With more stellar documentaries being released every year — just look at the ones that didn’t make the cut for the 2013 Oscars — Boston audiences have reason to celebrate our very own all-documentary series. The DocYard, created in 2010 by local indie film champions Sara Archambault, Sean Flynn, and Ben Fowlie, began its 2013 winter program last week and will run to April 22, at the Brattle Theatre. Not only does the series showcase top-notch new documentaries, it also brings the filmmakers along for post-screening audience talks.
The next DocYard screening (Jan. 28) is “Only the Young,” which took home the Emerging Cinematic Vision Award last year at Maine’s Camden International Film Festival, the all-doc event founded by Fowlie. The film also won the best doc award at Silverdocs and the audience award at the AFI Fest. Director Jason Tippet will be on hand for the post-screening Q&A. “Only the Young” is a cinéma-vérité meditation on the lives of two young men living in a small desert town in Southern California. The boys, innocent yet rebellious skateboarding enthusiasts whose parents are absent and uninterested, live in a foreclosed home in a town full of overgrown lots and empty swimming pools. Tippet observes their day-to-day lives and in doing so manages to create something profound about the essence of adolescence.
Go to www.thedocyard.com.
Winter doesn’t mean a shortage of film fests around town. The Boston Jewish Film Festival presents its second annual ReelAbilities Boston Disabilities Film Festival (Jan. 31-Feb. 5), a series of nine international features and shorts screening at various locations. The festival kicks off at the West Newton Cinema with the Australian claymation film “Mary and Max” (Jan. 31) about a lonely 8-year-old outcast (voice by Toni Collette) living near Melbourne who becomes the pen pal of eccentric Max Horovitz (voiced by Philip Seymour Hoffman), a Jewish New Yorker with Asperger’s syndrome. Other highlights include “The Straight Line” (Feb. 2, at the Museum of Fine Arts), a French film about a blind runner who trains with a former athlete who has a criminal past. The documentary “Body and Soul” (Feb. 3, MFA) follows three young Mozambicans with physical disabilities. “Me, Too”
(Feb. 3, MFA) is a Spanish drama about a recent college grad with Down syndrome and his lively workmate. “Mabul” (“The Flood”), an acclaimed Israeli film that was a hit at the BJFF, is about two boys: one is preparing for his bar mitzvah; the other, his older brother, is autistic. It screens on Feb. 4 at the Leventhal-Sidman Jewish Community Center, in Newton. Many of the screenings will feature guest speakers and panel discussions. Marathoner Josh Crary, who writes the Boston Blind Runner blog, will speak after “The Straight Line.” A couple with Asperger’s will talk at “Mary and Max” about their experience. And Jeanne Marie Penvenne, social and labor historian at Tufts University, will introduce “Body and Soul.”
Go to www.bjff.org.
Moon over Belmont
The January full moon is as good a reason as any for a mini film festival. Belmont World Film presents a Full Moon Festival, with two family films about Earth’s satellite on Saturday at the Studio Cinema, in Belmont. “Lotte and the Moonstone Secret,” an animated film that’s part of a series created by animators in Estonia and Latvia, screens at 10:30 a.m. “Moon Man,” based on Tomi Ungerer’s 1967 book, screens at 1 p.m. Each will be followed by a discussion led by an astronomer of the phases of the moon.
Docs in Lowell
The Lowell campus of Middlesex Community College continues its International Film Series with free monthly screenings followed by discussions. The next showing is “Taking Root: The Vision of Wangari Maathai” (Jan. 31), a documentary about Kenyan Nobel Peace Prize laureate Wangari Maathai, whose simple act of planting trees grew into a nationwide movement to protect the environment, human rights, and democracy.
“Harlem Street Singer” is a documentary about the late Rev. Gary Davis, the great blues, ragtime, and gospel musician who traveled from the tobacco warehouses of the rural South to the streets of Harlem and influenced many young folk musicians. It will have its world premiere at the Institute of Contemporary Art on Jan. 25 at 6 p.m., followed by a live performance by Woody Mann, who studied with Davis. Musicians Paul Rishell and Annie Raines will also perform.
Go to www.icaboston.org.
One night only
Two documentaries have special screenings at the Kendall Square Cinema this month. Dan Carracino and Kevin Hanlon’s “Bill W.” (Jan. 29) uses interviews, re-creations, and rare archival material to illuminate the compelling story of William G. “Bill” Wilson, cofounder of Alcoholics Anonymous. “Sound City” (Jan. 31), directed by musician Dave Grohl, looks at a legendary recording studio in California’s San Fernando Valley where artists such as Fleetwood Mac, Neil Young, Rick Springfield, Tom Petty, Metallica, and Nirvana all came out to record, using Sound City’s legendary analog console.