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Critics Choice Documentary Awards: ‘American Symphony’ Leads With Six Nominations

Matthew Heineman’s American Symphony, a portrait of musician Jon Batiste as he experiences professional success amid the personal challenge of his wife Suleika Jaouad’s cancer battle, leads the nominations for the 2023 Critics Choice Documentary Awards.

American Symphony is up for six awards including best documentary feature. The film is also nominated for best director (Heineman), cinematography (Heineman, Tony Hardmon and Thorsten Thielow), editing (Heineman, Sammy Dane, Jim Hession and Fernando Villegas), score (Batiste) and best music doc.

20 Days in Mariupol, Kokomo City and Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie each scored five nods, with all three titles up for best doc feature and best editing.

20 Days in Mariupol is additionally nominated for best first doc, narration (Mstyslav Chernov) and political doc. Kokomo City is also up for best first doc, cinematography and score (D. Smith). Still is up for best director (Davis Guggenheim), narration (Fox) and biographical doc.

In addition to recognizing nominees across 18 categories spanning theatrical film, TV and digital platforms, the Critics Choice Documentary Awards will this year honor Ross McElwee with its Pennebaker Award, formerly known as the Critics Choice Lifetime Achievement Award and named for late lifetime achievement honoree D.A. Pennebaker

“We are thrilled with the number of exceptional documentaries released theatrically and on streaming this year and are very excited to introduce an overdue category honoring true crime films and series,” the Critics Choice Association’s vp, documentaries, Christopher Campbell, said in a statement. “This event is about showcasing and celebrating the best in nonfiction, and I want to congratulate all of our nominees and thank them for making us see and think about the world in new ways.”

Co-president of the Critics Choice Association documentary branch, Carla Renata, added, “We are also thrilled to witness a varied number of nominees spanning subjects represented across all genders (including Transgender Intersex) and genres,  further solidifying the Critics Choice Documentary Awards’ commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion within the documentary landscape.”

The 2023 Critics Choice Documentary Awards will be presented at a Wyatt Cenac-hosted gala event at New York’s Edison Ballroom on Sunday, Nov. 12. This year’s, eighth annual ceremony will also be livestreamed via YouTube, Facebook and X (formerly known as Twitter).

A complete list of this year’s Critics Choice Documentary Awards nominees follows.

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

20 Days in Mariupol (PBS)
American Symphony (Netflix)
Beyond Utopia (Roadside Attractions)
The Deepest Breath (Netflix)
The Eternal Memory (MTV Documentary Films)
Judy Blume Forever (Amazon Studios)
Kokomo City (Magnolia Pictures)
The Mission (National Geographic)
Stamped from the Beginning (Netflix)
Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie (Apple TV+)

BEST DIRECTOR

Maite Alberdi – The Eternal Memory (MTV Documentary Films)
Madeleine Gavin – Beyond Utopia (Roadside Attractions)
Davis Guggenheim – Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie (Apple TV+)
Matthew Heineman – American Symphony (Netflix)
Amanda McBaine, Jesse Moss – The Mission (National Geographic)
Steve McQueen – Occupied City (A24)

BEST FIRST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

20 Days in Mariupol (PBS)
26.2 to Life (Film Halau)
Bad Press (Oklafilm)
Bobi Wine: The People’s President (National Geographic)
Kokomo City (Magnolia Pictures)
Orlando, My Political Biography (Sideshow)
Smoke Sauna Sisterhood (Greenwich Entertainment)
The Thief Collector (FilmRise)

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

Tim Cragg – The Deepest Breath (Netflix)
Tony Hardmon, Matthew Heineman, Thorsten Thielow – American Symphony (Netflix)
Lennert Hillege – Occupied City (A24)
Franz Lustig – Anselm (Sideshow)
D. Smith – Kokomo City (Magnolia Pictures)
Toby Strong, James Boon, Bob Poole, Neil Fairlie, Wim Vorster, Joshua Tarr, Pete Allibone, Neil Harvey, Andreas Knausenberger – Secrets of the Elephants (National Geographic)

BEST EDITING

Sammy Dane, Jim Hession, Matthew Heineman, Fernando Villegas – American Symphony (Netflix)
Madeleine Gavin – Beyond Utopia (Roadside Attractions)
Michael Harte – Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie (Apple TV+)
Michelle Mizner – 20 Days in Mariupol (PBS)
D. Smith – Kokomo City (Magnolia Pictures)
Aaron Wickenden – The Mission (National Geographic)

BEST SCORE

Jon Batiste – American Symphony (Netflix)
Danny Bensi & Saunder Jurriaans – The Mission (National Geographic)
Nainita Desai – The Deepest Breath (Netflix)
Philip Glass – The Pigeon Tunnel (Apple TV+)
Katya Richardson & Kris Bowers – The Last Repair Shop (Breakwater Studios)
D. Smith – Kokomo City (Magnolia Pictures)

BEST NARRATION

20 Days in Mariupol (PBS)
Written and Performed by Mstyslav Chernov

32 Sounds (Abramorama)
Written and Performed by Sam Green

The Disappearance of Shere Hite (IFC Films)
Written by Nicole Newnham
Performed by Dakota Johnson

John Lennon: Murder Without a Trial (Apple TV+)
Written by TBD
Performed by Kiefer Sutherland

Secrets of the Elephants (National Geographic)
Written by Martin Williams
Performed by Natalie Portman

Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie (Apple TV+)
Written and Performed by Michael J. Fox

BEST ARCHIVAL DOCUMENTARY

Being Mary Tyler Moore (HBO | Max)
The Disappearance of Shere Hite (IFC Films)
It Ain’t Over (Sony Pictures Classics)
JFK: One Day in America (National Geographic)
The Lady Bird Diaries (Hulu)
The League (Magnolia Pictures)

BEST HISTORICAL DOCUMENTARY

The 1619 Project (Hulu/Onyx Collective)
JFK: One Day in America (National Geographic)
The Lady Bird Diaries (Hulu)
Lakota Nation vs. United States (IFC Films)
The League (Magnolia Pictures)
Occupied City (A24)
Stamped from the Beginning (Netflix)

BEST BIOGRAPHICAL DOCUMENTARY

Being Mary Tyler Moore (HBO | Max)
The Disappearance of Shere Hite (IFC Films)
Going to Mars: The Nikki Giovanni Project (HBO Documentary Films)
Judy Blume Forever (Amazon Studios)
Pretty Baby: Brooke Shields (Hulu)
Sly (Netflix)
Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie (Apple TV+)

BEST MUSIC DOCUMENTARY

American Symphony (Netflix)
Carlos (Sony Pictures Classics)
Ladies First: A Story of Women in Hip-Hop (Netflix)
Little Richard: I Am Everything (Magnolia Pictures/CNN Films)
Love to Love You, Donna Summer (HBO | Max)
Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour (AMC Theatres)
What the Hell Happened to Blood, Sweat & Tears? (Abramorama)

BEST POLITICAL DOCUMENTARY

20 Days in Mariupol (PBS)
Beyond Utopia (Roadside Attractions)
Bobi Wine: The People’s President (National Geographic)
Deadlocked: How America Shaped the Supreme Court (Showtime)
Every Body (Focus Features)
Lakota Nation vs. United States (IFC Films)
Silver Dollar Road (Amazon MGM Studios)

BEST SCIENCE/NATURE DOCUMENTARY

32 Sounds (Abramorama)
Between Earth & Sky (PBS)
Life on Our Planet (Netflix)
Path of the Panther (National Geographic)
Poisoned: The Dirty Truth About Your Food (Netflix)
Secrets of the Elephants (National Geographic)
Wild Beauty: Mustang Spirit of the West (Gravitas Ventures)

BEST SPORTS DOCUMENTARY

Black Ice (Roadside Attractions)
BS High (HBO | Max)
The Deepest Breath (Netflix)
It Ain’t Over (Sony Pictures Classics)
The League (Magnolia Pictures)
Reggie (Amazon Studios)
Stephen Curry: Underrated (Apple TV+)
Welcome to Wrexham (FX)

BEST TRUE CRIME DOCUMENTARY

Burden of Proof (HBO)
The Jewel Thief (Hulu)
John Lennon: Murder Without a Trial (Apple TV+)
Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal (Netflix)
Telemarketers (HBO | Max)
The Thief Collector (FilmRise)
Victim/Suspect (Netflix)

BEST SHORT DOCUMENTARY

The ABCs of Book Banning (MTV Documentary Films)
The Barber of Little Rock (Story Syndicate)
Between Earth & Sky (PBS)
Keys to the City (New Yorker)
The Last Repair Shop (Breakwater Studios)
Last Song From Kabul (MTV Documentary Films)

BEST LIMITED DOCUMENTARY SERIES

The 1619 Project (Hulu/Onyx Collective)
Big Vape: The Rise and Fall of Juul (Netflix)
Deadlocked: How America Shaped the Supreme Court (Showtime)
JFK: One Day in America (National Geographic)
John Lennon: Murder Without a Trial (Apple TV+)
Secrets of the Elephants (National Geographic)
Shiny Happy People (Amazon Studios)
Telemarketers (HBO | Max)

BEST ONGOING DOCUMENTARY SERIES

30 for 30 (ESPN)
Frontline (PBS)
Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal (Netflix)
POV (PBS)
Trafficked with Mariana van Zeller (National Geographic)
Welcome to Wrexham (FX)

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