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Destinations & Day Trips

NHDocs Film Festival is Perfect for Film Fans

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Written by Patrick Whalen

If you’re a fan of all things movies and film, then NHDocs is just the thing for you. With more than a week solid of free events all focused on movies and the art of film-making, NHDocs is a great way to learn more about how directors, writers, and actors do what they do.

NHDocs, the New Haven Documentary Film Festival, is returning for its 5th year May 31 through June 10 for eleven days of film screenings, workshops, panels, and parties. And the best part? The events are all free and open to the public!

About NHDocs

NHDocs was founded in 2014 when four New Haven-based filmmakers met at the Big Sky Documentary Festival in Missoula, Montana. Realizing, the New Haven was lacking in its film community they banded together to build a sense of community around documentary filmmakers around the Greater New Haven, Connecticut, and Rhode Island areas.

What started as three-days of film screenings has expanded into an eleven-day event in association with the annual International Festival of Arts and Ideas.

This year’s schedule features over 75 films, a student competition, visiting filmmakers and more. With so much to see and do, how do you narrow down the top events? We got you covered! While it’s hard to narrow down this year’s events to a small handful here are the top events you should check out if you’re in the New Haven area over the week:

Thursday, May 31

Opening Night: NHDocs 2018 kicks off Thursday night with a special screening of Pizza, A Love Story by NHDocs founder and documentarian Gorman Bechard (Who Is Lydia Loveless, A Dog Named Gucci) and producers Dean Falcone and Colin Caplan. Over ten years in the making, Pizza, A Love Story tells the story of how one little town in one of the smallest states just happens to have three of the greatest pizza places in the world (Frank Pepe’s, Sally’s, and Modern Apizza for those not in the know).

Featuring history, in-depth interviews, and fun stories, Pizza, A Love Story will provide a new appreciation for pizza as a true culinary art.

This work-in-progress screening will allow the audience to ask questions from the creative team, critique the film and offer suggestions.

When: 7:00pm

Where: Whitney Humanities Center, 53 Wall Street, New Haven

Friday, May 1

Friday’s day time screenings at the NH Docs Videotheque (New Haven Free Public Library, 133 Elm Street) include repeat showings of the 2017 hits I Am Shakespeare: The Henry Green Story and Food Haven. If you didn’t catch them last year we highly recommend seeing them now.

Screenings begin at 12:30pm and 3:00pm respectively.

This Is Home: A Refugee Story, winner of the Audience Award: World Cinema Documentary at the Sundance Film Festival comes to NHDocs with intimate portrayal of four Syrian refugee families displaced from their war-torn home and struggling to survive and make a home in Baltimore, MD. Witness as these survivors face a new set trials and “learn America” with completely related goals: find a job, pay the bills, and make a better life for the next generation. This Is Home, directed by Alexandra Shiva (How to Dance in Ohio), goes beyond the statistics, headlines, and political rhetoric to tell deeply personal stories, putting a human face on the global refugee crisis.

Friday also continues the food theme with Jim O’Connor’s (Food Haven) latest documentary Family Meal. Three restaurant families put it all on the table to find harmony in one of the most cut throat industries of all time. The long hours and late nights lend a delicate balance between family and business…all in efforts to find time for a family meal. Family Meal celebrates the families and flavors from Caseus, Zuppardi’s Apizza, Ricky D’s Rib Shack, Ordinary, and Black Hog Brewing Co.

Jim was recently named Breakout Storyteller of the Year at the 2018 Taste Awards.

When: 9:30pm

Where: Whitney Humanities Center, 53 Wall Street, New Haven

Both films are in competition for the Audience Award for Best Feature Film.

Saturday, May 2

Short films have a knack for telling engaging stories in a bite-sized format. This year’s short film blocks cover everything from nonviolent protest, personal discovery and stories of recovery to a special team of K9 first responders, Japanese communes, and the lives of a family with special needs. These Documentary Shorts touch on a large range of topics and are sure to enlighten.

Shorts Block #1 will feature All For This, Arrested (Again), Dripping Identity, Recovering Lives, and The Kampala Boxing Club. Shorts Block #2 includes: Connection in Crisis – the Story of Spartacus and the K9 First Responders, The Last Utopia, Segmented Sleep, Broken Souls (music video), and The Unconditional.

Shorts Block #1 begins at 1:30pm and Shorts Block #2 begins at 3:30pm. Both blocks will screen at the New Haven Public Library, 133 Elm Street, New Haven

Saturday night includes the World Premiere of 25 Prospect Street, a documentary on the Prospector Theater in Ridgefield. In a dramatic attempt to get closer with her sister, an eccentric schoolteacher creates a new kind of movie theater business in Ridgefield, CT, where people with disabilities are given the freedom to fail and discover where they can shine in the workforce. Created by Kaveh Taherian, Andrew Richey, and many of the Prospect Stars the film follows the sisters as they balance family and building a revolutionary business.

25 Prospect Street is in competition for the Audience Award for Best Feature Film.

When: 7:00pm

Where: Whitney Humanities Center, 53 Wall Street, New Haven

Sunday, May 3

Sunday is a great day to celebrate Student Filmmakers with NHDocs’ Student Shorts Program. This year NHDocs will screen 10 student films. These films range in topics and the filmmakers come from various backgrounds with college students representing many of the major universities in the state or even talented high school students from around the state.

Stick around following the screenings for a Q&A period with the student filmmakers and see who wins the Student Film Award.

When: 1:00pm

Where: Whitney Humanities Center, 53 Wall Street, New Haven

Wednesday, May 6

Searchdog, the story of Matt Zarrella, a Search Specialist who rehabilitates “unadoptable” shelter dogs and transforms them into Search & Rescue/Recovery Dogs is making its Connecticut Premiere on Wednesday June 6th. Director Mary Healey Jamiel brings us into the world of Matthew and his dogs and allows us to witness the extraordinary moments over four and a half years of real-time searches as he trains troopers and their new canine partners.

There’s a good chance you might be able to meet some of the dogs too.

Searchdog is in competition for the Audience Award for Best Feature Film.

When: 8:30pm

Where: Screening Room 208, Whitney Humanities Center, 53 Wall Street, New Haven

Friday, May 8

Friday June 8th is all about the fabulous director Amy Berg. This Mini-Retrospective begins at 3:00pm with a screening of the Academy Award Nominee Deliver Us From Evil a documentary focused on a Catholic priest who was relocated to various parishes around the United States during the 1970s in an attempt by the Catholic Church to cover up his rape of dozens of children.

Following this screening will be a presentation of West of Memphis, Berg’s 2012 film about the fight to stop the execution of an innocent man in Arkansas. The film starts with an examination of the police investigation into the murder of three boys in West Memphis, Berg brings to light new evidence regarding the arrest and wrongful conviction of three teenagers who ultimately lost 18 years of their lives in the justice system.

The night wraps up with a screening of Janis: Little Blue Girl, a look at one of the most revered and iconic rock and roll icons of all time: Janis Joplin. Berg examines Joplins story in depth for the first time on film, presenting an intimate and insightful portrait of a complicated, driven, often beleaguered artist. Joplins own words tell much of the films story through a series of letters she wrote to her parents over the years, many of them made public here for the first time

A Q&A with Amy will follow the screening of Janis: Little Blue Girl.

When: 3:00pm / 6:00pm / 9:00pm

Where: Whitney Humanities Center, 53 Wall Street, New Haven

Saturday, May 9

NHDocs 2018 wraps up on Sunday June 9th with Retrospective of the work of Su Friedrich. Friedrich has directed twenty-three films since 1978, many of which have screened at film festivals, museums, and art centers around the world.

The day is divided into various screening blocks, pairing two of Friedrich’s films from different periods in her career together. The morning begins with Sink or Swim (1990) and Seeing Red (2005); the afternoon sessions showcases the feature-length documentary Gut Renovation (2013), the story of the destruction Williamsburg neighborhoods in favor of luxury condos.

At 3:00pm NHDocs Festival co-founder Charles Musser sits down with Friedrich to discuss What Constitutes a Documentary.

Following the panel, the screenings return with The Ties That Bind (1985) her mediation on political responsibility as seen through the eyes of her mother, who had grown up in Nazi Germany and ends with I Cannot Tell You How I Feel (2016), a look at her Friedrich and her siblings as they plead with their mother to move into an “independent living” facility.

Q&As will follow each of the different screening blocks.

When: 11:00am / 1:30pm / 3:00pm / 4:15pm

Where: Whitney Humanities Center, 53 Wall Street, New Haven

Will You Be Attending?

Whether you’re a film buff or you’re just looking for something fun to do to kick off the summer, you’re sure to find something up your alley being offered by NHDocs. Though the events mentioned here are this year’s highlights, there are a lot more events happening all week long. You can find the complete schedule and list of events here.

About the author

Patrick Whalen

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