DOC NYC November 10 – 17


In my experience the best parts of any film festival are the documentaries. Stick with the documentaries, as opposed to the narrative films, and you will almost always see something great. This is not to take anything away from fiction filmmakers, but at film festivals the documentaries dominate. So, how fortunate we are that DOC NYC is right in our area.

DOC NYC, America’s largest documentary film festival will run from November 10 – 17 at IFC Center (323 6th Avenue), Chelsea’s SVA Theatre (333 West 23rd Street) and Cinepolis Chelsea (260 West 23rd Street). The 2016 edition of DOC NYC will include 111 feature length documentaries, 102 shorts and will showcase over 250 films and events. More than 300 documentary filmmakers and special guests are expected to be in attendance.

I have been trying to keep up with an abundance of screening links for DOC NYC. As of press time here is what I have seen.


What begins as a portrait of an eccentric cat lady feeding strays in Manhattan’s Riverside Park evolves into an engrossing, philosophical, emotional and in depth portrait of Dorian Rence. Rence, in addition to her love of strays, plays the viola in The New York Philharmonic, a position she has held for the past 40 years. As Rence puts it, “If you can’t be an eccentric being a musician in the middle of New York City, where can you be an eccentric?”

Director and editor Markie Hancock has expertly interwoven many aspects of Rence’s life, creating a multi-layered tapestry of his subject’s experiences: family background, her influences, relationships, life in the Philharmonic and, of course, her love of feral cats. “Feral Love” has been expertly shot by cinematographer Mark Ledzian and features beautifully placed, emotionally appropriate classical music pieces which enhance this touching portrait of a one of a kind woman whose loves for classical music, cats and life are all equal.

“Feral Love” will be screened on Friday, November 11 at 1:00 pm and again on Wednesday, November 16 at 7:15. Both screenings will be held at IFC Center (323 6th Ave.). Director and editor Markie Hancock and subject Dorian Rence will be in attendance.


From Finland, “Diving Into the Unknown” is a pulse pounding, suspense filled documentary about a team of underwater cave divers attempting to recover the bodies of two of their fellow divers. The two divers died in an accident in one of the underwater caves that the group had been exploring. Their return to the scene of the diving accident is filled with danger, both emotional and physical. On the emotional end, how does one deal with finding the bodies of one’s friends? On the physical end, the underwater accident site was so dangerous that authorities, who had attempted to recover the remains of the two divers, called off the search and forbade any further diving in the area. Despite this, the team of rogue divers feels a sense of loyalty to their deceased friends and wants to bring their bodies home. Watching these divers, in the middle of a freezing Finland winter, cut a hole in a frozen river and then descend into the freezing water below is harrowing enough, but the film’s spectacular underwater cinematography combined with the sense of purpose that these divers have, provides an incredible immediacy and intimacy for the viewer.

Diving Into the Unknown” will be screened on Thursday, November 17 at 5:30 pm at Cinepolis Chelsea (260 West 23rd). Director Juan Reina and Producer Juho Harjula will both be in attendance.


Bob Hawk is the guy that American audiences have never heard of, who’s had the greatest influence on American film of the last, probably 30 years by virtue of the number of filmmakers who he has influenced personally.” This quote from Stephen Gutwillig, Executive Director of “Out Fest” from 2000 – 2008, and featured in the documentary “Film Hawk” nicely sums up the life’s work of subject Bob Hawk.

Hawk, 75, an unsung hero of the independent film world has been a consultant, advisor and guru to such independent film stalwarts as Kevin Smith (“Clerks” 1994) and Edward Burns (“The Brothers McMullen” 1995). The gay son of a preacher, Hawk was instrumental in heralding gay themed films at a time when gay themed films were not always the norm. Examples include the documentaries “Word is Out” (1977), “The Times of Harvey Milk” (1984) which won the Oscar for best documentary, and “Prodigal Sons” (2008). In addition to gay themed films, Hawk heralded a variety of independent films on a many different subjects, both documentaries and narratives.

Film Hawk,” for me, as someone who writes about film and uses film as an integral of his teaching, was a real education. It is a nicely put together and important piece of film history about a larger than life personality. The documentary uses a generous amount of film clips and features interviews with Hawk, his colleagues, family, friends, and, most especially, the filmmakers whose lives Hawk changed while enriching film culture.

Film Hawk” will screen on Saturday, November 12 at 5:45 pm at Cinepolis Chelsea, 260 West 23rd Street. Directors JJ Garvine and Tai Parquet and subject Bob Hawk will be in attendance.

For more information on DOC NYC go to


About unpaidfilmcritic

Up until 2009 Seth Shire spent nearly two decades in the New York film industry as a post production supervisor of feature films. Highlights include working on the films of Martin Scorsese, James Toback and Spike Lee. Since leaving the film industry Seth has expanded into new and varied areas where he has found a great deal of satisfaction. Seth currently teaches in the Sociology Department of CUNY Queens College. His courses include "Mass Media and Popular Culture," "Introduction to Sociology," and "Sociology of Cinema" where he is a very popular teacher. Seth is also the film critic for "Town & Village," a Manhattan weekly newspaper, a position he has held for the past six years. Seth gives back to his community through volunteer teaching at Manhattan's "The Caring Community," a center for senior citizens, where he teaches a very popular course on documentaries called "The Golden Age of the Documentary. In the fall of 2010 Seth taught "Critical Reading and Writing" at Parsons School of Design. He has also taught "Cinema Studies" at the New York Film Academy. Seth lives in Stuyvesant Town, in Manhattan.

Posted on November 9, 2016, in DOC NYC 2016, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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