Columbia Filmmakers Show Their Work at 2021 DOC NYC

BY Felix van Kann, November 16, 2021

Four films by Columbia filmmakers are set to screen at the 12th edition of the DOC NYC film festival between November 10 and November 18, 2021. They are InHospitable, a feature documentary produced by alumna and Adjunct Assistant Professor Veronica Nickel '10; Go Through The Dark, a feature documentary associate produced by alumna Bofan Zhang '21; Come Back Anytime, a feature documentary directed by alumnus John Daschbach '96; and Aguilucho: Dance of the Harpy Eagle, a short film directed and produced by student Daniel Byers. In addition, the festival offers a category called DOC NYC U: Columbia, in which two short films from the Columbia School of Journalism’s documentary specialization are being screened. The films are It Takes a Circus by Journalism alumni Sarah D. Collins '20 and Zoe Ramushu '20 and The Militiaman by Journalism alumnus David Peter Hansen '20. Both films are nominated for Student Oscars. 

Still from InHospitable

InHospitable, produced by Nickel, follows patients and activists as they band together to fight a multi-billion dollar nonprofit hospital system in Pittsburgh that limits vital care for vulnerable patients. Filmmaker Sandra Alvarez explores the perspectives of patients, hospital workers, advocates, and politicians to shed light on an overlooked fight for justice. It premiered on November 13, 2021 in the Fight the Power category. 


Veronica Nickel is an independent producer based in New York and Florida. Her fifth feature film, the Netflix Original entitled First Match, won the Audience Award and Gamechanger Award at the 2018 South by Southwest film festival. Her recent credits include A24’s critically acclaimed feature Moonlight. Nickel’s time is spent on producing her own projects as well as working as a line producer in the industry.

Still from Go Through the Dark

Go Through The Dark, associate produced by Zhang, follows Guanglin, a blind boy in China who displays great skill at the ancient board game called Go, in which two players place black and white pieces on a grid in an attempt to dominate their opponent. Raised by a single father with limited means, Guanglin faces deep societal prejudice against the blind. The film screens as part of the international competition and had its world premiere on November 13. 


Bofan Zhang is a bilingual film producer based in New York City and Beijing. She is a BAFTA Newcomer, the recipient of Katharina Otto-Bernstein Production Grant and GiGadgets Creative Foundation, and a Sundance Creative Producing Lab second-rounder. Her short films have been screened at the Oscar-qualified Foyle Film Festival, San Diego International Film Festival, Asian American International Film Festival, Santa Fe Film Festival and Malibu Film Festival, etc. Zhang currently works as the producer on her first feature, Frozen Egg, Broken Egg (in pre-production), which was officially selected for the project forum of three prestigious film festivals in China. She is in cooperation with a leading streaming platform in China and the project has top-tier Chinese talents and award-winning filmmakers attached.

Still from Come Back Anytime

Daschbach’s Come Back Anytime shows a year in the life of a tiny ramen noodle restaurant in a quiet corner of Tokyo, featuring its unassuming master chef-owners and the loyal patrons who adore them as much as their delicious, handcrafted creations. The film runs in the International Competition and had its New York premiere on November 12. 

Tokyo-based filmmaker John Daschbach’s award-winning fiction feature debut, Brief Reunion, starring Joel de la Fuente, Scott Shepherd and Alexie Gilmore, opened theatrically in the US and is now available on VOD and DVD. Daschbach’s previous short films have appeared in film festivals, movie theaters, and on television throughout the world. His short film, Waking Dreams, starring Ben Shenkman and Tina Holmes, was released on TLA Releasing’s DVD collection, Celebrity Mix.

Still from Aguilucho: Dance of the Harpy Eagle

Lastly, Byer’s Aguilucho: Dance of the Harpy Eagle celebrated its New York premiere in the Shorts Program: Our Impact/Our Crisis on November 12. The short follows the indigenous people of the Darién Gap rainforest who work with conservationists to use their heritage and traditions to protect the endangered Vulture Eagle and, in turn, protect their community. 


As a director, writer and photographer at Skyship Films, Daniel Byers is adept at telling stories that shape a better world. He has tracked cartels along the rivers of Honduras, followed snow leopards through the mountains of Afghanistan and rafted glacial lakes amongst icebergs in the shadow of Everest — all for the sake of a good story. When not in the field, Byers has a love for crafting dark fantasy, horror and science fiction. 


For the last nine years, DOC NYC has screened the documentary feature that went on to win the Academy Award and 24 of the last 25 Oscar-nominated documentary features. DOC NYC is also an Academy-qualifying festival for short films. In 2021, DOC NYC celebrates its 12th edition and takes place in a hybrid format (online and in-person).