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New York Film Festival Sets Documentaries on Merce Cunningham, Roy Cohn

Films on Merce Cunningham, Roy Cohn and Oliver Sacks are among the notable titles set for the Spotlight on Documentary lineup at the 57th New York Film Festival.

Alla Kovgan’s “Cunningham 3D” centers on dancer and choreographer Cunningham, who was at the forefront of American modern dance for half a century. The Cohn documentary “Bully. Coward. Victim” is directed by Ivy Meeropol, whose grandparents, Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, were prosecuted by Cohn. Ric Burns’s “Oliver Sacks: His Own Life,” examines the British neurologist and author.

The Spotlight on Documentary also include Michael Apted’s “63 Up,” the ninth iteration of his “Up” series that followed the lives of 14 British children since 1964; Nick Broomfield’s “My Father and Me,” a portrait of his relationship with his father Maurice Broomfield; and Nicholas Ma’s short documentary “Suite No. 1, Prelude,” which captures the perfectionist tendencies of his father Yo-Yo Ma.

Two films cover the American prison system: “College Behind Bars,” Lynn Novick’s  four-part chronicle of several ambitious incarcerated students in New York state correctional facilities; and Tim Robbins’ “45 Seconds of Laughter” about an acting workshop for inmates inside a Calipatria State maximum-security facility.

A pair of New York-centric titles are part of the lineup — “Free Time,” which features restored 16mm black-and-white footage of city life shot by Walter Hess and director Manfred Kirchheimer between 1958 and 1960, and D.W. Young’s “The Booksellers,” a tour of New York’s book world past and present with insights from Fran Lebowitz, Susan Orlean, Gay Talese, and a community of book dealers.

Other titles include Tania Cypriano’s “Born to Be,” which goes behind the scenes at Mount Sinai Hospital to capture the emotional and physical processes of transgender patients; Abbas Fahdel’s “Bitter Bread,” a portrait of a community of Syrian refugees living in a Lebanese tent camp; Nanni Moretti’s “Santiago, Italia,” which tells the story of the Italian Embassy’s efforts to save and relocate citizens targeted by the regime of Augusto Pinochet; and Sergei Loznitsa’s “State Funeral,” which features previously unseen archival footage from the days following the death of Joseph Stalin.

The New York Film Festival runs from Sept. 27 to Oct. 13.

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