SF Docfest

DOC NYC, now in its third year, opens tonight and runs through November 15 and, in her overview at the Voice, Michelle Orange notes that the lineup “has expanded to 61 features, 32 shorts, and a couple of dozen panels and master classes for those looking to do more than watch. Led by roving documentary programmer Thom Powers, who also has gigs with Sundance and Toronto International Film Festival, the event has a healthy slickness: DOC NYC is a mix of festival-approved galas (Venus and Serena opens the fest; The Central Park Five, a wrenching exoneration doc co-directed by Ken Burns, will close it), ‘special events’ (including 56 Up, the latest in Michael Apted’s landmark Up series), and Oscar hopefuls (in case you missed Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry or How to Survive a Plague) tempered by smaller personality-, issue-, and plain old story-driven stories.”

Filmmaker‘s Scott Macaulay interviews Powers; and, at the House Next Door, Nick McCarthy previews Mary Kerr’s Radioman and Treva Wurmfeld’s Shepard & Dark, “two very different observations on the avenues through which individuals feel fulfilled, or alienated, by those they consider close comrades.” Meantime, the Paris Review is hoping you’ll catch Tom Bean and Luke Poling’s Plimpton! Starring George Plimpton as Himself, which Joseph Jon Lanthier reviews at the House, along with Kevin Schreck’s Persistence of Vision and Beth Toni Kruvant’s David Bromberg: Unsung Treasure.

Also screening is The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology, Sophie Fiennes and Slavoj Žižek‘s followup to The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema (2006). “Everything’s game,” noted John Semley in Cinema Scope when he caught the new doc in Toronto: “The Sound of Music, Nazi propaganda, Coca-Cola, Kinder eggs, the London Riots, and so on and so on, whatever…. As with the previous film, Žižek’s Marxist/Lacanian inkblot analyses of cinema are thorough, even when they don’t necessarily seem warranted by the material itself. His introductory thoughts on John Carpenter’s They Live (1988) prove particularly incisive, not least because the film (and its anti-consumerist X-ray specs) essentially makes Žižek’s ideological critique for him…. As ever, it’s hard to shake out what exactly Žižek intends us to take seriously, especially when he makes concluding pronouncements that the revolutionary Left must be realists ‘by demanding the impossible.’ What Žižek seems to practice is more an ornate form of radical pessimism, offering thorough, compelling social diagnoses with not much in the way of meaningful prescription. Still, even when it seems like he’s serving up warmed-over rubbish, it’s good fun dining out of Žižek’s trashcan.”

Matthew Cole digests Žižek’s argument for his publisher, Verso Books: “In its most basic form, ideology is the discursive frame within which our world is produced, but we are not aware of it. As Žižek notes in The Sublime Object of Ideology, this comes from Marx’s Capital: ‘Sie wissen das nicht, aber sie tun es’—’they do not know it, but they are doing it.’ But there is another step, developed by the Frankfurt school, that points to the deeper problem of ideology—reality cannot reproduce itself without it. Or as Žižek says, ‘The mask is not simply hiding the real state of things; the ideological distortion is written into its very essence.’ After the fall of the Soviet Union and the unipolarity of global capitalism championed by the United States was firmly established, the notion that we are living in a ‘post-ideological’ world permeated the mainstream. This idea of a ‘post-ideological’ world is precisely what Žižek attacks, both in his academic work and this film.”

The contingent that’s grown weary of Žižek has become more vocal lately, arguing, in essence, that he’s all noise and no signal. Sight & Sound posted an amusing (if hardly fair) takedown by Henry K. Miller following the doc’s screening in London last month. More substantive is Benjamin Kunkel‘s argument in the New Statesman that “the figure of Žižek [has] seemed to represent, encouragingly, the lifting of the post-cold-war embargo on radical thought and at the same time, discouragingly, its reimposition.” Žižek himself has begun to snap back at his critics; meantime, more on the doc from David D’Arcy (Indiewire; more), Jordan Mintzer (Hollywood Reporter), and Joseph Walsh (Little White Lies).

For now (and for fun), here’s a clip from The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema in which Žižek discusses the newly crowned greatest-film-of-all-time:

“The San Francisco Documentary Film Festival returns for its 11th year with a typically strong program,” writes Cheryl Eddy in the Bay Guardian: “whether you like your docs quirky, political, musical, experimental, or just plain strange, DocFest has you covered. Plus, there’s an ’80s New Wave Sing-a-Long,’ because who doesn’t love screaming Spandau Ballet with a few hundred pals?” She previews several entries and Peter Wong covers a few more at Beyond Chron. Today through November 21.

Update, 11/11: Filmmaker‘s Scott Macaulay Skypes Fiennes.

Updates, 11/12: “DOC NYC is an omnibus fest,” writes Steve Dollar at GreenCine Daily. “Its 115 shorts and features mark an effort to create a populist documentary summit that plays strongly to specific constituencies within the ever-expanding culture that non-fiction filmmaking has become. As such, there is a distinct focus on beloved musical acts (Big Star, Kate McGarrigle) and profiles of pop culture phenomena (George Plimpton, Bettie Page), as well as the usual documentary forte: social issues. Those are most powerfully represented by The Central Park Five, in which Ken Burns (in league with daughter Sarah and David McMahon, her husband and longtime Burns associate) prowls Errol Morris/Werner Herzog turf to explore how five teenaged black and Hispanic boys spent a collective 33 ½ years in jail, falsely convicted in the infamous 1989 Central Park Jogger case.”

A handful of capsule reviews follow, which you can supplement with David D’Arcy‘s “random sampling” at Artinfo.

“In 1975, George and Kathy Lutz (along with Kathy’s three children from a previous marriage), moved into a huge house in Amityville, a tony Long Island suburb,” writes Drew Taylor at the Playlist. “In less than a month, the family would abandon their possessions and leave the house, later claiming it had been the source of a number of supernatural disturbances—including the appearance of a floating, wolf-headed pig; demonic possession; and swarms of ghostly black flies. (The events were immortalized in a supposedly nonfiction book by Jan Anson that has been adapted a number of times for the big screen.) In My Amityville Horror, Daniel Lutz, Kathy’s oldest boy (he legally changed his name when George married his mom), talks, for the first time, openly and at length about what he experienced in that house. The results are a disturbing mixture of paranormal ghost story and psychological unease.”

Update, 11/16: DOC NYC announces its awards: “Three juries selected films from each of the festival’s Viewfinders, Metropolis and Shorts programs to recognize for their outstanding achievements in form and content. Festival audiences voted for the SundanceNOW Audience Award.”

For news and tips throughout the day every day, follow @KeyframeDaily on Twitter and/or the RSS feed. Get Keyframe Daily in your inbox by signing in at

Did you like this article?
Give it a vote for a Golden Bowtie


Keyframe is always looking for contributors.

"Writer? Video Essayist? Movie Fan Extraordinaire?

Fandor is streaming on Amazon Prime

Love to discover new films? Browse our exceptional library of hand-picked cinema on the Fandor Amazon Prime Channel.