Mea culpa. Mea maxima culpa. Like me, you’re probably guilty of trying to juggle twenty-six different things this week. And we’ve taken our eyes off the ball. Specifically, we’ve neglected the fact that DOC NYC is here. What’s quickly become the greatest doc showcase in New York is upon us. It’s here!

The festival kicked off last night with Do I Sound Gay?, an intriguing title for a film I’ll have to see (some day I’ll tell you about the time that Josh Brolin insisted I sounded like Gus Van Sant). Spearheaded by Thom Powers, Raphaela Neihausen and Basil Tsiokos, the well-curated festival is yet again a wonder to behold. Here’s what I have my sights set on:

An Open Secret
This world premiere about child actors exploited by Hollywood might not have grabbed my attention if it weren’t directed by Amy Berg, who made the phenomenal Deliver Us from Evil. If she’s got the goods on this subject, it could be a major film.

The Seven Five
A film about police corruption in East New York with echoes of Goodfellas, this looks like a thriller with a hard news edge.

Rubble Kings
Another gritty New York tale, this documentary also has a fictional film correlation: The Warriors. If that doesn’t grab you, check out this teaser trailer about the 1970’s rival Bronx gangs featured in the film, which first went to war, and then turned to hip-hop.

The Cult of JT LeRoy
I didn’t see this one coming. Well, in a way I did, because I’ve been waiting for a documentary that would tell the wacky tale of this fraud author (JT LeRoy was a pseudonym of the author Laura Albert, whose novels depicted a world of poverty, abuse and prostitution, supposedly based on her own life.) She seduced many a journalist into believing he/she was what he/she wasn’t (me included — I had two extended conversations with the imposter). This world premiere is a must-see on my list.

Speaking of films that must be seen, I’ve already been wowed by The Great Invisible, about the Deepwater Horizon spill, and Song from the Forest, about a musician who joined a tribe in Africa. Both films are great, and you won’t be disappointed if you’re interested in either subject.

In the top five most necessary films to see in 2014, I’d place Life Itself, Steve James‘s portrait of critic Roger Ebert, and Citizenfour, Laura Poitras‘s film about Edward Snowden. Both documentaries are playing at DOC NYC and you’ll be kicking yourself if you miss either of them.

I don’t know if I’ll get to them myself, but classics Hoop DreamsSalesman and High School are each showing on the big screen. It’s an incredible opportunity to finally catch or rewatch these definitive docs.

And that’s just what grabs me. I’m sure there are other films that would catch your eye. So get thee to the West 4th Street station. Ride on to 23rd. Ingest the nonfiction greats and oddities that abound. You won’t be sorry. And your list of twenty-six-things-that-need-to-be-done will still be waiting for you after the festival.

The NYC DOC festival runs from November 13th to November 20th.

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Published by

Tom Roston
Tom Roston is a guest columnist for POV's documentary blog. He is a former Premiere magazine senior editor, who graduated from Brown University and started his career in journalism at The Nation and then Vanity Fair. Tom's freelance work has appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian, The Los Angeles Times, The Hollywood Reporter and other publications. He has written several Kindle Singles, including the bestselling Kindle Singles Interview: Ken Burns. Tom's current list of favorite documentaries are: 1. Koyanisqaatsi by Godfrey Reggio; 2. Hoop Dreams by Steve James; 3.Stories We Tell by Sarah Polley; 4.Crumb by Terry Zwigoff; 5. Montage of Heck by Brett Morgen