The Largest Documentary Film Festival in the U.S. Is Kicking Off in New York. Here Are 7 Films About Art to Check Out at Doc NYC

See films about Jesse Krimes, James Van Der Zee, Eadweard Muybridge, and more.

The Art of Making It, directed by Kelcey Edwards.
The Art of Making It, directed by Kelcey Edwards.

Today marks the start of Doc NYC, the nation’s largest documentary film festival, and quite a few of the selections in the current crop have artistic themes at their center.

We sifted through the more than 200 films, which are on view in New York through November 28, to highlight those about art, artists, and the broader art world, including documentaries about incarcerated artist Jesse Krimes and pioneering photographer Eadweard Muybridge.

 

The Art of Making It

Director Kelcey Edwards offers a snapshot into the lives of several young aspiring artists—including Jenna Gribbon, Gisela McDaniel, and Chris Watts—illustrating how the challenges they face to gain recognition in the high-end art world are reflective of larger systems in place in our society. Commentators include Brooklyn Museum director Anne Pasternak, curator Helen Molesworth, and collector Stefan Simchowitz, known for identifying up-and-coming artists primed for market recognition.

Saturday, November 13, 1 p.m., SVA Theatre, 333 West 23rd Street, New York.
Thursday, November 18, 9:15 p.m., Cinépolis Chelsea, 260 West 23rd Street, New York.
Streaming Sunday, November 14–Sunday, November 28, 2021.

 

Bad Attitude: The Art of Spain Rodriguez 

Described by R. Crumb as a “working-class Latino crossed with left-wing radical crossed with crazy artist,” Spain Rodriguez was part of anti-war and civil rights protests in New York in the 1960s and made decidedly non-P.C. art that would almost certainly be judged as sexist, homophobic, and possibly racist by today’s standards. In her documentary about her late husband, Susan Stern makes the case that Rodriguez’s underground comics helped push the medium in exciting new directions, allowing it to evolve beyond a childish corporate medium into an art form in its own right.

Saturday, November 13, 7:25 p.m., Cinépolis Chelsea, 260 West 23rd Street, New York.
Monday, November 15, 5 p.m., Cinépolis Chelsea, 260 West 23rd Street, New York.
Streaming Sunday, November 14–Sunday, November 28, 2021.

 

Exposing Muybridge

Gary Oldman in <em>Exposing Muybridge</em> directed by Marc Shaffer.

Gary Oldman in Exposing Muybridge directed by Marc Shaffer.

Director Marc Shaffer spent nine years documenting the life of 19th-century photographer Eadweard Muybridge, who famously used 24 cameras triggered by trip wires to capture multiple views a galloping horse in motion—including with all four legs off the ground at once. The film, which features Gary Oldman, who wrote and stars in the forthcoming Muybridge biopic Flying Horse, considers the question of whether there is truth in photography, and how Muybridge employed the fledgling medium in service of both fact and fiction. A trailer has not yet been released, but there’s a very short clip up on Vimeo.

Saturday, November 13, 7:05 p.m., IFC Center, 323 6th Avenue, New York.
Monday, November 15, 2 p.m., Cinépolis Chelsea, 260 West 23rd Street, New York.
Streaming Sunday, November 14–Sunday, November 28, 2021.

 

Krimes

<em>Krimes</em> directed by Alysa Nahmias.

Krimes directed by Alysa Nahmias.

Jesse Krimes, a non-violent drug offender and art school graduate, kept busy during his six-year prison sentence by making art—including a 40-foot mural on prison bed sheets, made by using hair gel to transfer newspaper images onto his “canvases.” The artist smuggled the work out of jail piece by piece, and never saw it in its entirety until after his release. Director Alysa Nahmias tells a story of confinement, freedom, and the power of creativity—and what happens to Krimes after he serves his time and starts getting attention from the art world for his work.

Sunday, November 14, 4:30 p.m., IFC Center, 323 6th Avenue, New York.
Tuesday, November 16, 4:10 p.m., Cinépolis Chelsea, 260 West 23rd Street, New York.
Streaming Monday, November 15–Sunday, November 28, 2021.

 

The Man Who Paints Water Drops

“My father doesn’t speak much. So I’ve decided to make a film where I’ll go and meet the people who have known him, in order to learn more about him than what he himself is willing to say,” co-director Oan Kim says in the trailer for this documentary about Korean artist Kim Tschang-Yeul. As the movie’s title suggests, Kim, who died this year at age 91, painted water droplets—in obsessive, hyperrealistic detail—a subject said to have roots in Eastern philosophy traditions.

Wednesday, November 17, 7:15 p.m., Cinépolis Chelsea, 260 West 23rd Street, New York.
Streaming Thursday, November 11–Sunday, November 28, 2021.

The Photograph

James Van Der Zee was one of the leading photographers of the Harlem Renaissance, documenting the luminaries of the Black community in New York—but there is only one surviving image of Van Der Zee himself. That image is the jumping off point for his grandson, filmmaker Sherman De Jesus, who made this documentary about Van Der Zee’s legacy.

Wednesday, November 10, 6:45 p.m., Cinépolis Chelsea, 260 West 23rd Street, New York.
Thursday, November 10, 4:30 p.m., Cinépolis Chelsea, 260 West 23rd Street, New York.

Streaming Thursday, November 11–Sunday, November 28, 2021.

 

White Cube

We’ve written before about Dutch artist Renzo Martens’s ongoing work in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where he has built a Rem Koolhaas-designed white cube gallery space, the Lusanga International Research Centre for Art and Economic Inequality, on the site of former Unilever cacao plantation. In a commentary on the long colonial history of Western countries profiting from African resources and labor, Martens staged a 2017 show at New York’s SculptureCenter of chocolate sculptures by a group he organized called the Congolese Plantation Workers’ Art League—workers-turned-artists who rarely had the opportunity to taste the candy they were helping produce through their palm oil farming for the plantation economy. DOC NYC is the U.S. premiere of Marten’s new documentary about the project, which the artist says has thus far raised $400,000 for the local community.

Friday, November 12, 6:30 p.m., SVA Theatre, 333 West 23rd Street, New York
Streaming Saturday, November 13–Sunday, November 28, 2021.


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