The Oscar for Best Documentary Feature has provided some of the most controversial and divisive moments of the Academy Awards in years: In 2003, When the Vietnam War DoctorsHearts and Minds won the award, producer Bert Schneider read a thank-you note from the Viet Cong, thus irritating host Bao Bob Hope and Frank Sinatra apologized for “any political reference” later in the broadcast. In 2003 Michael Moore accepts an Oscar for Anti-Gun Doctor Bowling , there were cheers and boos when he yelled “Shame on you, Mr. Bush” for starting the Iraq war.
As the membership of the Academy has grown and diversified over the past few years, feature documentaries have turned out to be more rounded out, with satisfying options – such as 2019 Concert Movie Summer of the Soul and 2020 Doctor Nature My Mr. Octopus – Prevailing. This suggested to the Oscar judges that if there was a favorite movie in this competition, it would have to be the most likable and accessible movie among the contenders.
But this year, that rule of thumb was thrown out the window. That’s because, in a competition rife with high-quality documentaries, some of the most popular films have inexplicably failed to make the cut. Ryan White’s Goodnight Obie , imaginative re-creation of the lives of two Mars rovers, won the top prize at the Critics’ Choice Documentary Awards, but was ruled out The Academy’s
Shortlisted films, from which five nominees were selected. Two highly regarded music documentaries – Brett Morgan’s Celebration of David Bowie, Moonage Daydream, and Dan Geller (Dan Geller) and Dayna Goldfine Hallelujah: Leonard Cohen, One Journey, One Song — Entered Shortlisted, but not nominated.
The five nominees still under consideration have all received numerous awards and recognition from critics. They tackle serious issues, feature quiet heroic protagonists, and, not without triumphant moments, are somewhat bittersweet. But none of them are completely warm and lovely. This makes it harder to predict which is likely to have the broadest appeal to the Academy’s broad membership.
Sara Dosa’s Fire of Love about the lives of French volcanologists Katia and Maurice Krafft is as much a description of scientific exploration as it is a love story story. Nat Geo/Neon’s entry showcases some of the same nail-biting man-nature suspense that won Climbing Doctor Free Solo , another Nat Geo entry, an Oscar 2003. It reportedly left some viewers with watery eyes. It just won the Directors Guild’s Best Doctor trophy, which boosts its popularity.
Shaunak Sen’s All That Breathes focuses on India as Fire of Love roams the world A dimly lit basement in Delhi where brothers Mohammad Saud and Nadeem Shehzad set up a bird rescue center to treat and care for hundreds of birds that have fallen from polluted skies Only black kite. They live in what could quite well be considered an urban jungle, where animal species, from authority kites to running rats, have had to adapt to man-made environments. The film won documentary honors at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival, and previously won the World Documentary Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival, and HBO Documentary is an old Oscar player , has acquired worldwide television rights.
HBO Docs also acquired the rights to Participant’s All the Beauty and the Bloodshed, which was released theatrically by Neon. Arguably the most ambitious of this year’s nominees, it centers on photographer Nan Goldin, who is asking museums around the world to remove the Sackler family’s name from their walls because Sackler’s company, Purdue Pharma, is The promotion of OxyContin played a role in sparking an epidemic of opioid addiction. But beyond the theme of addiction, it also takes a firm look at suicide, domestic violence and the AIDS crisis. It’s an absolute critic favorite, garnering praise from both the New York and Los Angeles critic groups. In its director, Laura Poitras, it has a previous cast of Oscar winners: for her 2003 Citizenfour
won the award — although given the documentary category rarely chooses repeat winners, this factor may be a mixed blessing.
This year, if the Academy wants to make a statement – as it has done with Davis Guggenheim films in the past 2006 An Inconvenient Truth — All the Beauty is not the only option.
The most modest entry of the year, Giant Pictures’ A House Made of Splinters, set in a shelter for foundlings in the eastern Ukrainian city of Lysychansk. The film debuted at the 2022 edition of the Sundance Film Festival, its director Simon Lereng Wilmot (Simon Lereng Wilmot) won the director’s crown, the film It was filmed before the Russian invasion. But the movie adds another layer of sadness, because as difficult as life is for the children it portrays, they are probably far worse now that that part of the Donbas region is in the midst of heavy fighting.
Russian dissident Alexei Navalny , since January 2014 has been incarcerated since, was the subject of Navalny on CNN Films, retrospectively he was 2020 poisoning, his recovery in Germany and the decision to return to Russia, he was immediately arrested. The film, directed by Daniel Roher, won the Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival, won the BAFTA Award for Best Documentary and won the PGA’s Top Documentary Award. If the Academy wants a real-life thriller – as it does when it loves Citizenfour – Navalny fits the bill, Even like this year’s other serious nominees, it’s not a feel-good movie.
This story first appeared in the March 1 issue of The Hollywood Reporter Magazine. Click here to subscribe.