By Alan Scherstuhl
By Charles Taylor
By Melissa Anderson
By Inkoo Kang
By Amy Nicholson
By Sam Weisberg
By Stephanie Zacharek
By Chuck Wilson
American teens struggle against limited horizons in two different, but equally unconventional, competition films. Kati With an Iis Robert Greenes intimate, impressionistic portrait of his half-sister, Kati, a young woman who yearns for a life beyond small-town Alabama even as shes invisibly shackled to it at every turn. To Be Hearddoesnt have Katis free-flowing visual lyricism, but it does feature subjects whose freestyle spoken-word poetry performances are something to behold. An unusual collaboration between a four-person producer-director team, two of whom figure prominently onscreen, To Be Heard inspires without packaging or softening its hard truths, showing how vital it is for children thrust into impossible situationsin this case, Bronx students caught between broken homes and the streetsto empower themselves through language.
Even the first-person docs in the festival trade self-indulgence for a more inclusive soul-searching. Norwegian director Bjarte Mørner Tveits Discoveries of a Marionette is a family movie that opens into an archival thriller, utilizing a massive collection of 8mm travelogues to answer and preserve the mysteries of Tveits grandfathers life. Meanwhile, Josef Birdman Astor turns his own imminent eviction from an artists loft atop Carnegie Hall into a lovely and tragic portrait of a dying community in Lost Bohemia. The aging eccentrics of that film fit nicely alongside two other New York characters in the Metropolis competition: Mother of Rocks pioneering female music journalist Lillian Roxon, and MindFluxs downtown theater icon Richard Foreman; their unconventional lives redeem otherwise disappointingly conventional films. By privileging process over great man hagiography, David Solls elegant Puppet, about the complicated history of American puppetry and one New York puppeteers artistic struggle, is a far more rewarding exploration of creation.
As far as Powers is concerned, the theatrical settingbe it for a weekly screening or a concentrated festival such as DOC NYCis vital for watching these films, and for fostering an atmosphere of communication and discovery. The movie theater is one of the rare places in our lives where well sit and concentrate for 90 minutes, he says. Weve turned off the BlackBerry, weve got no remote control in our hands. Lets hope New Yorkers can power off and make the time for this strong slate.
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