s.

A former porn performer goes on trial in Malta for public exposure in "I'm People, I Am Nobody." A personal essay by filmmaker Diana Bustamante, "Our Movie" uses archival footage to tell the story of Colombia's violent history of the 1980s and '90s.

"My So-Called High School Rank." DOC NYC

American Lives

In "Master of Light," self-taught artist George Anthony Morton tries to establish his career after ten years in prison. "My Sister Liv" offers a personal look at the teen mental health crisis. The drama of the college admission process is captured by two Sacramento teachers in a musical theater production, as documented in "My So-Called High School Rank."

"The 'Vous" is a portrait of Memphis' world-famous, family-owned barbecue institution, The Rendezvous. Two brothers go on a road trip in search of their mother in "Sam Now." "Outta the Muck" is a portrait of Pahokee, a small, predominantly Black Florida town.

"This Much We Know" explores Las Vegas, said to be America's suicide capital. "Wisdom Gone Wild" is a meditation on time and loss as filmmaker Rea Tajiri documents her mother's struggle with dementia. 

It's Christmas time, and the ranks of "Santa Camp" welcome three new, very unconventional recruits.

"The Wind Blows the Border." DOC NYC


Chloe Sosa-Sims' "Hunting in Packs" follows three female politicians – Jess Phillips in Britain, Pramila Jayapal in the U.S., and Michelle Rempel in Canada – as they maneuver the halls of power. "We Are Not Ghouls" is about the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. 

"The Wind Blows the Border" explores indigenous land rights along the Brazil-Paraguay border. "A Witch Story" tells of the legacy of witch hunts in America, as told by the descendant of a woman hanged for witchcraft in Salem, Mass.

"Path of the Panther." DOC NYC


With "January 6th," Jules Naudet and Gedeon Naudet (who made the acclaimed 2002 documentary "9/11") provide a minute-by-minute look at the attack on the U.S. Capitol in which supporters of President Trump tried to overturn his election loss.  "The Killing of a Journalist" examines the murder of an investigative journalist and his fiancée in Slovakia, which was linked to a government plot.

The habitat and movement of the endangered Florida Panther are tracked by wildlife photographer Carlton Ward in "Path of the Panther."

"The Quiet Epidemic" follows one family's struggle with chronic Lyme disease. "The Corridors of Power" examines U.S. foreign policy as it pertains to genocide. "The Grab" looks at how governments and the uber-wealthy seek to wrest control of natural resources.

"Ennio," about film composer Ennio Morricone.  DOC NYC


In "Ennio," director Giuseppe Tornatore ("Cinema Paradiso") offers a rhapsodic portrait of composer Ennio Morricone, who gives lengthy interviews about his life and musical mentors, his spaghetti westerns, and his Hollywood output. Other musical subjects are "Buffy Sainte-Marie: Carry It On," a PBS portrait of the folk singer, activist and philanthropist; and "Ellis," a profile of jazz pianist and composer Ellis Marsalis.

"Jerry Brown: The Disrupter" looks at the life and times of the two-time California governor. "Robert Irwin: A Desert of Pure Feeling" explores the work of the experimental artist. Stage director James Lapine profiles Rose Styron, widow of novelist William Styron, in "In the Company of Rose."

"Finding Her Beat." DOC NYC


From the director of "The Wrecking Crew" comes "Immediate Family," which features session musicians who were key to iconic recordings by some of the leading artists of the 1970s. "The Elephant 6 Recording Co." delves into the history of psychedelic rock bands that emerged from Athens, Ga., in the 1990s, including Olivia Tremor Control, Neutral Milk Hotel, and Elf Power.

"Finding Her Beat" is about an all-female troupe of Taiko drummers. "Lost Angel: The Genius of Judee Sill" looks back on the '70s singer-songwriter. "Lee Fields: Faithful Man" looks at the ups and downs of the career of the blues and soul singer and former member of Kool & the Gang. "Cesária Évora" is about the Cape Verde singer who gained global fame as the "Barefoot Diva."


"The Art of Rebellion" profiles Lydia Emily, a single mother, artist and teacher who must deal with advancing multiple sclerosis. "The End of the World" explores the coterie of noted writers who came out of Bennington College in the 1980s and how they transformed the literary world. "Kingdom of Dreams" examines the modern era of fashion through the trailblazing work of such designers as John Galliano, Marc Jacobs, Alexander McQueen and Tom Ford.

"Kobra Self-Portrait" features the famed Brazilian street artist Kobra and his larger-than-life murals. The daughter of famed architect Fabrizio Fiumi explores his radical work through the lens of their relationship in "Radical Landscapes." Analog cinema is heralded by projectionists in "Splice Here: A Projected Odyssey."

"South Beach Shark Club: Legends and Lore of the South Florida Shark Hunters." DOC NYC


"Category: Women" looks at discrimination against female athletes of color. "Skate Dreams" chronicles women's fight for equity in the sport of skateboarding, while "Jeanette Lee vs." looks at the legacy of the Asian American pool player known as the "Black Widow."

"South Beach Shark Club: Legends and Lore of the South Florida Shark Hunters" tells the story of Miami-South Beach teens who began hunting sharks in the 1970s, and continue today. 

"Super Eagles '96" chronicles the Nigerian men's soccer team, the first from an African nation to win Olympic gold, while "Villeneuve Pironi" tells the story of Formula 1 legends Gilles Villenueve and Didier Pironi. 


DOC NYC also showcases some recent award-winners from other festivals (such as Sundance and SXSW), including "Aftershock," "Bad Axe," "In Her Hands," and "Riotsville, USA." 

For complete program descriptions, schedules and ticket/streaming information, visit

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