imageReported by Erik Guzinski

This past weekend, with the Oscar nominations around the corner, Tribeca Cinemas screened DOCS ON THE SHORTLIST, sponsored by the Gucci Tribeca Documentary Fund. Presenting a handful of titles from the 15 shortlist, the series gave a final spotlight before nomination ballots are due on Jan 12. Each screening was accompanied by a Q&A with people behind the films. 

The screening of Man on Wire was enhanced by a Q&A with Phillipe Petit, the tightrope daredevil who staged Manhattan’s greatest bit of public theater in August 1974 when he, with the aid of several accomplices, walked between the Twin Towers 1350 feet above New York’s morning rush-hour. The Frenchman possessing infectious energy and love of life, said of his walk among the birds and skyscrapers, “this was not the world of men”.

When media coverage of Africa is repeatedly confined to military juntas, famine and recently piracy in Somalia, Pray the Devil Back to Hell stands out for its story of courageous Liberian Women who broke traditional religious customs and came together to stand for peace during civil war, while helping oust Dictator Charles Taylor. Director Gini Reticker brought heart and humor to otherwise somber subject matter. She’s pictured here in the middle with her collaborator Abigail Disney and moderator Marshal Curry.

At the Death House Door in contrast is a sober, haunting story of Huntsville, Texas prison Chaplain, Carroll Pickett, serving as minister to 95 men executed by the State of Texas. Now staunchly against capital punishment, he works with advocacy groups exposing a broken criminal justice system and the failed logic of the death penalty. At the Q&A, Co-director Peter Gilbert said of capital punishment and Pickett’s evolving moral journey, “It’s like a when you throw a stone into a lake, there’s a ripple effect for everyone.”

Other docs screened in the series; The Garden, Scott Hamilton Kennedy’s chronicle of the legal land battle over a 41-acre community garden in Los Angeles which also screened at STF in December. HBO Documentary They Killed Sister Dorothy, investigating the politics of the Brazilian rainforest leading to the murder of a 73 year old Catholic nun, which premiered at SXSW in March. I.O.U.S.A., Patrick Creadon’s examination of America’s national debt and financial policies.