The roots of hip hop, a titan of modern photography, and the many grassroots mobilizations at the forefront of social change across the globe: these are just some of the themes addressed at this year’s DOC NYC film festival. Now firmly established as the biggest documentary festival within the U.S., DOC NYC opens November 13 and offers a striking blend of features from emerging talent along with classics from some of the genre’s best-known filmmakers. Here’s a look at the Latino films playing the fest.
DOC NYC runs from November 13 – 20 in New York City.
Wrongful imprisonment is at the center of Niko Vikci’s first full-length film, as Angel Cordero is released from prison having spent thirteen years in maximum security for a brutal crime he didn’t commit. Upon release he seeks to reconnect with the daughter he was forced to abandon and come face to face with the actual perpetrator, while simultaneously adapting to a world far different from the one he left behind. Further proof of a flawed justice system that systematically sends people to death row using questionable evidence.
Some Kind of Spark
Few films so effectively capture the power of music as Ben Niles’ profile of the Juilliard Music Advancement Program in NYC. Following massive education funding cuts, the program was established to encourage inner-city children, regardless of ability or background, to learn to play musical instruments. The film addresses the importance of developing creativity in young people and the many challenges involved. As the kids perform for their mentors, the film takes the form of a kind of morally upright X-Factor, only in this case you’ll be more likely to hug the screen than throw things at it.
“Poverty… is the greatest scandal of our times” says one of the activists in Pamela Yates’ film, which looks at the creation of a series of schemes designed to eliminate the vast economic disparities that continue to oppress communities all over the world. In Colombia, Peru, and Brazil, Fundación Change works with local women to develop a banking system that helps them become financially independent of the whims of globalization. The success of these schemes offers a potential blueprint for communities to gain a stronger foothold in the economic system.
The Hand That Feeds
The Hand That Feeds is a thought-provoking and relevant film that ought to make viewers think twice about how they spend their money. Amid the Macs, crusty bagels, and caramel lattes on Manhattan’s Upper East Side café scene, a struggle is taking place. Immigrant workers organize themselves to fight a culture of exploitation and mistreatment that gives them zero rights and only slightly more in wages. Due to their undocumented status, they have come up against a brick wall in previous attempts to improve conditions, but this time, their determination builds into a popular movement that draws on the wider community, the courts, and Occupy Wall Street protestors.
The recipient of the Candescent Award for socially-conscious filmmaking at this year’s Sundance Festival, Marmato chronicles resistance in a small Colombian town (that of the title) to the government’s selling-off of land to a behemoth international mining company. The reason: Marmato sits atop a vast reserve of untapped gold worth some $20 billion. With the town’s 8,000 residents facing forcible relocation and the destruction of their homes, do they have any hope of holding out against the combined might of the state and of multinational corporations?
You may have heard that during the 1970s the South Bronx wasn’t exactly somewhere you’d take your Grandma for a picnic. Rival gangs conducted a bloody turf war as a total lack of government funding plunged the area into misery and decay. But, oh my, what a sound emerged from the rubble. As disaffected young men began channeling their rage into artistic expression, hip hop was born, merging beats, graffiti, and breakdancing to become one of the 20th century’s most innovative and influential cultural movements. Former gang members return to the scene of their youth to recall this most remarkable of social transformations.
The Salt of the Earth
The photographer Sebastião Salgado has for decades documented the social realities of people all over the world, with his most famous work centering on gold miners at the Serra Pelada quarry in his native Brazil. This film, made by son Juliano and German auteur Wim Wenders, a long-time admirer of Salgado, charts the life and career of the photographer and co-founder, with his wife Lélia Deluiz Wanick, of the Instituto Terra nature reserve. The film won the special prize in the Un Certain Regard category at Cannes this year.
A Small Section of the World
In Costa Rica, a group of women form a cooperative designed to balance out the economic shortfalls which result from their husbands and sons leaving the community to seek employment elsewhere. Even though they have little experience of coffee cultivation, the women create the ASOMOBI collective as a means of farming one of the region’s most profitable crops. By throwing themselves into ensuring the success of their endeavor, they hope to establish a self-sufficient model that could serve as a guide to other communities in the region.