Still from 'Mr. Saturday Night'
Nov 9, 2021
What to watch at the DOC NYC 2021 film festival
The premier documentary festival's lineup includes films about Kenny G, Reverend Vince Anderson, Robert Stigwood, the MTA and more
It’s not every day that one of the world’s biggest, buzziest, most prominent documentary film festivals rolls into town.
Beginning November 10, DOC NYC will screen 127 features and 124 shorts over the course of eight days, offering some 300 hours of doc-watching. While the festival covers everything—from senior bellydancers to an artist who smuggled portraits out of the federal prison he spent six years in—it would be impossible to actually see everything.
Here, then, is our list of picks that include some kind of local angle or edge. And if you like handicapping the Oscars, DOC NYC is a good place to start: Over the last nine years, every Academy Award winner has first screened here.
Both in person and online showings routinely sell out, so get your tickets sooner rather than later. Here is our preview:
“The Reverend” (Director: Nick Canfield)
Showing at Cinépolis Chelsea, November 12, 16, 18
Showing online, November 13-28
The film tells the story of Reverend Vince Anderson, who moved to New York in the 1990s with one goal in mind: become part of the seminary. So how did he end up performing weekly shows to sweaty Williamsburg crowds for over 20 years as the head of a group playing “dirty gospel?” The Reverend follows Anderson as he realizes his true calling: music.
“Mr. Saturday Night” (Director: John Maggio)
Showing at Cinépolis Chelsea November 13
Showing online, November 14-15
Take a cauldron of dance-heavy beats, add just a pinch of clothing (the more revealing the better), toss in heaping teaspoons of cocaine and you get New York’s mid-’70s disco scene. The film that perhaps best captured the essence of the era was 1977’s “Saturday Night Fever,” shot partly in Bay Ridge. Now we’re getting the story behind the story with “Mr. Saturday Night,” a biopic of the man responsible for several cultural touchstones of the era: Robert Stigwood.
Stigwood was the founder of RSO Records, an impresario who managed the Bee Gees and Eric Clapton, and proved skeptics wrong when he got into the film business by producing Saturday Night Fever. Stigwood’s career would veer from staggering success to crushing disappointments, something this anticipated doc is unlikely to do.
“Listening to Kenny G” (Director: Penny Lane)
Showing at SVA Theatre, November 10
Showing online, November 11-12
Directed by Brooklynite Penny Lane, “Listening to Kenny G” paints the portrait of an artist who polarizes his listeners. While some consider Kenny G to be the unequivocal smooth-jazz king, other’s find him to be “mediocre and passionless.” This film tries to answer the question: How could there be such a split?
Hot off the heels of Lane’s most recent documentaries, “Hail Satan?” (2019, four awards and 20 nominations), and “Nuts!” (2016, three awards and six nominations), “Kenny G” is well worth checking out. Lane’s previous films have been labelled “cheeky, provocative” (Washington Post), “hilarious, and latently enraging” (IndieWire), and “fantastic” (Variety). Bonus: At the opening night of DOC NYC, both Penny Lane and Kenny G himself will be present for a Q&A.
Both “Listening to Kenny G” and “Mr. Saturday Night” are part of the “Music Box” collection of documentary films created by Bill Simmons for HBO.
“Shorts: New York, New York” (Directors: Victor Dias Rodrigues; Sara Joe Wolansky, Gareth Smit; Alex Mallis; Jay Rosenblatt)
Showing at the IFC Center, November 13
Showing online, November 10-18
It’s impossible to sum up the New York experience in a single film—so here are four. From Andrew Yang to dollar cabs on Flatbush, this program packages the essence of the city into four-20 minute shorts.
“End Of The Line” (Director: Emmett Adler)
Showing at Cinépolis Chelsea, November 12, 17
Showing online, November 13-28
Do you complain about the F train? Swear at the L? Avoid the G like the plague? Love or hate the MTA, the pandemic made us realize that, for better or for worse, we take the subways for granted. “End Of The Line” explores what happens when the screechy, crowded, unreliable backbone of the city comes to a grinding halt.
“The Photograph” (Director: Sherman De Jesus)
Showing at Cinépolis Chelsea, November 10-11
Showing online, November 11th-28th
The Photograph follows renowned filmmaker Sherman De Jesus on his journey to learn about his grandfather from a single photograph. In doing so, he uncovers the breathtaking portraits taken by Van Der Zee that span generations of Black New Yorkers, capturing the essence of what it was to live during the Harlem Renaissance.
“The Art of Making It” (Director: Kelcey Edwards)
Showing at SVA Theatre, November 13
Showing at Cinépolis Chelsea, November 18
Showing online, November 14-28
What makes or breaks an artist? Is there some secret that separates financially successful creatives from those who struggle to get by? Featuring 35 creatives—many of whom live in Brooklyn—”The Art of Making It” is a documentary about the scrappy, not-so-glamorous business of being an artist.
You might also like
Best CBD Brands To Try: Tribe CBD – A Real Tested CBD Feature