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The Reeler Blog

Documentaries Gone Wild

(L-R) Pete Townshend, Keith Moon, Roger Daltrey and John Entwistle in The Who: The Amazing Journey, screening Oct. 30 at DocFest07 (Photo: Paley Center)

By Mat Newman

After building a reputation over the years with its resolutely hands-on approach, the aptly titled annual documentary festival DocFest 07 returns to New York tonight at the Paley Center For Media. Twelve of the festival's 16 films are being shown in New York for the first time, including the opening-night selection To Die in Jerusalem. Each film is followed by a Q & A with directors, producers or, in several high-profile cases, the subjects.

"The one thing we've done from the very beginning is have the filmmaker here," said Ron Simon, a curator at the Paley Center. "It's not only seeing the film, but an interaction between the audience and the filmmaker." Among those scheduled to visit are Ted Braun, attending an Oct. 31 preview of the Don Cheadle-produced Darfur Now; Resolved director Greg Whiteley; and Brett Morgen, who arrives for a sneak look at his new TV show Nimrod Nation as well as the closing-night presentation of his Sundance '07 alumnus Chicago 10.

Other programs are some of the most buzzed-about tickets in town, including the local premiere of The Right To Be Left Alone, which follows Hustler Magazine founder Larry Flynt through more of his never-ending civil rights battles (Flynt and director Joan Brooker-Marks will be in attendance) and the US premiere of The Who: The Amazing Journey, featuring surviving members Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey in attendance. "Journey is actually produced by Nigel Sinclair, who worked on the Dylan documentary with Martin Scorsese," Simon said. "The film looks closely at the groups dynamics. I've never really seen any documentary about a group that looks at interpersonal relationships like this one does."

A handful of interactive sidebars and events will augment the documentary screenings; next Monday it's 20 Years of POV: The Art of Personal Storytelling, a round-table discussion with Alan Berliner, Tina DiFeliciantonio and other docmakers and producers from PBS's showcase for independent non-fiction films. This weekend features a workshop and competition on the documentary pitch, offering five aspiring filmmakers the chance to sell a panel of experts on their vision.

"We have five people that we've selected, each with really strong ideas, and one of them will get a check for $5,000," Simon said, adding that three of the films from last year's class are presently in development. "There's so many types being produced today, and in many ways it's redefining itself. We want to show the many possibilities."

DocFest 07 runs Oct. 24 - Nov. 1 at the Paley Center for Media (formerly the Museum of Television and Radio). Visit the festival's Web site, for ticket and program information.

Posted at October 24, 2007 6:32 AM

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