Free films for all at New Haven documentary festival, June 5-7

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Classes may be over, but the cornucopia of culture on campus and in the community continues with events like the second annual New Haven Documentary Film Festival (NHdocs) running Friday-Sunday, June 5–7.

Begun last year by filmmakers Gorman Bechard, Jacob Bricca, Lisa Molomot, and Charles Musser, the festival offers free film screenings at the Whitney Humanities Center (WHC), 53 Wall St., and the New Haven Free Public Library (NHFPL), 133 Elm St. — all open to the public free of charge.

Friday evening, Saturday evening, and Sunday afternoon and evening screenings will be held at the WHC, and Saturday morning and afternoon screenings at the NHFPL. A full schedule can be found online.

This year’s festival has been organized by Bechard, a director of critically acclaimed rock documentaries, and Musser, a filmmaker and film historian who is professor of film studies, American studies, and theater studies at Yale. The bill includes two New England premieres in a line-up “filled with remarkable surprises” according to the organizers, who write: “This year this will include historical documentaries; music docs; portraits of artists; documentaries about social issues such as immigration, animal rights, and LGBT students in New Haven schools; and others that grapple contemporary realities such as the war in Afghanistan and computer geeks seeking to undermine the world of government secrecy.”

Bechard’s new film, “A Dog Named Gucci,” is described as “the story of a puppy set on fire and the brave man who came to his rescue. But for the film’s protagonist, Doug James, saving Gucci was just the beginning. Together they would forge a forever bond of devotion and perseverance and work to change the non-existent animal cruelty laws in their home state, proving that justice is a dog’s best friend.” While admission to the film’s screening on Sunday evening — like all NHdocs events — is free, patrons are asked to bring a donation of pet food or a pet toy to benefit the Friends of the New Haven Animal Shelter

Saturday evening’s New England premiere of “Danny Says,” directed by Brendan Toller offers a film about writer, photographer, and music industry veteran Danny Fields, a key figure in the rise of the 1970s punk scene, whose papers are being acquired by Yale’s Beinecke Rare Book Library.

Appropriately for an event that takes place both at Yale and in New Haven, one of this year’s screenings includes a showing of Karyl Evans’ 2012 documentary about the common and undivided lands of town, “The New Haven Green: Heart of a City,” narrated by Yale alumnus Paul Giamatti. Filmmakers represented in the festival include New Haven high school students, Quinnipiac University students, Yale faculty, and independent filmmakers living in the city and the region, among others.

“NHdocs came together in 2014 when four filmmakers from New Haven gathered together for the first time … in Missoula, Montana,” the festival’s organizers say. “That’s right:  The Big Sky Documentary Festival in Missoula. And despite being from the same town, a few of us had never met before.  It made us realize how desperately New Haven needed a film festival that could bring filmmakers together and help build community.”

For more information, visit the festival website: