Docfest set for Gotham

IMAX 'Fires of Kuwait' opens first of annual doc festivals

NEW YORK — Five documentaries will make their U.S. premieres at the first Docfest, which will run May 27-31 at the Directors Guild of America Theater in Gotham.

Sixteen films will unspool during the fest, which is planned as an annual, noncompetitive event to celebrate and promote documentaries. Fest was founded by Gary Pollard.

“Each director has infused their work with a strong style and vision that will both inform and entertain,” said Pollard. “We’re proud to offer New York audiences the opportunity to sample such an eclectic and accomplished range of work.”

Opens with ‘Fires’

The Docfest will open with a screening of David Douglas’ Oscar-nominated Imax film “Fires of Kuwait” at the Sony Lincoln Square Theater.

“Fires” chronicles the heroic efforts of an international team of firefighters that battled hundreds of oil well blazes following the 1991 Gulf War. Douglas will attend the reception following the screening.

Films making their U.S. preem are Paul Wilmshurst’s “Mob Law,” a biopic about a Las Vegas lawyer who specializes in defending gangsters; Dimitri Falk’s “Midnight in Cuba” (“Media Noche”), a portrait of four young Cubans each at a crossroads in life; Maggie Hadleigh-West’s “War Zone,” an in-depth examination of street harassment; Susan Muska and Greta Olafsdottir’s “The Brandon Teena Story,” about the 1993 murder of a young woman who was living as a man; and Mark Daniels’ “The Running Man,” a biopic about Melvin Van Peebles that will unspool along with Daniels’ “Melvin Van Peebles’ Classified X,” which makes its New York premiere.

Gotham debuts

Other pics making their Gotham debut are Ulrike Koch’s “The Saltmen of Tibet,” a profile of a cultural group that is threatened; Bennett Miller’s “The Cruise,” a valentine to New York City; and Vicky Funari’s Sundance hit “Paulina,” a portrait of a seemingly ordinary Mexican maid.

The centerpiece of the festival will be renowned French documentarian Jean Rouch’s 1961 classic “Chronicle of a Summer,” in which the filmmaker asks its man-on-the-street subjects “Are you happy?”

“Morley Safer’s Vietnam: A Personal Report” and “The Anderson Platoon” will be shown on the bigscreen for the first time during the fest.

Other first-timers

Also in the Docfest are first-time Israeli filmmaker Dan Katzir’s “Out for Love … Be Back Shortly,” a personal account of the director’s search for love; Elizabeth Schub’s “Cuba 15,” a portrait of a young Cuban woman on her 15th birthday; and Chinese filmmaker Li Hong’s “Out of Phoenix Bridge,” a look at three young women who leave their village in search of a better life.

In addition to the films, Docfest will present two weekend panels. One will discuss the impact of new digital technology on low-budget documentary pro-duction, while the other will be a conversation with “Chronicle of a Summer’s” 81-year-old director and other documentarians.

The Docfest is sponsored by the Atlantic Monthly, Filmmaker Magazine, the Independent Film Channel, the New York Times, Sharff Weisberg Inc. and Zuma Digital.

Docfest’s opening night reception and screening tickets are $15. Each screening is $8. A festival pass is $60. For information call (212) 668-1575 or visit http://www.docfest.org on the web.