NHdocs: The New Haven Documentary Film Festival is back for its 8th year with a return to (almost) normal and more than 100 films!
NEW HAVEN, CT – The pandemic wreaked havoc on everyone last year. Undaunted, Executive Director Gorman Bechard, Director Katherine Kowalczyk and their team found a way to pivot and forge ahead with the annual NHdocs: The New Haven Documentary Film Festival in 2020, thanks to many virtual screenings and some presentations in live venues.
Now that we can see the light at the end of the epidemic, NHdocs returns for its eighth year Aug. 10-15, with more than 100 films – split between live and online screenings.
The official Opening Night presentation, Aug. 11 (9 p.m.), will take place under the huge tent in the parking lot of Sally’s Apizza, Wooster and Olive streets, and it will be a collector’s paradise. The feature presentation will be Vinyl Nation, Kevin Smokler and Christopher Boone’s dig into the record resurgence of the past decade, where they explore some deep-groove questions: Has the return of vinyl made music fandom more inclusive or divided? What does vinyl say about our past here in the present? And how has the second life of vinyl changed how we hear music and listen to each other? It will be preceded by Bechard’s The Matchbox Man, where he visited the Connecticut home of Charlie Mack, who owns one of the world’s largest and most complete collections of Matchbox cars. Bechard will also host a Q&A with Mack.
Other highlights will include:
Organ Stops: Saving the King of Instruments (Aug. 13, 7 p.m., Episcopal Church of St. Paul & St. James, 57 Olive St.) is a joint presentation by NHdocs, the New Haven Symphony Orchestra and the Yale Institute of Sacred Music. James Dawson’s feature tells the story of Martin, an Englishman who has spent his years playing and building pipe organs; now he dedicates his life to rescuing them, as churches close throughout the country. He and a small band of organ “anoraks” travel the country on rescue missions. The event will also include a live musical performance by Nathaniel Gumbs on the church’s pipe organ and Michael Flynt on trumpet.
When Claude Got Shot (Aug. 12, 7:30 p.m., New Haven Free Public Library, 133 Elm Street) follows five years in the life of Claude Motley as he tries to recover mentally and physically from being shot in the face by 15-year-old carjacker, Nathan King. The day after shooting Claude, Nathan was shot and paralyzed by Victoria Davison who used a conceal and carry gun to stop his attempt to rob her. With Claude’s journey at the center, three strikingly unique experiences of gun violence, justice and healing unfold. Following the screening there will be a talkback about gun violence.
Storkman (Aug. 14, 8 p.m., rain or shine, Park of the Arts, Audubon Street) is a presentation of NHdocs and CompassionFest. Croatian filmmaker Tomislav Jelinčić tells the story of Malena and Klepetan, two storks cared for by Stjepan Vokić, a widowed pensioner. He rescued Malena after she was shot 28 years before by hunters and crippled for life. In 2002, she found the love of her life, Klepetan, up on the roof; together, they’ve raised 60 storks. But their love is countered by the loneliness she feels when he migrates to Africa every fall. The JP Sanctuary will participate in a post-screening discussion. Bring your own blankets and chairs. There will be vegan food trucks and vendors, including the Hardcore Sweet Bakery truck. Coffee and other drinks will be available at Koffee?
5 Funny Films … 5 Funnier Women (Aug. 12, 7:30 p.m., Café Nine, 250 State St.): Presented by NHdocs’s own Haley Copes, a New Haven-based comedian, it’s a night of cinema and standup. Five brilliant short films that will make you laugh out loud and maybe even blush: Modern Whore; Fugazi’s Barber; A Poo Film; Mrs. Saltzman Goes to Jail; and Last Night at the Strip Club. A Q&A with some of the directors will follow; then comes the comedy live. In addition to Copes, comedians slated to perform will include Mae Planert, Holly Johnston, Kendra Dawsey and Brooke Kelley.
Rebel Dykes (online from August 11, 11 a.m. through Aug. 15, 11 p.m.) is a rabble-rousing documentary set in 1980s post-punk London. The unheard story of a community of lesbians who met doing art, music, politics and sex, and how they went on to change their world.
Claydream (Aug. 13, 7:30 p.m., New Haven Free Public Library, 133 Elm Street) an engaging look at Will Vinton, otherwise known as the Father of Claymation. It will be preceded by Blue Skies, a look at Blue Skies Studios, a now-defunct deeply influential animation studio located in Greenwich, CT.
Clown’s Planet (online from August 11, 11 a.m. through Aug. 15, 11 p.m.) shows us the world of activist clowns from refugee camps in Holy land to a church devoted to worship a rubber duck in Madrid and hospitals and orphanages in Russia.
We Don’t Deserve Dogs (Aug. 13, 5 p.m., New Haven Free Public Library, 133 Elm Street) is a contemplative odyssey across our planet, looking at the simple and extraordinary ways that dogs influence our daily lives. NHdocs is collecting food/supply/cash donations at this screening to help benefit the Friends of the New Haven Animal Shelter
With Flying Colours (online from August 11, 11 a.m. through Aug. 15, 11 p.m.) tells the colourful true story of Australia’s first female helicopter pilot, Rosemary Arnold, who shook the male dominated aviation industry and inspired a new generation of female pilots by using fashion to combat sexism.
A tribute to filmmaker Beth B: Beth B, an integral figure in New York’s underground film scene since the late ’70s and one of the key figures in the No Wave scene, will be honored with screenings of four of her works. Three of them will take place Aug. 14 at the New Haven Free Public Library (133 Elm St.). Breathe In, Breathe Out (2000) (2:30 p.m.) followed three Vietnam veterans and their children returning to the land where the fathers saw so much carnage, in the hope of bridging their respective generation gaps. Call Her Applebroog (2016) (5 p.m.) is as personal a film as one can get – a mischievously reverent portrait of her mother, acclaimed New York-based artist Ida Applebroog. Exposed (2013) (7:30 p.m.) profiled eight people who used their nakedness to transport us to the far edge of burlesque, beyond the last sexual and social taboos that society holds dear. (NOTE: No one under 17 will be admitted to Exposed.) Q&A sessions with Beth B will follow each film.
Beth B also will have the festival’s closing slot: Lydia Lunch: The War Is Never Over (2020) (Aug. 15, 7 p.m., Café Nine). It’s the first career-spanning documentary of the groundbreaking, expectation-defying No Wave singer/performance artist, who first made her name in the late ’70s with Teenage Jesus & the Jerks. Following a Q&A with Beth, Lydia will wrap the festival with a live performance at 9:30.
And, leading off the festival …
Where Are You, Jay Bennett? (Aug. 10, 7:30 p.m., Café Nine): Bechard will present his sixth music documentary as a sneak-peek work in progress – a look at the multi-instrumentalist who was an integral part of Wilco for its three seminal albums (Being There, Summerteeth and Yankee Hotel Foxtrot), plus the Mermaid Avenue sessions with Billy Bragg, and who died suddenly in 2009. It will have its world premiere in Chicago in November. He’s planning to ask the audience questions and get feedback, so be prepared. And following the film and Q&A, there will be a local all-star tribute to Jay and Wilco, produced by Dean Falcone.
In addition, NHdocs will do its share to nurture the next generation of filmmakers by presenting its annual student competition online, screening with this year’s “New Normal” film competition (Aug. 15, 1 p.m.), as well as filmmaking workshops and filmmaker Q&As, all sponsored by the Connecticut Department of Film, Television, and Digital Media.
For the complete schedule of both live and online screenings, plus tickets and other information, go to www.NHdocs.org