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  • Photo: Guy Fiorita

    Photo: Guy Fiorita

    It’s a great time of year for New York’s documentary lovers, as the nation’s largest nonfiction film festival comes to town. The eighth edition of DOC NYC runs November 9 –16 with screenings and panels taking place at the IFC Center, SVA Theater and Cinepolis Chelsea. Among the fest’s 250 films and events are 11 feature-length works, from already released films such as Agnès Varda’s acclaimed Faces, Places to films making their world premieres, including Sam Pollard’s Maynard, a portrait of Atlanta’s first black mayor, and Julia Bacha’s Naila and The Uprising, about a Palestinian woman in Gaza who must make an impossible choice between love, family and freedom.

    Among the festival’s 18 categories are two competition sections: Viewfinders, for distinct directorial visions, and Metropolis, dedicated to stories set in NYC. More than 350 filmmakers and special guests (often film subjects) will be in attendance for Q&As after most screenings and for DOC NYC PRO panels, including Steve Madden (for Maddman), Dan Rather (for Fail State) and Susan Sarandon (for Soufra).

    Opening the festival is Greg Barker’s The Final Year, which follows key members of outgoing President Barack Obama’s administration; closing it is Lili Fini Zanuck’s Eric Clapton: Life in 12 Bars, about the life and career of the legendary guitarist. In between are docs of all sizes and shapes including centerpiece film Far from the Tree, Rachel Dretzin’s world premiere adaptation of Andrew Solomon’s book, and Errol Morris’s Wormwood, about the 1953 death of a CIA agent. (The director is receiving DOC NYC’s Visionaries Lifetime Achievement Award.)

    MOLEMAN--KEY IMAGEMole Man (Viewfinders) is Guy Fiorita’s film about Ron Heist, a 66-year-old autistic man who has built 25 interconnected structures in his rural Pennsylvania backyard. Clearly an architectural genius of sorts (he has never used nails, mortar or even measuring tools), Heist lives to build things and his creations have drawn visitors from all over western Pennsylvania, giving him something of a social life. He is also completely dependent on his 90-year-old mother, on whose property he has created his labyrinthine realm. At the heart of Mole Man is the disagreement between Ron’s siblings and his friends. His brother and sister, understandably concerned about the future, believe that Ron should vacate the property and perhaps live in a group home. Meanwhile a group of friends look for a miraculous solution that would enable Ron to stay on the property and continue living in the only reality he has ever known. (World Premiere)
    Screening Friday, Nov. 10, 7:30 pm at Cinepolis Chelsea, 260 W 23rd St.; and Monday, Nov. 13, 12:15 pm at IFC Center, 323 6th Ave.
    In person: Guy Fiorita, film subjects

    IconoclastThe Iconoclast (True Crime) is King Adz’s portrait of world-renowned art connoisseur and thief Michel Van Rijn. The charismatic Dutchman, possibly a descendant of Rembrandt, has had an action-packed life, including seven marriages and involvement in many art smuggling and forging operations, as well as art recovery work with the FBI, MI6 and other law enforcement agencies. The son of a Jewish resistance fighter, Van Rijn also worked with Israel’s Mossad and makes a shocking, not-altogether-outlandish admission about his role in the apprehension of infamous Nazi Josef Mengele. Of course, how much of what he says is true in his many interviews and interactions with Adz, is part of the film’s mystery. (World Premiere)
    Screening Thursday, Nov. 16, 7:15 pm at Cinepolis Chelsea.
    In person: King Adz

    SOUFRA_KEY IMAGE_MariamShaar_DishSoufra (International Perspectives) follows a group of women in Lebanon’s Bourj el-Barajneh refugee camp as they attempt to improve their families’ lives by forming a catering company. Sensitively directed by Thomas Morgan, the film gives us rare access into the day-to-day lives of people—mostly Palestinian and Syrian—who are stuck in a world they are unable to escape, barred from working or living outside. Led by the indefatigable Mariam Shaar, who has spent her entire life at Bourj el-Barajneh, the group engage one of the few activities accessible to them —cooking and baking, which gives them a communal activity as well as a means to improve their lot. With the help of a sympathetic lawyer, Shaar struggles to navigate the Lebanese legal system and obtain the necessary permits to operate a food truck. (North American Premiere)
    Screening Sunday, Nov. 12, 1:45 pm at SVA Theatre, 333 W. 23rd St.
    In person: Thomas Morgan and executive producer Susan Sarandon

    Pink HouseThe Pink House (International Perspectives) is Sascha Ettinger Epstein’s doc about the oldest working brothel in the former gold-mining town of Kalgoorlie, in Western Australia. In operation since 1904, when Hay Street was awash with similar businesses, Questa Casa is run by genteel octogenarian Carmel Galvin, who tends the garden when she’s not taking calls from potential customers or giving tours of the facility to tourists. She also mothers her one remaining worker, the ageing, troubled BJ, who has been at the Pink House for decades. The film focuses on the unusual relationship between the two women, as well as the history of the former “wild west” town and Hay Street, now overrun with newfangled “Asian houses” that threaten to put Carmel and Questa Casa out of business. (International Premiere)
    Screening Wednesday, Nov. 15, 7:30 pm and Thursday, Nov. 16, 3 pm, at the IFC Center
    In person: Sascha Ettinger Epstein

    Click here for more information and a full schedule of DOC NYC screenings and other events.

    Marina Zogbi

  • Today, in the field of Contemporary Music, artists empower themselves using technology. Combining IT and engineering with the arts, they are able to create interesting artworks, performances and new instruments using tools for algorithmic composition and advance programming, electronics and audio visual techniques.

    This awesome granular marble’s symphony, combines sensors to capture data and experimental software to create beautiful sounds with marbles. The contact microphones are connected to the glasses to capture the sound of the marbles knocking the glass with perfect accuracy.

    The name of this project is Untitled Samek and as the author Federico Dal Pozzo describes it as a study about the emptiness of time that sounds for the eyes.

    It’s experimental electro-acoustic music using granular synthesis made with the sound of a marble spinning on a bohemian glass, combined with audiovisual painting. It’s such a symphony and definitely delights the audience!

    Nerea T. Ruiz

  • Ballet Rotoscope is an experimental short film made in 2011 that connects ballet with technology. By empowering the natural beauty of ballet and utilizing physical computing, the concept adds value to the real-time action and performance.

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    The artists and researchers involved in the project, have created a relationship between geometric shapes with an animation technique known as rotoscope which was invented in 1905 by Max Fleischer. The object’s contours are traced and controlled by an algorithm that brings a mathematical layer to the natural movements of a ballerina.

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    The awesome result is the ballerina dances while she draws perfect geometry.  The joints on her body are traced with a computer –generated rotoscope animation technique created by mathematical methods.

    In the process, each of the steps of the ballerina were tracked with accuracy to translate and synthesize it with a vectorial animation.

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    Rotoscope technique is normally used in motion pictures to make realistic cartoons, but artists use it to generate an abstract animation of shapes that follow the movements of a ballerina. Therefore, this project makes sense in how to bridge the gap between arts and technology and create new concepts of beauty.

    This great artwork was created in Keio University of Japan, and the proposal intends to be an interaction between live performance and animation and new ways of expression. This was developed by the EUPHRATES Group, founded by the students of Masahiko Sato Laboratory.

    Nerea T. Ruiz

  • Many of us get dressed and undressed everyday without much thought. But for some people, changing in and out of clothing, or dealing with buckles, zippers and laces can be a frustrating task.

    According to Fashionista.com, in the U.S. alone, there are 59 million people living with disabilities, and ‘their clothing options are greatly limited.’

    Thankfully, ‘adaptive wear’ has emerged as type of clothing made for people of all abilities that adheres to various function and style needs.

    adaptive-clothing-lucy-jonesPhoto Credit: Lucy Jones Design

    And thanks to programs like Runway of Dreams Foundation and Parsons‘ Open Style Lab (OSL), there has been an increase in the availability of clothing geared for children and adults of all abilities.

    In addition, Target has rolled out a ‘collection of sensory-friendly apparel for children,’ including items with zip-off sleeves, side openings, or openings in the back for those who are sitting or lying down.

    At Parsons’ Open Style Lab (OSL), designers, engineers, and occupational therapists work in unison to create accessible wearables.

    OSL was initiated at MIT in 2014, the program aims to challenge the fashion industry to consider the variety and uniqueness of all bodies, ages and abilities in the world. And designing for the underserved leads to better products for everyone —a core tenet of Open Style lab’s curriculum

    Watch video below to learn more about Runway of Dreams and adaptive wear

  • THE DEPARTURE - Ittetsu

    The subject of Lana Wilson’s documentary The Departure, Ittetsu Nemoto is a fascinating individual. The former rebel-turned-Buddhist priest has made it his life’s work to personally help people who want to kill themselves. Because he cannot turn anyone down when they call or text him—and because suicide is rampant in Japan—the 44-year old’s own health has been terribly compromised. This impressionistic portrait of a heroic yet flawed character is meditative and often quite beautiful, as befitting its extraordinary subject and his environment.

    At the monastery where he lives with his wife and young children, we see Nemoto welcome visitors to the Departure, a retreat specifically geared to help people who are contemplating suicide. He does this by having them “experience” death; we see a small part of the process, which involves writing down things they’re leaving behind and crumpling up these pieces of paper one by one until nothing is left. The idea is to find something worth living for. Later in group discussions, the participants discuss their feelings. It’s interesting that so many utterly despondent people have allowed themselves to be filmed. On the other hand, suicide has a long tradition of honor (kamikaze pilots, the ritual of seppuku) in Japan, so there’s probably less shame attached to it.  This may make people more open about their feelings, but also guarantees that Nemoto is seriously overworked.

    THE DEPARTURE - Group

    The film shows him riding his motorcycle to meet with the various people who call or text his personal “hotline,” including a visit with a young woman whose grandfather thinks she should be “stronger” and a series of interactions with a man who is depressed over losing custody of his children. Nemoto is a comforting presence, listening carefully and offering various ideas to guide them through their crises, without judging or promising easy solutions. With groups, he uses art, movement, theater games and other forms of expression; as he says, there is no one right way to help. After each encounter with a potential suicide, he is clearly drained, but, as he explains in voice-over, he feels responsible for these people. His calendar is booked solid and he won’t turn anyone away.

    Later, his exhaustion takes on deeper meaning as we see him undergoing tests in a hospital. Though relatively young, he has major cardiac and pulmonary issues, exacerbated by the stress of his work. The irony of the fact that he’s killing himself in a way is not lost on us or on him. At one point, he wonders if he is a hypocrite.

    THE DEPARTURE - Ittetsu-Woman

    We learn about the people in his early life who committed suicide, and how this led to his current mission. He also talks about his rebellious youth, which involved playing in rock bands, heavy partying and picking fights. A near-fatal motorcycle accident at age 24 led to both his marriage and the priesthood. Though he has clearly evolved in a big way, he still drinks and goes out dancing in clubs—which seem to offer a release from his grueling work, even as they contribute to his deteriorating health. Though his wife pleads with him to “stay healthy for another 20 years” for the sake of his son, she seems resigned to her husband’s way of life.

    The Departure offers no easy answers or platitudes, just an indelible portrayal of someone who gives 100% no matter what the cost. Though it is frustrating to watch such a valiant human being deplete himself, it’s inspiring to witness his selflessness. In these egocentric times especially, Ittetsu Nemoto is the rarest of gems.

    The Departure opens on Friday, Oct. 13, at the Metrograph Theater.

    Marina Zogbi