Spotlight on Documentary

This year’s series of dispatches from the front lines of nonfiction cinema features incisive portraits of iconic figures, intimate reports from inside the American prison system, New York stories both personal and political, and much more.

45 Seconds of Laughter

  • Tim Robbins
  • 2019
  • USA
  • 95 minutes

North American Premiere

In his contemplative, pared down, and wildly engaging documentary, Tim Robbins captures a series of extraordinary sessions in which a group of inmates at the Calipatria State maximum-security facility take part in acting exercises that enhance bonding and emotional connection.

63 Up

  • Michael Apted
  • 2019
  • UK
  • 138 minutes

New York Premiere · Q&As with Michael Apted on Oct. 5 & 7

Michael Apted’s one-of-a-kind British film series returns once again to the lives of Tony; Nicholas; Suzy; Symon and Paul; Jackie, Sue, and Lynn; Andrew and John; Neil and Peter; and Bruce, more introspective than ever at age 63.

Bitter Bread

  • Abbas Fahdel
  • 2019
  • Lebanon/Iraq/France
  • 87 minutes
  • Subtitled

World Premiere · Q&As with Abbas Fahdel on Oct. 1 & Oct. 3

In this patient, heart-rending portrait of Syrian citizens who have fled their country, Iraqi-born filmmaker Abbas Fahdel, director of the epic Homeland (Iraq Year Zero), settles in with a community of refugees living in a tent camp in Lebanon’s Beqaa Valley.

The Booksellers

  • D.W. Young
  • 2019
  • USA
  • 99 minutes

World Premiere · Q&A with D.W. Young and producers Judith Mizrachy and Dan Wechsler on Oct. 13

D.W. Young’s elegant and entertaining documentary is a lively tour of New York’s book world, past and present, from the Park Avenue Armory’s annual Antiquarian Book Fair; to the Strand and Argosy book stores, still standing against all odds; to the beautifully crammed apartments of collectors and buyers.

Born to Be

  • Tania Cypriano
  • 2019
  • USA
  • 92 minutes

World Premiere · Q&A with Tania Cypriano, Michelle Hayashi, Dr. Ting, Mahogany & Garnet on Oct. 1

This remarkable documentary captures the emotional and physical journey of surgical transitioning, as experienced by patients at New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital under the guidance of groundbreaking surgeon Dr. Jess Ting.

Bully. Coward. Victim. The Story of Roy Cohn

  • Ivy Meeropol
  • 2019
  • USA
  • 94 minutes

World Premiere · Q&A with Ivy Meeropol, Julie Goldman, and Chris Clements on Oct. 13

This thorough and mesmerizing documentary takes an appropriately unflinching look at the life and death of Roy Cohn, the closeted, conservative American lawyer whose first job out of law school was prosecuting filmmaker Ivy Meeropol’s grandparents, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg.

College Behind Bars

  • Lynn Novick
  • 2019
  • USA
  • 222 minutes

World Premiere · Q&A with Lynn Novick, Sarah Botstein, and subjects on October 12

Veteran filmmaker Lynn Novick’s intimate documentary event is a four-part chronicle of a handful of ambitious and inspiring incarcerated students as they work towards their college diplomas in the Bard Prison Initiative.

Cunningham

  • Alla Kovgan
  • 2019
  • Germany/France/USA
  • 93 minutes
  • Opens December 13, 2019
This painstakingly constructed new documentary charts the artistic evolution of choreographer Merce Cunningham and immerses the viewer in the precise rhythms and dynamic movements of his work through a 3D process that allows us to step inside the dance.

Free Time

  • Manfred Kirchheimer
  • 2019
  • USA
  • 61 minutes

World Premiere · Q&As with Manny Kirchheimer on Sept. 28 & 29

Manny Kirchheimer has meticulously restored and constructed 16mm black-and-white footage that he and Walter Hess shot in New York between 1958 and 1960, creating a lustrous evocation of a different rhythm of life. Preceded by Suite No. 1, Prelude, Nicholas Ma’s short, loving portrait of his legendary father, Yo-Yo Ma, recording Bach’s Cello Suites.

My Father and Me

  • Nick Broomfield
  • 2019
  • UK
  • 97 minutes

North American Premiere · Q&A with Nick Broomfield on Oct. 5

Documentarian Nick Broomfield has never made a movie more distinctly personal than this complex and moving film about his relationship with his humanist-pacifist father, Maurice Broomfield, a factory worker turned photographer.

Oliver Sacks: His Own Life

  • Ric Burns
  • 2019
  • USA
  • 110 minutes

U.S. Premiere · Q&As with Ric Burns on Sept. 30 (joined by Kate Edgar and Bill Hayes) & Oct. 3 (joined by Robert Krulwich and Ren Weschler)

In Ric Burns’s invigorating documentary, we get to know Oliver Sacks, from his childhood with a schizophrenic older brother, to his years as a champion bodybuilder and motorcycle aficionado, to his remarkable accomplishments as one of our foremost neurologists.

Santiago, Italia

  • Nanni Moretti
  • 2019
  • Italy
  • 80 minutes
  • Subtitled

North American Premiere

Nanni Moretti (Caro Diario, Ecce Bombo) tells a story many viewers may not know about: the efforts of the Italian Embassy to save and relocate citizens targeted by the fascist Pinochet regime in Chile.

State Funeral

  • Sergei Loznitsa
  • 2019
  • Netherlands/Lithuania
  • 132 minutes
  • Subtitled

U.S. Premiere · Q&As with Sergei Loznitsa on Sept. 28 & 29

Sergei Loznitsa has uncovered a wealth of astonishing, mostly unseen archival footage of the “Great Farewell” in the days following the death of Joseph Stalin in March 1953 to create an ever-relevant meditation on horrors and absurdity of totalitarianism.