Stranger Than Fiction 

The title above does not refer to the bland Will Ferrell vehicle, but rather, the weekly documentary series reality Renaissance man Thom Powers created, now a staple of the city’s thriving documentary scene. Running Tuesday nights at the IFC Center (this year, “Stranger Than Fiction” will show 30 films), the series offers a combination of curated programming and enthusiastic conversation. 

Commissioned to write a book about the history of American documentary in 2005, seasoned filmmaker Powers Breast, Loving and Cheating) became aware of how few classic films, and their legacies, were exhibited. As we docu-nerds know, there exists a thriving community of documentary aficionados in our city, and Powers saw an opening to “build continuity from the past to the present,” conceptualizing a night at which “film is half the experience, and the other half is the discussion.”

Meanwhile, the Waverly theatre had just reopened as the shiny new IFC Center. Head programmer John Vanco was open to Powers’ idea, and that fall, “Stranger Than Fiction” launched with Doug Block’s acclaimed 51 Birch Street. Powers anticipated a half-full house at best; the film sold out with a wait list. Today, roughly 50% of the shows sell out, giving Powers leverage to program lesser-known films, including undistributed gems by documentary legends like D.A. Pennebaker.

This year’s offerings have included sold-out screenings of Jennifer Venditti’s Billy the Kid and Andrew Rossi’s A Table From Heaven. The former attracted John Turturro, while the latter, profiling Le Cirque founder Sirio Maccioni, offered a post-screening reception catered by the legendary eatery.

Some upcoming highlights:

October 30th: Big Rig. Doug Pray has made a career profiling hyped subcultures (INFAMY, HYPE!). Here, he explores one of the most stereotyped — truck drivers. Pray’s documentary is surprisingly nuanced, breathing new life into characters usually flattened into half-wit caricatures. Pray will be in the house for a Q & A.

November 6th: Election Day: Unwind after a day at the polls by watching the myriad experiences of fellow voters on our country’s most important, and problematic, day of the year. Chevigny’s award-winning film weaves together a patchwork of different 2004 election day experiences, from that of an ex-convict to a new immigrant. Chevigny will be in attendance.

November 27th: This American Life selections: Closing Night brings the revered NPR host Ira Glass co-presenting clips from his television series. Based on the hit NPR radio show, the visual incarnation offers a quirky take on life experience, from shows on the repercussions of stubbornness to portraits of those whose curiosity took them into bizarre places. Chris Wilcha co-presents.

Most shows begin at 7:30 pm at the IFC Center 323 Sixth Ave @ 3rd St.
For tickets, go to http://www.ifccenter.com/index

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