Review by Sean Boelman
Bringing nonfiction cinema to viewers across the United States in a hybrid format for the third year in a row, DOC NYC returns with a 2022 edition that is even bigger and better than in years past. Featuring an extensive lineup of documentary films — from ones that have been picking up buzz on the festival circuit to smaller independent productions waiting to be discovered by audiences — there is something for everyone who loves watching docs.
We, at disappointment media, are excited to again be covering the festival remotely. As we screen films in the lineup, we will continue to update this page with more thoughts about the films so that you can find something you want to watch in-person or at home via their virtual festival offerings.
Cirque du Soleil: Without a Net
Dawn Porter has made several acclaimed and successful civil rights documentaries over the past few years, so the subject of her newest film is rather surprising. However, Porter brings her same humanistic touch to Cirque du Soleil: Without a Net, which documents the iconic acrobat troupe’s return to performing live after the COVID-19 pandemic. Generally, the performers at Cirque du Soleil are hailed for their nearly inhuman abilities, but this documentary focuses on the people behind the costumes and spectacles. While this may be a relatively straightforward stagecraft story, Porter tells it in such a way that it is enormously compelling for fans and neophytes alike.
Finding Her Beat
Finding Her Beat tells the story of a troupe of women specializing in the Japanese drum performance of Taiko — a historically male-dominated artform. The mission of these women is extraordinary, and their performance skills impressive, but the film gets a bit too focused on their personal lives at times to be as captivating as it could have been. While the cutaways to the performers’ families are a welcome bit of grounding, the portion of the film that explores how the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic almost affected their performance showcase feels unnecessary and ineffective.
Plenty of documentarians have attempted to ape the style of filmmakers like Michael Moore, who seamlessly integrates humor and wit into his political takedowns, but few manage to pull it off in a way that is satisfying. Blake Zeff’s Loan Wolves tackles an interesting and timely subject — the student debt crisis — yet all of the genuinely important things Zeff and his interviewees have to say are undermined by his constant attempts to make wisecracks. There’s definitely some worthy information to be found in this documentary, but Zeff’s apparent need to constantly prove himself to be hip is annoying at best and distracting at worst.
The 2022 edition of DOC NYC runs in-person from November 9-17 and online November 9-27.
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