The Museum of Modern Art has unveiled the full festival lineup for the 18th edition of Doc Fortnight, an annual showcase of the best in nonfiction film. The movies cover a range of topics, touching on everything from the cinematic legacy of Wyatt Earp to a deep look at Ferguson, Missouri, the Midwestern city that exploded into national consciousness when Michael Brown was shot by a police officer.
This year’s festival, which runs from Feb. 21 to 28 and boasts more than 17 documentary features, the bulk of which were directed by female filmmakers. That choice is an important one, because it comes at a time when attention is being focused on the film industry for failing to provide more directing opportunities to women.
The series opens with the premiere of “Serendipity,” a new offering from Prune Nourry that explores the artist’s use of various forms of media, including photography, film, and performance, as she grapples with her breast cancer diagnosis. The closing night film is “Buddy,” a look at the bond between humans and their service dogs by Heddy Honigmann.
Other notable works include “Land Mine,” an experimental documentary about the turbulence endured by an apartment building in Israel; “WTF?,” a portrait of a bustling street corner in San Francisco’s Chinatown; and “Chaos,” an unflinching look at the trauma wrought by the war in Syria.
Here’s the complete list:
Serendipity. USA. 2018.Directed by Prune Nourry. Serendipity began as a book, published on the occasion of Prune Nourry’s solo show at the Guimet National Asian Art Museum in Paris in 2017. The French-born, New York–based artist has spent the majority of her artistic career creating work that deals with women’s bodies and female fertility. A recent breast cancer diagnosis led Nourry to create Serendipity—now in the form of a stunning first-person documentary—which captures the subsequent evolution of her body, her work, her soul, and her mind. This impassioned, beautiful film embodies the artist’s belief that everything is connected, coincidence is an illusion, and “the essentials to life really are health, love, and art.” In English, French, Chinese; English subtitles. 74 min. Thursday, February 21, 7:00 p.m. Monday, February 25, 4:30 p.m.
Arcadia. 2017. Scotland. Directed by Paul Wright. Award-winning director Paul Wright’s new film explores our complex connection with the land and our place in it. Melding archival material from the last 100 years—from grainy newsreel footage to images of the English countryside—with an original soundtrack from Adrian Utley (Portishead) and Will Gregory (Goldfrapp), Arcadia takes us on a visceral journey through the contrasting seasons, exploring the beauty and brutality, the magic and madness, of our changing relationship to the land and one another. 78 min.
24 memórias por segundo (24 Memories per Second). 2018. Portugal. Directed by Carlos Miranda. At the National Archive of the Moving Images in Portugal, archivists discuss the powerful bond between people and a machine that preserves a very delicate medium. In Portuguese; English subtitles. 20 min. Friday, February 22, 4:00 p.m. Wednesday, February 27, 7:00 p.m.
Where the Pavement Ends. 2018. USA. Directed by Jane Gillooly. In 2014 Ferguson, Missouri, was put on the national map when Michael Brown was shot by a police officer and subsequent protests erupted there. Yet prior to this incident the story of Ferguson, a formerly whites-only “sundown town,” and the neighboring black town of Kinloch, now semi-abandoned, was not well known. Incorporating reflections of residents from Ferguson and Kinloch, director Gillooly (who grew up in Ferguson) presents a collage- like blending of images, audio, and archival material, depicting a micro-history of race relations in America. The film makes clear that supposedly antiquated attitudes and institutional policies that reflected America’s deeply embedded racism remain very much with us today. 85 min. Friday, February 22, 4:30 p.m. Sunday, February 24, 7:00 p.m.
Land Mine. 2018. Israel. Directed by Tirtza Even. In this experimental documentary about the filmmaker’s childhood home, a three-story apartment building in Jerusalem, past and current tenants recall their lives there and what they have witnessed and endured in a turbulent Israel. In Hebrew; English subtitles. 86 min.
I Signed the Petition. 2018. Germany/Switzerland/Great Britain. Directed by Mahdi Fleifel. A telephone conversation between the filmmaker and a friend becomes a philosophical rumination on what it’s like to be Palestinian in this day and age. 10 min. Friday, February 22, 7:00 p.m. Saturday, February 23, 1:30 p.m.
And With Him Came the West. 2018. USA. Directed by Mike Plante. Wyatt Earp, one of the most famous lawmen and gamblers of the Old West, is the inspiration behind decades of Hollywood Westerns. This documentary, written by director Plante along with Sam Green and Tim Kirk, highlights the influence of Earp’s legacy on cinema and our perception of the wild, wild West. 80 min.
Last Man Standing. 2018. Australia. Directed by Lucy Knox, W. A. M Bleakley. The fate of motion- picture film processing in Australia lies solely in the hands of Werner Winkelmann. In the wake of his retirement, he ponders what this could mean for the future of the medium. In English, German; English subtitles. 5 min. Friday, February 22, 7:30 p.m. Sunday, February 24, 4:00 p.m.
Nakorn-Sawan. 2018. Thailand/Germany. Directed by Puangsoi Aksornsawang. In her directorial debut, Puangsoi Akornsawang blurs the lines between memory, fact, and fiction in a contemplation of the meaning of life in the presence of death. In this hybrid film, documentary footage from the filmmaker’s life is combined with the fictional story of a young woman returning home after the passing of her mother. In Thai; English subtitles. 76 min.
Last Year When the Train Passed By. 2018. France. Directed by Huang Pang-Chuan. Huang Pang- Chuan plays with the element of nostalgia that often accompanies the passing of time, revisiting places he had photographed a year earlier and asking the subjects what they were doing then. In Min Nan; English subtitles. 17 min. Saturday, February 23, 1:00 p.m. Wednesday, February 27, 4:30 p.m.
WTF? 2018. USA. Directed by Emiko Omori. Though it wasn’t initially intended to be silly, this cheeky short captures absurdity and playfulness on a street corner in San Francisco’s Chinatown, encouraging us to laugh a little more. 2 min. Program approx. 95 min. Saturday, February 23, 4:00 p.m.
Chaos. 2018. Austria/Syria/Lebanon/Qatar. Directed by Sara Fattahi. In her second full-length film, Vienna-based Syrian filmmaker Sara Fattahi delves into the inner devastation that the war in Syria continues to inflict, even for those living in exile. The visually mesmerizing and emotionally poignant story of three Syrian women trapped within their own psyches by the traumas of war, Chaos draws us into processes of profound grief and inner disengagement. In Arabic, German; English subtitles. 95 min.
Communion Los Angeles. 2018. USA. Directed by Peter Bo Rappmund, Adam R. Levine. Winding from San Pedro to Pasadena, this poetic visual essay delves into the rhythms of life, cars, and commerce on a 35-mile stretch of Interstate 110, California’s oldest freeway. 68 min.
La extraña: Notas sobre el (auto) exilio (The Stranger: Notes on [Self] Exile). 2018. Argentina. Directed by Javier Olivera. Based on the writings of Atahualpa Yupanqui and Marcelo Viñar, this dreamlike documentary addresses what it means to belong to a place. Through philosophical motifs and abstract compositions, La Extraña confronts the potential dissociation with one’s own sense of being. In Spanish; English subtitles. 67 min. Saturday, February 23, 7:00 p.m.
Volver a ver (To See Again). 2018. Peru. Directed by Judith Velez Aguirre. Between 1982 and 2000, the Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso) waged a guerilla war in Peru, becoming one of the most brutal terrorist groups of the 20th century. The conflict began in the Ayacucho region, where many Andean people were victimized and killed. Photographers Vera Lentz, Alejandro Balaguer, and Oscar Medrano managed to capture the horror and pain this war caused—and now, years later, they revisit the subjects and locales captured in their photos. Volver a ver tells a story that is not often told, about the tragedies that took place in Peru for nearly two decades, using the lens of art to reveal memories that question an official history that elides the indigenous contribution to the peace process. In Spanish, Quechua; English subtitles. 83 min. Saturday, February 23, 7:30 p.m. Thursday, February 28, 4:00 p.m.
Take Light. 2018. Canada. Directed by Shasha Nakhai. Nigeria has some of the world’s richest oil and gas resources, yet more than half of its citizens lack a steady supply of electricity. Take Light gives a human dimension to the country’s ongoing energy crisis with a look at the lives of a charming electrician and a tentative power company representative. 90 min. Sunday, February 24, 1:30 p.m. Thursday, February 28, 4:30 p.m.
Samouni Road. 2018. Italy/France. Directed by Stefano Sevona. In January 2009, 29 members of the Samouni family were killed in an Israeli army attack on Gaza. Vérité video is combined with striking black-and-white animation and simulated drone footage to dramatize the catastrophe, underlining the continuing strain the conflict places on Palestinian citizens—and highlighting the surprising resilience of the human spirit. In Arabic; English subtitles. 130 min. Sunday, February 24, 1:00 p.m. Wednesday, February 27, 4:00 p.m.
The Next Guardian. 2017. Hungary. Directed by Arun Bhattarai, Dorottya Zurbo. In Bhutan, the last remaining Buddhist kingdom, two siblings confront the hopes and dreams that go against their family’s ancient traditional values. This heartwarming coming-of-age story addresses the bittersweet aspects of growing up and navigating one’s place in the world. In Dzongkha; English subtitles. 74 min. Sunday, February 24, 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, February 26, 4:30 p.m.
Teatro de guerra (Theatre of War). 2018. Argentina/Spain. Directed by Lola Arias. Since 1833, jurisdiction over the Falkland/Malvinas Islands has been the source of major controversy—so much so that in 1982, this ongoing debate resulted in war. Over the course of three months nearly 1,000 British and Argentine soldiers lost their lives in a war for sovereignty. Blurring the lines between reality and fiction, this unorthodox documentary focuses on the damaging effects the Falklands War had on six of its soldiers. Through the use of theatrical performance, reenactment, music, and storytelling, Theatre of War revisits a kind of universal turmoil. In English, Spanish; English subtitles. 82 min. Sunday, February 24, 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, February 26, 4:00 p.m.
Modern Mondays: An Evening with Annie Sprinkle and Beth Stephens
In a poetic blend of curiosity, humor, sensuality, and concern, Annie Sprinkle (a former sex worker), Beth Stephens (a professor), and their dog, Butch, cruise the state of California, meeting a diverse group of people—performance artists, biologists, water-treatment plant workers, scientists, and others— who reaffirm the power of water, life, and love. The film chronicles the politics and pleasure of H2O from an ecosexual perspective. Live presentation by Sprinkle, Stephens, and special guests.
Preceded by The Tree. 2017. USA. Directed by Keith Wilson. The Tree provides a unique take on common critiques of our wasteful Western culture. Follow the life of a little pine tree, groomed for Christmas, from its uneventful planting to its untimely death. Wilson’s short urges greater consideration, compassion, and respect for the natural world. Monday, February 25, 7:00 p.m.
From Hacking to Fact-Checking: Artistic Strategies for the Post-Factual Era
Gerfried Stocker, director of Ars Electronica (AE), and Victoria Vesna, artist, director of the UCLA Art Sci Center, and AE jury member, present a selection of prize-winning projects from AE and discuss how artistic strategies for responding to political and societal malfeasance have changed with the massive erosion of traditional media and information hierarchies. The question now is, What are the new avenues for artists working with media, and how can they play a role to offset attacks on truth and fact? Tuesday, February 26, 7:00 p.m.
Chinese Portrait. 2018. China. Directed by Wang Xiaoshuai. Regarded as one of the most influential Sixth Generation Chinese filmmakers, Wang Xiaoshuai has made a name for himself with films like Beijing Bicycle and Drifters. From fishermen to students, villages to construction sites, this visual poem depicts a modern China represented by the variety of people that call the diverse country home. In Chinese. 80 min. Wednesday, February 27, 7:30 p.m.
Buddy. 2018. The Netherlands. Directed by Heddy Honigmann. Known for her sublime, intimate documentary portraits, renowned Amsterdam-based filmmaker Heddy Honigmann gives a whole new meaning to “man’s best friend” with Buddy, a heartfelt look at the lives of six guide dogs and their owners. Their stories are connected through the incredible bond of loyalty, dedication, and love. In Dutch; English subtitles. 86 min. Thursday, February 28, 7:00 p.m.
Doc Fortnight Shorts Program: The Presence of Place
The Offering. 2018. Peru. Directed by Guille Isa, Bill Silva. In the highlands of Peru, seekers of strength and guidance perform an ancient ritual of dance and music as an offering to the spirits. In Quechua (or Aymara) and Spanish; English subtitles. 7 min.
Here There Is No Earth. 2017. USA. Directed by Martin DiCicco. A shepherd wandering between Turkey and Armenia confronts the potential threat of an invisible border. In Turkish; English subtitles. 5 min.
A Singular Garden. 2017. Brazil. Directed by Monica Klemz. Past and present meet in this depiction of a public park in Rio de Janeiro that once hosted the formal affairs of the Presidential Palace. 16 min. In Portuguese; English subtitles
Las Breas. 2018. USA. Directed by Laura Kraning, Blue Kraning. This conceptual short examines three of the world’s remaining six tar pits and how human beings have exploited one of the Earth’s most limited resources. 12 min.
Takehara. 2017. Peru. Directed by Jarot Mansilla. In a greenhouse in the Lima desert, Mr. Takehara has been perfecting a bonsai oasis for 20 years. 10 min.
Morning, Noon, Night; Water, Land and Sky. 2018. USA. Directed by Mark Street. Mark Street collaged and mixed hand-processed 16mm film, stills, found footage, and digital video to create this shimmering document of physical work in New York City’s Brooklyn Navy Yard. 16 min.
Hablando con Dios. 2018. Spain. Directed by Glenda Leon. In the pews of an ornately decorated Baroque church, congregants worship a new-age God that challenges the meaning of Higher Power. 5 min.
90 Seconds in North Korea. 2018. The Netherlands. Directed by Ranko Paukovic. Secretly filmed footage captures an eerie—yet oddly familiar—everyday life in North Korea. 15 min.
Failing Up. 2018. USA. Directed by Jacqueline Goss. Abstract shots of Manhattan real estate make for a unique commentary on the current political climate in the United States. 7 min.
Doc Fortnight 2019 is organized by Kathy Brew, Guest Curator, with Emily Rago.