What is it like to feel stuck due to circumstances beyond your control?
Curated by Gerard van der Broek, each film in the Documentary 12 series including Dancing is an Old Friend, Hilary, Inventory, Looking for Jack, and The Green Line at the New York City Indie Film Festival through June 19 featured people who faced unforeseen obstacles in an attempt to find peace within.
Whether facing trauma, isolation in a pandemic, family brokenness or being caught between one nation and another, these themes invite a feeling of powerlessness until hope is found. This particular collection of documentaries delivered some surprising twists and turns in some profound situations in an attempt to discover where one belongs in the world.
The New York City Indie Film Festival featured a variety of films from shorts to narratives to documentaries curated with common themes. Sleepless Critic had the opportunity to review screenings on music, small businesses, love and connection and much more. Co-founded by Executive Director Dennis Cieri and Director Bonnie Rush, this renowned festival has screened thousands of films since it was first launched in 2010. Click here for more information, film submissions for next year, and click here to see what we had to say about NYC Indie Film Festival’s Narrative 14 series.
Directed by Marta Renzi, Dancing is an Old Friend is written by and stars Leah Barsky and Jennifer Tortorello Walker. It is a relatable account of an amateur ballroom dancer and professional ballet dancer brought together by dance who must find new ways to connect after the pandemic put the world in isolation. They both struggle with this new way of life but are determined to forge ahead together.
During the pandemic, the arts were hit hard. Many professional dancers had to find alternate ways to demonstrate their art and remain in top form until the time came for them to once again take the stage. Dancing is an Old Friend explores the momentum of their daily lives during the pandemic and a chance to examine why they live their lives the way they do and where dance factors into it now and in the future.
What made this film fascinating is not only the captivating athleticism and style of the dancers in action, but comparing each perspective on dance itself and how it demonstrates the bonds of this friendship. This is not a tragic account of being lost during the pandemic, but an intimate and sincere documentary that explores the good and bad in equal measure and the hope that springs forth during this life altering period of time.
What may or may not have happened is a mystery in Hilary.
Hilary Porter, through her own drawings, illustrates a repeated and menacing alien encounter that has left her haunted. Hilary’s harrowing recollection unfolds through her graphic narration and unusual drawings as she shares that she was always thought she was different. Director and producer Mariana Zarpellon offers some insight into who Hilary is and how she has been affected by these encounters and though I was initially intrigued by this film, I was left with more concern for Hilary’s well being than the rationality and content of Hilary’s recollections.
Resourcefulness is a defining quality in any artist and nothing less than resourcefulness and love defines the story of Inventory, a documentary directed and produced by Daniella Gitlin, the daughter of sculptor, Michael Gitlin. The film is designed not only to share her father’s relatable journey as a struggling artist, but the unconventional manner in which Michael Gitlin’s legacy is being preserved.
Interwoven into the film are classic American standards such as Someone to Watch over Me, beloved songs from Gitlin’s heritage, and past family photos to create a vintage ambiance and to smoothly rewind the clock to a time before her father’s inventory had accumulated. It is a unique and personal story about how love and family transcends obstacles even under unusual circumstances and how the film’s most extraordinary “inventory” is not just confined to Gitlin’s art.
For anyone who is searching or has searched for a family member, the idea of finding them is met with a plethora of emotions. Sara Zeppilli Freeman captures just that and more in her deeply personal documentary, Looking for Jack. Part of Looking for Jack’s endearing strength is it is shot much like a home movie where it is easy to put oneself in Sara’s shoes. As Sara talks to the camera with a jittery glow, her excitement is palpable at the promise that her life is about to change.
On this special day with Sara wearing a broad smile, one can picture themselves in Sara as she excitedly waits in anticipation and trepidation to meet her father for the first time in 21 years having traveled from Boston to Portugal. No matter the outcome, that moment of time is a monumental experience to be treasured and hopefully not regretted. The pinnacle of the film is that building tension as Sara waits, the camera panning carefully through Sara’s surroundings for that moment of relief.
In a land fraught with uncertainty, Yehudit Kahana is no stranger to anxiety and strife for most of her life. Co-written with Sharon Yaish, directed, and produced by Yehudit Kahana herself and set from the early 2000s to today, illuminating documentary The Green Line focuses on Yehudit’s coming of age as she resides in Elon Moreh, a land near the Green Line which borders the Palestine territories and Israel. Since a life changing incident occurred resulting from an innocent child’s game, Yehudit has struggled with the threat of sudden violence, terrorist attacks, and chaos in a place where she doesn’t feel she entirely belongs.
The Green Line delivers a wealth of information on certain incidents in Israel, Palestine, and the Green Line which can be confusing at times, but what is clear was how Yehudit felt in circumstances beyond her control in a harsh and threatening land determined to break free. The Green Line has some lighter and amusing moments with family that not only shed light on Yehudit’s understandably frustrating, strict, and expected traditional place as a female in the world and in the path of the Torah, but also explores how valuable the road less taken can be.
Dancing is an Old Friend, Hilary, Inventory, Looking for Jack and The Green Line were all part of Documentary 12 at the New York City Indie Film Festival which continued through June 19. Click here for more information on this annual festival and its winners.