Saturday, November 21, 2015

the last night of DOC NYC 2015- The Award Presentation and the screening of DREAMING AGAINST THE WORLD and CLAUDE LANZMANN SPECTRES OF THE SHOAH

You would think it a joke if I said the final night of the 2015 DOC NYC was a dark and stormy night, but it was. A wicked rain storm lashed the New York Metro area making it a very unpleasant night to be out. Thankfully movies this time of year screen inside so all one had to do was make it to the theater to be safe and warm for a couple of hours.

I was going to the screening of CLAUDE LANZMANN SPECTRES OF THE SHOAH which was screening with DREAMING AGAINST THE WORLD at the SVA theaters. The original start time was supposed to be 730 but things had gotten moved around because of security issues with Hillary Clinton who was attending MAKERS:ONCE AND FOR ALL which screened earlier in the evening. That was fine with me because I got to have a long leisurely dinner with Mondocurry.

When I got SVA it looked dead, the heavy rain keeping anyone without tickets away from the theater. I picked up my ticket and went inside.

Sitting in my seat I ended up talking to Dave Schachter who produced BARGE as well as Kurt Vincent  who directed and Irene Chin LOST ARCADE. Vincent seemed a bit ansy about the future of his film I assured them that the demand was there as was strong word of mouth and that at the world premiere no one wanted to leave the stand by line even after being told they couldn’t get in. Dave Schachter also made some suggestions about getting the word out to a wider audience. Vivent said that he had already lined up a screening at the soon to open Metrograph theater which is located not far from the location of Chinatown Fair, the subject of his film
Thom Powers and Basil Tsiokos begin the introductions
The evening began with some thank yous and then the announcement of the awards…

Three shorts got special Jury Mentions
Two shorts won top prize and both go onto the Oscar short list
Eric Rockey accepts his award
Stephen Maing accepts his award
Announcing the Metropolis awards

David Shapiro stands to accept the audience applause
Add caption

Marc Levin and subject accept his award
NEWMAN wins Special Mention in the View Finders Category
Nicole Horanyi accepts her award

Directors Justin Schein and David Mehlman accept their Audience Awared
After the awards the directors of the two films came up and introduced their  films

Or not.

Francisco Bello and Timothy Sternberg who directed DREAMING said they don’t like to talk before a screening so they said nothing.

Adam Benzine director of CLAUDE LANZMANN SPECTRES OF THE SHOAH said a few words, largely dedicating the screening to the people of France.

The lights went down and the films started.

DREAMING AGAINST THE WORLD  is a very good portrait of artist Mu Xin.

A Chinese intellectual, he ran into trouble off and on over the years with the communist government and found himself imprisoned. During the time he wrote a prison diary and painted pictures which he hid had to hide lest he be executed. The film is a singular portrait of a singular individual who refused to be broken or to die despite poor treatment by the Chinese authorities. In his way he got the last laugh living long enough to be considered a cultural icon. Its a great little film and seeing the art on the big screen was absolutely  stunning.

An aside, during the Q&A the film makers said that they got the interview with Mu Xin, who had only done two previous, very short interviews by showing up at his home with a collection of Beethoven CDs.

In the time between the films about a third of the audience got up and left. I recognized most of them as filmmakers of other DOC NYC films who had shown up for the awards ceremony. While I know why they left, they were there to see who won the various award, I think it was bad form and thought they should have at least waited until the second film ended.

The LANZMANN film disappointed. The film consists of a 2013 interview with Lanzmann where he recounts his life and the making of SHOAH and some outtakes from the epic film. While its good, it isn’t anything special. Worse there is little here that anyone who knows Lanzmann and his work hasn’t heard before, though the footage of the attack by Nazis that put the director in the hospital for a month is new and chilling. The film is a kind of puff piece DVD extra. I’m not sure what it’s point since it’s clear that there could have been more being told- a fact made clear when director Adam Benzine said he shot with Lanzmann for a week. A week and you only could cull 40 minutes out of it? What we have is good but Lanzmann deserves more-he deserves at least a couple of hours.

After the films the directors were brought on stage as was Richard Brody Film Editor of the New Yorker and Professor Stuart Liebman Media Studies, Queens College; CUNY Graduate School.
Timothy Sternberg tries to remain awake as Richard Brody talks and talks and talks
I'm going lose friends by saying this but the addition of Richard Brody  was a major mistake by the festival. I say this because once Brody started talking he didn’t shut up.

There was one question to Timothy Sternberg and Francisco Bello about DREAMING and the next question went to Brody who then talked for about ten minutes on the importance of SHOAH and going into great deal about several sequences in the Lanzmann film. He apologized for talking so long but after a couple of questions to Adam Benzine and Professor Liebman he jumped back in and just went. What he said wasn't bad but what he didn't realize the night wasn't about him, which is what it became. (there were only two audience questions)

I always hate multiple film Q&As because one  film always gets shut out but this was ridiculous. It would have been better if the only film screened was the Lanzmann doc and there was an hour discussion because DREAMING ended up unfairly forgotten in the discussion.

The evening wasn't bad it just was really odd.

And with that DOC NYC was done for another year.

Over all I had a blast and I can't wait until next year.
Professor Stuart Liebman

For more pictures from the evening go to our Tumblr page

(My personal best of DOC NYC  list will appear Sunday night)

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