This week marks the start of Manhattan's third annual documentary festival, DOC NYC, at the IFC Center in Greenwich Village and Chelsea's SVA Theatre. The eight-day presentation boasts big names like Ken Burns, Barbara Kopple and Jonathan Demme as well as a significant roster from the indie underworld: Rufus Wainwright, Antony Hegarty, and Sophie Fiennes, to name but a few.
To help you sift through the massive schedule of documentaries, we've created our own guide to the must-see films of this year. Our list is as much a grab bag as the 115-item DOC NYC list, but we've picked the ones that we know you just can't miss:
A powerful overview of ACT UP and its science-savvy subgroup, TAG (Treatment Action Group); its members worked tirelessly to bring awareness to the plight of AIDS victims in the mid-1980s and early 1990s. Using never-before-seen archival footage, France captures how, with little medical expertise, the groups plowed their way into the pharmaceutical sector to make experimental drugs available to patients at a time when they needed them the most.
In "Shenandoah," Pulitzer Prize winning photographer David Turnley investigates how a coal-mining town's proud immigrant identity is challenged when four white high school footballers were charged with murdering an undocumented Mexican immigrant named Luis Ramirez.
Not to be confused with the Matt Damon film of the same name, Jamie Meltzer's documentary tells the story of activist-turned-mole Brandon Darby. From his praiseworthy work in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina to his role in the FBI seizure of two youths at the 2008 Republican Convention, the film captures the many phases of the now-villainous figure, dissecting the decisions of a politically-hungry man.
Charles Atlas, a director known for his collaborations with artists like Merce Cunningham and Leigh Bowery, gives a glimpse into the staged world of Antony Hegarty, androgynous leader singer of the eponymous indie band Antony and the Johnsons.
Brad Bernstein creates a portrait of the many sides of Tomi Ungerer: children's book illustrator, protest poster creator and erotica artist extraordinaire.
From the creative minds behind "The Pervert's Guide to Cinema" comes "The Pervert's Guide to Ideology," which is essentially another opportunity for philosopher (and Power 100 art figure) Slavoj Zizek to rant about the world at large. Be prepared for a lot of archival film footage and a lot of lecturing, Zizek-style.
7. The Mosuo Sisters (directed by Marlo Poras)
Two sisters separated by economic hardship in Beijing attempt to keep their family out of poverty by returning home to their traditional village in the Himalayas. One sister chooses farming while the other tries her hand in the city, exemplifying one family's experience navigating the confusing terrain of contemporary China.
8. Plimpton! Starring George Plimpton as Himself (directed by Tom Bean and Luke Poling)
Equipped with narration from the Paris Review co-founder himself, "Plimpton!" paints a rather colorful picture of the writer, editor, and amateur sportsman whose career took him into the company of presidents, the bench of the Detroit Lions, the stage of the New York Philharmonic and John Wayne's silver screen, all in one lifetime.
9. No Business Like Show Business (directed by Bernard Weber and Martin Schilt)
A small-town yodeling group in the Swiss Alps reaches pop stardom when it decides to take their mountain singing ways to the World Expo in Shanghai.
The film "5 Broken Cameras" was shot almost entirely by Palestinian farmer Emad Burnat in a West Bank village threatened by encroaching Israeli settlements. In collaboration with Guy Davidi, the footage was turned into a cinematic record of one family's experience with this unique territorial dispute. (In case you're on the fence, Michael Moore is expected to attend the preview, guys.)
Bonus: Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry (directed by Alison Klayman)
If you haven't seen it yet, this intimate look into the life of well-known Chinese dissident and artist Ai Weiwei is a must-see for any DOC NYC attendee.
Scroll through the slideshow below to see trailers and showtimes for our top 10 picks. Let us know which documentaries you are excited for in the comments section.
DOC NYC will showcase 115 films and events from November 8th-15th, 2012, including screenings of 61 feature-length films and 32 shorts, as well as 22 documentary-related panel discussions and masterclasses.