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Founded in 2001, MoMA’s annual international festival of nonfiction film, Doc Fortnight, was established as “an intense examination of recent documentaries produced by independent film and video-makers worldwide,” featuring “serious efforts in keeping with the social documentary tradition, and innovative and sometimes humorous works that examine the world around us.” For the last two decades, Doc Fortnight has showcased cutting-edge nonfiction works that demonstrate how digital technologies have revolutionized documentary filmmaking and reimagined how we capture and conceptualize reality.
Similar themes permeate the festival’s history, notably environmental anxiety, transnational identities, societal and technological upheaval, and the striving resilience of the human spirit. The films selected over these 20 years tell a diverse, multidisciplinary story of humanity’s adjustment to life in the 21st century. Chronicling changes to the documentary form itself, the festival’s history also bears witness to nuanced personal storytelling and the integration of narrative filmmaking techniques into documentary practice.
Featured in this selection are 10 films emblematic of Doc Fortnight’s eclectic history, selected from around the world with focuses ranging from the cosmic to the deeply personal. Our look back begins with Lynne Sachs’s Investigation of a Flame (2001), an intimate portrait of the nonviolent anti–Vietnam War protests by Catholic activists known as the “Catonsville Nine,” which was the Opening Night selection of the inaugural festival. Rounding out the program is Shahrbanoo Sadat’s Wolf and Sheep (2017), a rare feature film directed by a woman in Afghanistan and a stunning hybrid intertwining the lives of rural Afghani shepherding children with folktales passed down through generations. Other highlights include works by established documentarians and emerging filmmakers such as Patricio Guzman, Natalia Almada, and Christine Turner.
Organized by Olivia Priedite, Senior Program Assistant, and Brittany Shaw, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Film.