The Academy Celebrates Powerful, Oscar-Nominated Documentaries
By Michelle McCue and Gary Salem
On Wednesday, the Academy featured the 2014 Oscar-nominated films in the Documentary Short Subject and Documentary Feature categories.
Clips from the nominated films were screened, and nominees for all 10 films took part in panel discussions, talking about their own films and sharing insights on the craft of documentary filmmaking and the greater issues their nominated films explore.
Two-time Oscar winner and Academy documentary branch governor Rob Epstein opened the evening with the documentary shorts.
Epstein won the Oscar for documentary feature in 1984 for THE TIMES OF HARVEY MILK and in 1989 for COMMON THREADS: STORIES FROM THE QUILT. His other credits include LOVELACE (2013) and the TV documentary “And The Oscar Goes To…” (2014)
During his opening remarks, Epstein said the theme that ran through the nominated shorts were “life beginning and life ending.”
All the filmmakers conceded the Cinéma vérité was what was so powerful, so intimate. It was a cathartic process for the directors. The real-life, up-close narratives surrounded extraordinary individuals. JOANNA director Aneta Kopacz remarked, “There was such a trust between myself and subject who’s story I was telling.”
Women filmmakers were at the forefront of the documentary shorts. Ellen Goosenberg Kent and Dana Perry of CRISIS HOTLINE: VETERANS PRESS 1 said of their movie, “that the sounds, the audio was just as important as the visuals” to get across the point of military veterans suffering from PTSD.
Best Documentary Short Subject
“Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1” (HBO Documentary Films)
A Perry Films Production
Ellen Goosenberg Kent and Dana Perry
A Wajda Studio Production
A Warsaw Film School Production
Tomasz Śliwiński and Maciej Ślesicki
“The Reaper (La Parka)”
A Centro de Capacitación Cinematográfica Production
Gabriel Serra Arguello
A Weary Traveler Production
J. Christian Jensen
The nominated short films will be available on Vimeo OnDemand, iTunes® Stores in 54 countries, Amazon Instant Video®, Verizon and will be released across the US on VOD/Pay Per View platforms.
Next up was the Documentary Features, hosted by Tabitha Jackson. She is the director of the Documentary Film Program at the Sundance Institute and was executive producer on the feature documentaries SINS OF MY FATHER (2009) and 20,000 DAYS ON EARTH (2014).
Arriving up at the podium, she thanked co-host Epstein and quipped she was “Anne Hathaway to his James Franco.”
Jackson told the large audience at the Samuel Goldwyn Theatre that the documentary features nominated were “great in any medium whether it’s on the small screen, Amazon or Netflix. Non-fiction is the new reality. The language of cinema unites. I hope to see a documentary nominated one day in the Best Picture category.”
During the Q&A, the directors spoke on how they discovered the various subjects of their respective films and hoped their movies brought some entertainment to the world.
The documentarians all agreed that they wanted to create a message of hope, meaning and protecting human dignity.
Best documentary feature
A Praxis Films Production
Laura Poitras, Mathilde Bonnefoy and Dirk Wilutzky
“Finding Vivian Maier” (Sundance Selects)
A Ravine Pictures Production
John Maloof and Charlie Siskel
Read Jim Batts’ interview with Finding Vivian Maier’s filmmakers HERE.
“Last Days in Vietnam” (American Experience Films)
A Moxie Firecracker Films Production
Rory Kennedy and Keven McAlester
“The Salt of the Earth” (Sony Pictures Classics)
A Decia Films Production
Wim Wenders, Juliano Ribeiro Salgado and David Rosier
A Grain Media Production
Orlando von Einsiedel and Joanna Natasegara
See the full list of nominations here.
Oscar Sunday is on February 22nd and will air live on ABC.