For the eighth consecutive year, the United States’ largest documentary film festival, DOC NYC returns to delight and challenge audiences.  Premiering and showcasing many of the world’s best documentaries, this high calibre film fest  takes place over eight days in November from the November 9-16, 2017 at New York’s IFC Center, Cinepolis Chelsea and the SVA Theatre (click links for locations).

Our emphasis and forthcoming reviews cover Black subject films, and while they’re not all made by directors and producers of the African diaspora, they are all vetted in showing a true diversity of Black representation.  

The 2017 festival will showcase over 250 films and events with more than 350 filmmakers and special guests appearing in person. In addition to premiering feature-length and short documentaries, the festival’s highlights also include DOC NYC PRO—a series of in-depth panels and master classes—and the Visionaries Tribute awards ceremony that honors major figures in the field of nonfiction film. DOC NYC is produced by the IFC Center.

Complete program & ticket info is available at


Dir: Sam Pollard
(USA, 100 min.) NYC PREMIERE
SUN. NOV. 12, 1:30PM (SVA Theatre)
TUE. NOV. 14, 12:15PM (IFC Center)
















Series: Centerstage

A star of stage and screen and member of the legendary Rat Pack, Sammy Davis, Jr. broke racial barriers, but paid a heavy price for it. Defying societal norms concerning interracial romance, religion and political affiliation, Davis courted controversy many times, but always with grace and honesty. Filmmaker Sam Pollard explores all the complexities of Davis, crossing several phases of American show business. The film is loaded with dazzling footage of Davis as dancer, singer and impressionist that will leave you gasping with delight and awe.  Look out for a full review of this spectacular film later this week.

In person: Sam Pollard









Dir: Tracy Heather Strain
(USA, 118 min.) NYC PREMIERE
SAT. NOV. 11, 11:30AM (SVA Theatre)




















Series: Centerstage

Lorraine Hansberry, best known for A Raisin in the Sun, was a black writer, communist, feminist, lesbian and outspoken trailblazer at the height of the Civil Rights Movement. She led an active life, befriending James Baldwin, inspiring Nina Simone, breaking barriers from Broadway to Hollywood, being monitored by the FBI and seeking love on her own terms, all before her untimely death at age 34. After many years in the making, director Tracy Heather Strain delivers the rich biography that Hansberry deserves.

In person: Tracy Heather Strain  









Sighted Eyes/Feeling Heart Official Trailer from The Film Posse on Vimeo.



Dir: Sam Pollard
THU. NOV. 16, 7:30PM (IFC Center)

(Original Caption) Atlanta. Mayor Maynard Jackson (C) and Coretta Scott king, widow of slain civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., join Nelson Mandela in holding up clenched fists during the playing of the Anthem of Mandela’s African National Congress upon Mandela’s arrival.
















Series: American Perspectives

Director Sam Pollard constructs a portrait of charismatic trailblazer Maynard Jackson, who became Atlanta’s first black mayor in 1973. The son of pastors raised in the segregated South, Jackson entered college at 14 and took office at 35. During his three-term tenure, he led the city through the traumatic Atlanta child murders scare and triumphantly hosted the 1996 Olympics, all while championing racial equality. Family and colleagues, including Bill Clinton, Andrew Young and Al Sharpton, tell the epic story of a dynamic leader and his legacy of honor and progress.

In person: Sam Pollard and special guests



Dir: Sonja Sohn
(USA, 92 min.)
MON. NOV. 13, 7:15PM (Cinepolis Chelsea)












Series: Fight the Power

Actress Sonja Sohn was unforgettable in HBO’s The Wire as Detective Kima Greggs. Now she takes on the role of documentary filmmaker to explore contemporary Baltimore. Set in the tense period after Freddie Gray was killed while in police custody, Baltimore Rising follows activists, police officers, community leaders and gang affiliates struggling to hold Baltimore together. We witness people of varying backgrounds who discover a common humanity when they often saw each other only as adversaries.

In person: Sonja Sohn, executive producer Marc Levin, film subjects


directed by Brian Kaufman
THU. NOV. 16, 9:30PM (Cinepolis Chelsea)














Series:  American Perspectives

In 1967, Detroit’s mostly white police department was known for its harsh treatment of black citizens. When police raided an after hours party at the intersection of 12th Street and Clairmount, the streets erupted in what’s been called a riot by some, a rebellion by others. It lasted five days and left 43 dead. This compelling documentary uses more than 400 reels of home movies, archival footage, illustrations and new oral histories to explore what happened from multiple viewpoints.

In Person: Brian Kaufman

12th and Clairmount: OFFICIAL Trailer from Brian Kaufman on Vimeo.



Dir: Katherine Fairfax Wright
(USA, 100 min.) NYC PREMIERE
SUN. NOV. 12, 3:45PM (SVA Theatre)












Series: Centerstage

In the years since competing on American Idol, Todrick Hall has amassed a staggering following on YouTube, bringing his distinct voice and aesthetic to pop culture, and serving as an inclusive, inspirational figure to LGBT fans around the world. For his latest project, chronicled in Katherine Fairfax Wright’s entertaining portrait, Hall challenges himself to complete 16 elaborate videos for an autobiographical high-concept musical, Straight Outta Oz, in just two weeks, and then immediately take the live show on the road to his devoted fans.

In person: Katherine Fairfax Wright

Dir: Bartle Bull
FRI. NOV. 10, 2:45PM and SAT. NOV. 11, 11:15AM (IFC Center)

Series: Metropolis

Since the 1920s, New York City’s amateur boxers have competed for glory in the Golden Gloves. The legendary annual boxing tournament now lasts three months and attracts 500 fighters, among them Titus Williams, James Wilkins and Nisa Rodriguez. Director Bartle Bull and his collaborators, including acclaimed cinematographers Tom Hurwitz and Kirsten Johnson, follow these scrappy young athletes as they fight for their Golden Gloves dreams and the life-changing opportunities that may follow victory.

In person: Bartle Bull, film subjects Nisa Rodriguez, Titus Williams, James Wilkins

CRADLE OF CHAMPIONS — Trailer from Bartle Bull on Vimeo.


Dir: Lenny Feinberg
SAT. NOV. 11, 2:00PM  and MON. NOV. 13, 2:30PM (IFC Center)












Series: American Perspectives

In the early 1900s, an African-American man named Reverend M.J. Divine began a religious movement that would reach over a million followers at its peak, cross racial divisions and advocate for gender and economic equality. Despite his influence and achievements, Father Divine is little remembered today, dismissed by detractors as a con man and a fraud. The reason: Father Divine claimed to be God. Lenny Feinberg reveals his fascinating story, and that of his last few remaining followers, who are on a mission to keep Father Divine’s legacy alive.

In person: Lenny Feinberg

Father Divine from Lenny Feinberg on Vimeo.



Dir: Harriet Hirshorn
FRI. NOV. 10, 10:30AM  and SAT. NOV. 11, 9:15PM (IFC Center)













Series: Fight the Power

Combining archival footage and interviews with female activists, scientists and scholars in the US and Africa, director Harriet Hirshorn demonstrates the vital role that women have played — and continue to play — in the global fight against HIV/AIDS. An unexpectedly upbeat film about pressing global issues conveyed through intimate, evocative journeys, Nothing Without Us tells the stories of ordinary women facing their fears, cares and everyday struggles in order to fight for their communities and their very lives.

In person: Harriet Hirshorn

Nothing Without Us: Trailer from Harriet Hirshorn on Vimeo.


Dir: Dustin Nakao Haider
SAT. NOV. 11, 9:00PM (Cinepolis Chelsea)
MON. NOV. 13, 12:45PM (IFC Center)















Series: American Perspectives

Chicago’s West Side is known for guns, gangs, drugs and violence, but it’s also home to Orr Academy. There, young men like Marquise and Tyquone find refuge from the brutal realities of the street on the school’s basketball team, under the watchful eye of their mentor and coach, Lou. After team MVP Marquise runs afoul of the law, Tyquone feels the pressure to take the Spartans to the state championship, even as he dreams of bigger goals for himself.

In person: Dustin Nakao Haider



Dir: Brent Wilson
TUE. NOV. 14, 7:30PM (Cinepolis Chelsea)
WED. NOV. 15, 10:30AM (IFC Center)













Series: Sonic Cinema

Doo wop, featuring stellar vocal harmonies sung a cappella, was born on street corners in the 1950s; soon, the Coasters, The Drifters and Frankie Valli were singing their hearts out to America on Alan Freed’s influential radio show. In Streetlight Harmonies, a who’s who of musicians trace the evolution of American pop music from doo wop and Phil Spector’s legendary “wall of sound” up through Motown, surf music and the British Invasion. It’s a toe-tapping stroll down memory lane for music lovers of all ages.

In person: Brent Wilson, subjects La La Brooks (Crystals), Vito Picone (The Elegants), Charlie Thomas (Drifters), Jimmy Merchant (Teenagers), Lois Powell (The Chantals) and more.

Streetlight Harmonies Trailer from Scott Gordon / HaloLA on Vimeo.



DOC NYC’s programming team picks 15 documentaries for the Short List, spotlighting awards season contenders. Also included in this year’s films about the African-American experience are the following Short List titles:

THE FORCE – FRI. NOV. 10, 3:30PM (Cinepolis Chelsea)

STEP – THU. NOV 9, 6:00PM & TUE. NOV. 14, 10:15AM (Cinepolis Chelsea)

STRONG ISLAND – SUN. NOV. 12, 9:00PM (IFC Center) & THU. NOV. 16, 11:45AM (Cinepolis Chelsea)



Related Links

Sammy Davis Jr: I Gotta Be Me website

Maynard website:

12th & Clairmount website

Baltimore Rising website

Behind the Curtain website

Cradle of Champions website

Father’s Kingdom website

Nothing Without Us website

Sighted Eyes/Feeling Hearts website

Streetlight Harmonies website:

Shot In the Dark website

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