Thirteen-year-old DOC NYC, America’s largest documentary festival, has revealed its influential 15-film Short List. The festival will run its main lineup of 114 features and 129 short films in-person November 8-16 in New York City’s IFC Center, SVA Theatre and Village East by Angelika and continue online until November 26 with films available to viewers across the U.S. All the films will have theatrical screenings at the festival, often with the directors in person.

Historically, most of the DOC NYC shortlist titles overlap with the Academy’s official 15-film Oscar Shortlist. With the notable exception of Netflix’s Oscar-winning “My Octopus Teacher,” for 11 years the festival has screened the documentary that went on to win the Academy Award, including “Navalny,” “Summer of Soul,” “American Factory,” “Free Solo,” “Icarus,” “O.J.: Made in America,” “Amy,” “Citizenfour,” “20 Feet From Stardom,” “Searching for Sugar Man,” and “Undefeated.” The festival has also screened 49 of the last 55 Oscar-nominated documentary features. In 2022, DOC NYC screened 12 of 15 titles named to the subsequent Academy Award Documentary Feature Shortlist.

Overlapping with Monday’s Critics Choice Award nominations for Best Documentary Feature are Matthew Heineman’s “American Symphony,” featuring Jon Batiste, Ukraine war film “20 Days at Mariupol,” Maite Alberdi’s love story “The Eternal Memory,” and Roger Ross Williams’ “Stamped from the Beginning.”

In his second year, DOC NYC Artistic Director Jaie Laplante now curates the Short List of films that may be in the running for the Academy Award for Best Documentary feature. (Also weighing in is former DOC NYC chief Thom Powers, Director of Special Projects.) This year’s list of 15 features showcases a spectrum of subject matter, including Sundance debuts, fall festival hits, and less widely viewed films from a range of funders and distributors.

In order to make the top 15, LaPlante and Powers debated every title. “We both had to believe in it personally: this was something we stood behind,” said Laplante in a phone interview with IndieWire. “All 15 films we are passionate about. It’s hard to stop at 15. That’s why we have a Winner’s Circle where we add films we are also passionate about that for one reason or another didn’t make the Shortlist.”

That’s where North Korean escape movie “Beyond Utopia” and black-and-white trans portrait “Kokomo City” wound up. Other high-profile films missing from the DOC NYC Short List are CCA Best Feature nominees “The Deepest Breath,” “Judy Blume Forever,” “The Mission,” and “Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie.” Laplante said that film, at least, “has got a great profile.”

Per usual, the DOC NYC Shortlist is intended to influence Oscar documentary branch voters when they choose their shortlist of 15. “Yes, we believe that these films should be seen before you vote and make your final selections,” said Laplante.

“20 Days in Mariupol” (Frontline/PBS) is an intense and immersive look at the impact of the Ukraine war on one city over 20 days, said Laplante, “watching the city disintegrate in front of your eyes is riveting in the worst way.”

“American Symphony” (Netflix) is Matthew Heineman’s “symphony of editing,” said Laplante. “The juxtaposition of what’s going on, crosscutting between Jon Batiste performing and [his wife] Suleika [fighting leukemia] is so heartfelt.”

“Bobi Wine: The People’s President” (NatGeo) debuted at Telluride last year, but was held back for release in 2023. “It’s powerful, with a sense of danger,” said Laplante. “Army crackdowns, bullets flying, the camera shaking. It’s visceral and immediate. Bobi is a great complex character.”

“The Disappearance of Shere Hite” (IFC Films) from Nicole Newnham (who was nominated for “Crip Camp”) did not win any Sundance prizes, but is grabbing more attention now. “I love movies that normalize sexual conversations around identities and gender,” said Laplante.

“The Eternal Memory” (MTV Documentaries) from Chilean filmmaker Maite Alberdi (“The Mole Agent”) focuses on a couple coping with Alzheimer’s and won the Sundance World Cinema Documentary Grand Jury Prize. “It is profound and so simple so many ways,” said Laplante. “All Maite’s films have the feeling of living the experience of her subjects.” This year, Alberdi is accepting DOC NYC’s award for Documentary Excellence.

“Every Body” (Focus Features) from Julie Cohen “skillfully weaves NBC News archive footage into the modern movement of today of intersexuality, identity, and activism,” said Laplante.

“Four Daughters” (Kino Lorber) shared the top documentary prize at Cannes with “Mother of All Lies.” Both movies take stylistic leaps with re-enactments, said Laplante. “Both are beautifully constructed.”

“Going to Mars: the Nikki Giovanni Project” (HBO Documentary Films) relaunched after its Sundance U.S. Grand Jury Prize win at the New York Film Festival. Laplante regards the editing on this and Errol Morris’ “The Pigeon Tunnel” (a last interview with novelist John le Carré) as “sophisticated, with so much joy of the craft. They are so well put together, intricately cut and stylized.”

“Lakota Nation vs. United States” (IFC Films) provides “a high level viewpoint of indigenous relations with the United States,” said Laplante. “Even if you know the facts, seeing them chronologically laid out gives them a new power.”

“Little Richard: I Know Everything” (CNN Documentary Films) from Lisa Cortés lays out “an important part of Black music history,” said Laplante. “It’s an important correction of a lot of our perceptions of how rock and roll got started. Whitewashed is a good word for what happened to Little Richard. Lisa pointed out the undertone of anger and hurt in his outrageous statements that people wanted to take as comedy, but there was an edge to it.”

“Silver Dollar Road” (Amazon) from Raoul Peck takes you inside a Black family fighting to save their farm from rapacious developers. “I felt like a member of the family, going through what they were going through,” said Laplante. “It made me nauseous. Raoul Peck’s films are sometimes headier than this one, but here you are transported into this situation.”

“Stamped from the Beginning” (Netflix), an examination of racism in America from veteran documentarian Roger Ross Williams, hit Laplante hard, he said. “Illuminating complex ideas is Roger’s gift as a filmmaker. They are so strong, it’s like having smelling salts under your nose. It’s a wakeup movie.”

“While We Watched” (POV/PBS) played both Toronto and Doc NYC last year. “This film is trying to wake up the world,” said Laplante. “Independent journalism is under attack all over the world, and India is one of the prime offenders in not protecting independent journalists. They are being attacked and murdered.”

The festival’s new Come As You Are section highlights films about people striving to find their place in the world, or in their communities.

See below for the complete slates for each section.


For the fifth year, the Short List: Features will vie for juried awards in four categories: Directing, Producing, Cinematography, and Editing, with the addition of a new category in 2023 for Original Score. Last year’s winners were Descendant (Directing), Retrograde (Producing), Fire of Love (Editing), and All That Breathes (Cinematography).

This year’s selections for Short List: Features are:

Director: Mstyslav Chernov
Producers: Mstyslav Chernov, Michelle Mizner, Raney Aronson Rath, Derl McCrudden
An AP team of Ukrainian journalists trapped in the besieged city of Mariupol struggle to continue its work documenting atrocities of the Russian invasion. (PBS Distribution/Frontline)

Director: Matthew Heineman
Producers: Matthew Heineman, Lauren Domino, Joedan Okun
While undertaking his most ambitious project to date, musician Jon Batiste and his life partner Suleika Jaouad cope with the discovery that her cancer has returned after a decade in remission. (Netflix)

Directors: Moses Bwayo, Christopher Sharp
Producers: Christopher Sharp, John Battsek
Bobi Wine, a popular Afrobeats musician, directs his charisma to politics as he runs for office as Uganda’s presidential opposition candidate, challenging longtime leader Yoweri Museveni. (National Geographic Documentary Films)

Director: Nicole Newnham
Producers: R.J. Cutler, Kimberley Ferdinando, Nicole Newnham, Molly O’Brien, Elise Pearlstein, Trevor Smith
Feminist sexologist Shere Hite, who helped change public perception toward female sexuality in the 1970s and ‘80s, mysteriously fell from prominence over time. This film explores why we don’t know more about her groundbreaking work. (IFC Films)

Director: Maite Alberdi
Producers: Maite Alberdi, Juan de Dios Larraín, Pablo Larraín, Rocío Jadue
A wise and compassionate look at an elderly couple’s challenges, revealing their profoundly moving love and their commitment to individual and collective remembrance, via the cultural vocations of their youth, in the face of life’s tempests. (MTV Documentary Films)

Director: Julie Cohen
Producers: Molly O’Brien, Tommy Nguyen
Capturing a new generation of intersex people who are living loudly and proudly, this film covers the history, science, and politics of a movement advocating against medically unnecessary surgeries on intersex children. (Focus Features)

Director: Kaouther Ben Hania
Producer: Nadim Cheikhrouha
Filmmaker Kaouther Ben Hania takes a novel approach to telling the story of the Tunisian mother Olfa Hamrouni, who spoke out about her grief when two of her four daughters ran away to join the Islamic State in Libya. (Kino Lorber)

Directors: Joe Brewster, Michèle Stephenson
Producers: Joe Brewster, Michèle Stephenson, Tommy Oliver
Nikki Giovanni is a trailblazing poet who rose to be a key figure in the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s and remains just as vibrant today. (HBO Documentary Films)

Directors: Jesse Shortbull, Laura Tomaselli
Producers: Benjamin Hedin, Phil Pinto
The Lakota Indigenous tribe’s new generations continue to stand against the U.S. government’s historic failures to honor past treaties and the Lakota’s traditional sacred land. (IFC Films)

Director: Lisa Cortés
Producers: Robert Friedman, Lisa Cortés, Liz Yale Marsh, Caryn Capotosto
The Black queer origins of rock ‘n’ roll are revealed as the whitewashed canon of American pop music is exploded to reveal the innovator – the originator – Little Richard. (Magnolia Pictures)

Director / Producer: Asme El Moudir
On a handmade set recreating her Casablanca neighborhood, Moroccan filmmaker Asmae El Moudir enlists family and friends to help solve the troubling mysteries of her childhood.Figurines and miniatures of the filmmaker’s Moroccan family and neighborhood – built by her father – inspire moments of catharsis and unearth previously unspoken secrets and traumas.

Director: Errol Morris
Producers: Errol Morris, Dominic Crossley-Holland, Steven Hathaway, Simon Cornwell, Stephen Cornwell
Oscar-winning filmmaker Errol Morris interviews David Cornwell aka John Le Carré, keeping the visuals as lively as the conversation, creating his own cinematic imaginings of Cornwell’s history along with clips from famous film and TV adaptations of Le Carré’s thrillers. (Apple TV+)

Director: Raoul Peck
Producers: Raoul Peck, Rémi Grellety, Blair Foster, Hébert Peck
Oscar-nominated filmmaker Raoul Peck focuses on the case of the Reels family in North Carolina to chronicle the way real estate developers work in blatant and subtle ways to divest Black families from inherited property. (Amazon Studios)

Director: Roger Ross Williams
Producers: Alisa Payne, Roger Ross Williams, David Teague
Oscar-winning filmmaker Roger Ross Williams takes inspiration from author Dr. Ibram X. Kendi’s work exploring the history of anti-Black racist ideas and their impact on the United States, examining those themes with an array of powerful film techniques. (Netflix)

Director: Vinay Shukla
Producers: Vinay Shukla, Khushboo Ranka, Luke Moody
Filmmaker Vinay Shukla gives shape to the melancholy and fear the daily news brings into our screens and lives, in India and all over the world. (BritDocs/POV)


The Short List: Shorts showcase of 15 titles is now in its sixth year at DOC NYC. The selection process is overseen by Artistic Director Jaie Laplante, Director of Special Projects Thom Powers, and Senior Programmer, Shorts, Samah Ali. Last year the showcase included the World Premiere of “The Elephant Whisperers,” which went on to win the Oscar. For the fifth year, a DOC NYC jury will select one of the films in the section for a Directing Award. Last year’s winner was “As Far as They Can Run.”

This year’s selections for Short List: Shorts are:

Director: Avi Zev Weider
Producers: Avi Zev Weider, Alexandra Berger
This haunting documentary zooms in on Black Santas and the gravity of their work during the holiday season. (The New Yorker)

Director: Marie Margolius
Producer: Marie Margolius, Connor Schell
Witness the true story of an Afghani girls’ soccer team who relocate from their home country all in the name of the sport. (MSNBC Films)

Director: John Hoffman, Christine Turner
Producers: Christina Avalos, John Hoffman, Christine Turner
The barbershop is the heart of the Black community, and in Little Rock, Arkansas, now the starting place of a new community lending program.

Director: Andrew Nadkarni
Producers: Andrew Nadkarni, Swetha Regunathan, Katie Schiller
The story of one professor’s career researching the rainforest canopy, where she was hurt, and where she also healed. (POV Shorts)

Directors: Joe Brewster, Michéle Stephenson
Producers: Joe Brewster, Michéle Stephenson
Learn about the impactful and joyful hand games played by Black girls from generation to generation. (ESPN Films)

Director: Max Lowe
Producers: Marilyn Ness, Katy Chevigny
A profile of a young girl, her grandmother, and the camp that builds confidence for children going through big changes. (Netflix)

Director / Producer: Xelîl Sehragerd
This meditative documentary zooms in on a Kurdish carpenter as he serves his community in an unexpected way.

Director / Producer: Luchina Fisher
This touching short captures fathers sharing the love of their children over the course of an afternoon of fishing and dining. (Netflix)

Directors: Jeremy Workman, Robert Lyons
Producers: Jeremy Workman, Robert Lyons, Melissa Jacobson
The decision to legalize abortion in the state of New York came down to one person. This is his story. (The New Yorker)

Director: Varun Chopra
Producers: Anna Hashmi, Varun Chopra
A dedicated group of young Hindu men are encouraged to protect cows at any cost.

Directors: Ben Proudfoot, Kris Bowers
Producers: Ben Proudfoot, Kris Bowers, Jeremy Lambert, Josh Rosenberg
One warehouse in the Los Angeles area devotes its time and energy to repairing 80,000 instruments for city schoolchildren.

Director: Daniel Lombroso
Producer: Devon Blackwell
A grandmother shares her heart wrenching story after losing her sister in the Holocaust. (The New Yorker)

Director: Jessica Bishopp
Producers: Alice Hughes, Gannesh Rajah, Ada Benjamínsdóttir, Jessica Bishopp
Young women in a remote island of Iceland help disoriented baby puffins, who easily lose their bearings.

Director: Anders Hammer
Producers: Anders Hammer, Charlotte Cook
Witness the transition inside Afghanistan during the Taliban’s government takeover. (Field of Vision)

Directors / Producers: Kate Davis, David Heilbroner
A neurologist commits himself to researching and writing about his own Alzheimer’s symptoms. (MTV Documentary Films)


The DOC NYC Winner’s Circle for documentary features, introduced in 2019, highlights films that arrive at DOC NYC with significant awards pedigrees already in place. Past films shown in Winner’s Circle that all went on to further acclaim include “Writing with Fire,” “The Mole Agent,” “A House Made of Splinters,” “Bad Axe,” “Midnight Family,” and “Advocate.” To qualify for inclusion in this category, films must have won a major award at a significant international or US film festival.

This year’s selections for Winner’s Circle are:

Director: Ken August Meyer
Producers: Ken August Meyer, Jason Roark
An art director afflicted with a rare life-threatening disease turns to the life and work of a famed artist who lived nearly 100 years ago, to find solace, hope and meaning. Winner, SXSW Grand Jury Prize, Documentary Feature Competition

Director: Lea Glob
Producer: Sidsel Lønvig Siersted
Over 13 years, a Danish film student and a Parisian painter weave a complex portrait of a current generation’s loves, lives, and losses. Best Feature-Length Documentary, IDFA

BAD PRESS (NYC Premiere)
Directors: Rebecca Landsberry-Baker, Joe Peeler
Producers: Conrad Beilharz, Garrett F. Baker, Tyler Graim
When the Muscogee Nation suddenly begins censoring their free press, a rogue reporter fights to expose her government’s corruption in a historic battle that will have ramifications for all Native American sovereign nations. Special Jury Award: Freedom of Expression, U.S. Documentary, Sundance Film Festival

Director: Madeleine Gavin
Producers: Jana Edelbaum, Rachel Cohen, Sue Mi Terry, Daewon Choi, Janna Devinsky
The reality of life in one of the most repressive totalitarian countries on Earth is revealed through two intertwining suspenseful, nail-biting stories of dangerous escape attempts from North Korea. Audience Award, U.S. Documentary, 2023 Sundance Film Festival(Roadside Attractions)

IN THE REARVIEW (New York Premiere)
Director: Maciek Hamela
Producers: Maciek Hamela, Piotr Grawender
When Russia escalated its war against Ukraine in 2022, Polish director Maciek Hamela bought a van and volunteered to drive Ukrainian refugees on their quest to escape, making a quietly eloquent case to keep our eyes on the road ahead. Grand Jury Award, International Competition, Sheffield DocFest

Director: D. Smith
Producers: D. Smith, Harris Doran, Bill Butler
Profiling four Black transgender sex workers, these women are raw and hilarious as they celebrate their self-realization in the face of discrimination and violence. Next Innovator Award, Sundance Film Festival 2023 (Magnolia Pictures)

Director: Edward Lovelace
Producers: Fleur Nieddu, Sam Arnold, Beyan Taher, Neil Andres, Marisa Clifford, Edward Lovelace
The family of a five-year-old deaf boy from Iraq go to extraordinary lengths to unlock his educational potential at Royal School for the Deaf Derby in England. Special Jury Prize, International Feature Documentary, Hot Docs

ROJEK (US Premiere)
Director: Zaynê Akyol
Producers: Audrey-Ann Dupuis-Pierre, Sylvain Corbeil, Zaynê Akyol
An attempt to understand the Muslim fundamentalist beliefs of members of the Islamic State (ISIS), as some recount the rise and fall of ISIS through their personal stories. Special Jury Prize, Canadian Feature Documentary, Hot Docs (Icarus Films)

Rojek is featured in DOC NYC’s VOICES OF CANADA, a showcase of the Canadian titles that are represented throughout the festival’s sections, co-presented by the Consulate General of Canada in New York.

Director: Anna Hints
Producers: Marianne Ostrat
Amidst wood, wire, smoke, and sweat, a group of Estonian women find each other and themselves. Jury Award, Directing (World Cinema Documentary), Sundance Film Festival 2023 (Greenwich Entertainment)

Director: Margreth Olin
Producers: Margreth Olin, Lena Faye-Lund Sandvik
A stunning cinematic experience, as a lone elderly Norwegian man shares his life journey via traditional music amid spectacular vistas of glaciers, waterfalls, and fjords. Krakow Film Festival 2023, Recommendation to European Film Awards, Documentary


The Come As You Are section highlights films about people striving to find their place in the world, or in their communities.

The selections for Come As You Are:

AT THE BORDER (World Premiere)
Directors: Braulio Jatar, Anaïs Michel
Producers: Braulio Jatar, Anaïs Michel, Julia Cheng
A gritty and uncompromising perspective on what has been termed a “migrant crisis.”

Director: Shasha Li
Producers: Shasha Li, Xin Li, Julie Mallozzi
After wildfires force her to leave her home in Oregon, a young filmmaker reconnects with the rituals and the landscapes of her maternal tribe in Himalayan China.

THE KIND STRANGER (International Premiere)
Directors: Sini Hormio, Anu Silfverberg
Producer: Ari Matikainen
Unveiling the mysterious world of ASMR influencers and the hours of dedication and discipline that go into producing the content their followers crave.

THE THREE OF US (International Premiere)
Director: Henya Brodbeker
Producer: Avigail Sperber
A young ultra-Orthodox couple is torn between a community that doesn’t accept their autistic son and their desire to integrate him into society.

Director: John Campbell
Producers: John Campbell, Phillip Michael Collins, Chandler Wild, Thomas E. Moore III
In this candid exploration of creative expression, five emerging African American artists reveal their inspirations, challenges, and the complexities of succeeding in the art world.

WITNESS (International Premiere)
Directors: Yasmine Mathurin, Carol Nguyen, Amar Wala
Producers: Amar Wala, Soko Negash
A story examining the personal, political, and cultural ramifications of going viral.

Witness is featured in DOC NYC’s VOICES OF CANADA, a showcase of the Canadian titles that are represented throughout the festival’s sections, co-presented by the Consulate General of Canada in New York.

Leave a comment