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A preview of new work from Citizenfour Oscar-winner Laura Poitras, the latest feature from master documentarian Frederick Wiseman and a film about the late Nora Ephron directed by her son Jacob Bernstein are among the 12 titles selected to screen in the Spotlight on Documentary section at the 53rd New York Film Festival, which runs from Sept. 25 to Oct. 11.
The sidebar, which was announced Monday, will kick off Sept. 27 with a program of short-form nonfiction, including Poitras’ Asylum, a look at Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who has sought political asylum inside the Ecuardorian embassy in London.
The lineup includes the world premiere of Bernstein’s Everything Is Copy, a portrait of the author, screenwriter and director Ephron, produced by HBO Films; Stig Bjorkman’s Ingrid Berman in Her Own Words, a tribute to actress Ingrid Bergman, which will be released by Rialto Pictures; Walter Salles’ Jia Zhangke, A Guy from Fenyan, in which the Brazilian filmmaker accompanies the Chinese director Jian on a return to the latter’s hometown; and Pamela Yates’ Rebel Citizen, which offers a look at cinematographer and activist Haskell Wexler.
Wiseman is returning to NYFF with his 40th film, In Jackson Heights, a study of the New York City neighborhood. Joaquim Pinto, another repeat visitor to NYFF, will present Fish Tail, co-directed with his husband Nuno Leonel, about small-scale fisherman in the Azorean island of Rabo de Peixe.
Social issues take center stage in a number of films: Michael Camerini and Shari Robertson, who premiered a series of immigration films How Democracy Works two years ago at NYFF, are returning with their final film on the subject, Immigration Battle. Abbas Fahdel’s Homeland (Iraq Year Zero) captures life in Iraq before and after the outbreak of the U.S.-led war. And the North American premiere of We Are Alive from Chilean filmmaker Carmen Castillo (whose Calle Santa Fe was a selection of the 2007 NYFF) is a documentary essay about the possibilities of political engagement in 2015.
Other titles that have been selected include the world premiere of James Solomon’s The Witness, a reconsideration of the fatal stabbing of Kitty Genovese in Queens, New York in 1964, and James Crump’s Troublemakers: The Story of Land Art, which tells of the ‘60s and ‘70s artists who made art out of the landscapes of the American Southwest.
“Taken together, the 12 selections in this year’s Spotlight on Documentary represent the range and depth of nonfiction in our midst,” NYFF director Kent Jones said in announcing the lineup. “I love seeing Pam Yates and Michael Camerini and Shari Robertson side by side with Fred Wiseman, now 85 and doing some of his greatest work, and Abbas Fahdel, whose film provides us with a precious glimpse of everyday life in Iraq right before and after we invaded. I love seeing New York movies as vastly different as Fred’s In Jackson Heights, Jacob Bernstein’s film about his mom Nora Ephron, James Solomon’s devastating movie about Kitty Genovese, and Troublemakers: The Story of Land Art, kind of a New-Yorkers-go-West movie, grouped together. Or Pam and her subject, Haskell Wexler, crossing paths with Carmen Castillo, looking at the very nature of political commitment and change — and then you have Laura Poitras looking at the same question from a vastly different angle. Or Joaquim Pinto’s beautifully crafted meditation and two beautifully crafted portraits by Stig Björkman and Walter Salles … there’s such breadth of vision in these films.”
The films were chosen by a selection committee, chaired by Jones, that also includes Dennis Lim, Film Society of Lincoln Center director of programming; Marian Masone, FSLC senior programming advisor; Gavin Smith, editor-in-chief, Film Comment; and Amy Taubin, contributing editor, Film Comment and Sight & Sound.
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Sterling K. Brown