In just 9 days, New York will see the launch of DOCNYC, the new festival birthed from the folks behind NYC's Stranger Than Fiction series (Toronto International Film Festival Documentary Programmer Thom Powers, STF Executive Director Raphaela Neihausen, IFC Center head honcho John Vanco and IFC Center Director of Programs Harris Dew). It's perhaps the biggest documentary festival launch in over five years and it's grabbing the prime real estate in early November that's soon to be vacated by primo UK Doc/Fest Sheffield.
The first edition is marked by tributes to doc superstars Werner Herzog and Errol Morris, a retrospective of work by one of this year's Honorary Oscar recipients, Kevin Brownlow, and two competition sections - Metropolis, which focuses on New York-set stories, and Viewfinders, which includes the US Premieres of Janus Metz' ARMADILLO, Kim Longinotto's PINK SARIS and Bjarte Mørner Tveit's DISCOVERIES OF A MARIONETTE and the World Premiere of Robert Greene's KATI WITH AN I (following a sneak preview earlier this year at True/False).
We talked to Thom Powers (who was, full disclosure, my co-chair for the first two editions of the Cinema Eye Honors and who serves on Cinema Eye's Advisory Board) about the inaugural festival, his broader ideas for a "nonfiction festival" and what's exciting and scaring him nine days out.
ATWT: I guess I want to start with the other stuff, the non-film elements, because that's one of the things I think is so exciting about DOCNYC and what you're doing, because it's not just films and it's not just panels about films.
Thom Powers: It's not. Film I would say is an 80 or 90 percent core of what we're doing this year but the longterm goal of this festival is to enrich the other aspects over the years. And the heart of this is the daylong symposia that we have called Doc Convergence. That's kind of where I laid down an initial structure for ways in which I want to invigorate this festival with all kinds of different documentary voices, not just filmmakers. At Doc Convergence we have photographers, including Pulitzer Prize winner David Turnley, we have cartoonists, such as Joe Sacco, Linda Barry, we have people from the world of performance and also writing, such as Lawrence Wright, who did "My Trip to Al Qaeda", which was turned into a film by Alex Gibney, and Moises Kaufman, who's done these documentary-based theatrical works, including The Laramie Project, that was turned into a film.