DOC NYC: Miss Sharon Jones! And Bolshoi Babylon

The sixth annual DOC NYC festival opened on Thursday with Miss Sharon Jones!, Barbara Kopple's documentary about soul singer Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings. Early on we see Sharon Jones getting her short braids shorn, an accommodation to her stage two pancreatic cancer as she was being treated with chemo. A pint-sized dynamo, Sharon Jones is a tough person to keep down. The film follows her care in Sharon Springs, New York with her friend Megan, a healer, who blends green smoothies to ensure Jones stays on a healthy diet. Her doctors are on board too, and her band mates who depend on the gigs. Brothers, they form a bond through their music and lives, escorting Jones to her doctors, as well as backing her onstage. They know that Sharon Jones is an indomitable force with raging talent, and they've held together for decades. For performances alone, this is a film to see. At Lugo where an after screening party was a celebration of this film and the week of documentaries to come, Barbara Kopple spoke about how Miss Sharon Jones! fits into her exceptional body of work: "It's about family."

Another first-rate documentary, HBO's Bolshoi Babylon, is a backstage view of the most famous arts institution in Russia, the Bolshoi Ballet. Filmmakers Nick Read and Mark Franchetti set out to film the Bolshoi, but then something horrific happened: the acid attack on Sergei Filin, the artistic director, and filming had to stop for awhile. If this were just a film about this crime and punishment, it would not be particularly interesting, the filmmakers said in a recent interview in HBO's offices. Instead, the film offers an inside, uncensored glimpse of this institution's power structure, reflecting the powers at play in Russia.

A version of this post also appears on Gossip Central.