Doc Fortnight 2023 Lineup

Amanda Kim’s Nam June Paik: Moon Is the Oldest TV (2023)

Of the fifteen features and eight short films lined up for the twenty-second Doc Fortnight (February 22 through March 7 at MoMA), a good handful will arrive in New York fresh from their premieres in Park City and Berlin.Sundance launched the opening night film, Amanda Kim’s Nam June Paik: Moon Is the Oldest TV, which heads to Film Forum on March 24 before it joins PBS’s roster of American Masters.

“For anyone interested in the origins of what we now call video art, not to mention mass media and the internet, it’s essential viewing,” writes Jordan Mintzer in the Hollywood Reporter. “Paik was a true visionary who foresaw the virtual world we now live in, and Kim’s film chronicles how he channeled that vision through madcap sculptures and installations that took technology to places it was never meant to go. Where most people saw circuits, wires, screens, and cathode-ray tubes, Paik saw abstractions, possibilities, and pixelated images of the sublime.”

Amy Taubin, who knew Paik and even gave him a cache of discarded televisions to work with, tells Nicolas Rapold that she finds the film short on insight, and Filmmaker’s Vadim Rizov suggests that those familiar with even a basic outline of the history of video art will likely agree. “Documentaries on artists try to walk a very fine line of educating the curious but uninformed while offering rare archival footage and/or fresh insights for the already initiated,” he writes. Moon, featuring Steven Yeun reading Paik’s texts, “definitely defaults to the former . . . Covering his landmark artworks up to 1986 before rushing through the rest of Paik’s life in a hurry, Moon presents a generically familiar arc about an initially misunderstood but finally widely embraced genius.”

Rizov found Alison O’Daniel’s debut feature, The Tuba Thieves, not at all generically familiar. Enthusiastically recommended by Eric Hynes on Rapold’s The Last Thing I Saw and by Abby Sun on the Film Comment Podcast, Thieves is “among other things, a group portrait of d/Deaf friends [set] against the occasional eruptions of an LA city symphony, consistently shot in seemingly effortlessly handsome widescreen compositions,” writes Rizov, and “its originality of conception on multiple levels and baseline excellence in technical execution are clearly a cut above.”

Berlin will give us our first looks at Burak Çevik’s Forms of Forgetting, which delves into what is remembered of a relationship; Ulises de la Orden’s The Trial, a study of Argentina’s 1985 Trial of the Juntas; Claire Simon’s Our Body, an exploration of a gynecological clinic in Paris; and Luís Alejandro Yero’s Calls from Moscow, a portrait of four Cuban migrant workers stuck in the Russian capital.

In 2019, Glasgow-based artist, musician, and filmmaker Luke Fowler made Houses (For Margaret), a five-minute film on the life and work of Scottish filmmaker and poet Margaret Tait. He was already working on Being in a Place: A Portrait of Margaret Tait when frieze asked him for a few words on his influences. Tait’s films “focus on looking,” wrote Fowler, “looking and gathering the distinctness of things in her immediate vicinity: children, the walls of her studio, wild poppies growing by a roadside, the streets she lived on in Edinburgh, her mother unwrapping a sweet. She then edited these moments together into films that she offered back to the very people she had shot . . . In many ways, Tait’s unorthodox, one-woman films make her the natural mother of artist filmmaking in Scotland—and beyond.”

And beyond Sundance and Berlin, Doc Fortnight will host evenings dedicated to the work of Sharon Lockhart and Morgan Quaintance, premiere James N. Kienitz Wilkins’s Still Film, and present such recent festival favorites as Ana Vaz’s It Is Night in America—which was shot in the Zoológico de Brasília and explores the “shapeshifting relationship between urban sprawl and the natural world,” as Andrew Northrop writes at Hyperallergic—and Serbian director Nataša Urban’s The Eclipse, which Jessica Kiang, writing for Variety, calls “a heady tumble into a wholly subjective, yet wholly persuasive, evocation of civilian family life in wartime.”

For news and items of interest throughout the day, every day, follow @CriterionDaily.

You have no items in your shopping cart