Yesterday, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences released the titles of the 15 semi-finalists for the Best Feature Length Documentary Oscar. This list will, of course, be narrowed down to the 5 final nominees.
Without further ado, here’s the 15 semi-finalists:
- Battle for Brooklyn(RUMER Inc.)
- Bill Cunningham New York(First Thought Films)
- Buck(Cedar Creek Productions)
- Hell and Back Again(Roast Beef Productions Limited)
- If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front(Marshall Curry Productions, LLC)
- Jane’s Journey(NEOS Film GmbH & Co. KG)
- The Loving Story(Augusta Films)
- Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory(@radical.media)
- Pina(Neue Road Movies GmbH)
- Project Nim(Red Box Films)
- Semper Fi: Always Faithful(Tied to the Tracks Films, Inc.)
- Sing Your Song(S2BN Belafonte Productions, LLC)
- Undefeated(Spitfire Pictures)
- Under Fire: Journalists in Combat(JUF Pictures, Inc.)
- We Were Here (Weissman Projects, LLC)
My response as I look at this list is: “Huh?” Which is to be expected because I live in Flyover country and, as a result, our local theaters don’t get sent all that many documentaries. Still, I have to say that, as someone who tries her darndest to keep up with these things, I’m not familiar with a lot of these films. I saw Buck in the theaters and I watched Bill Cunningham New York via OnDemand after my sister recommended it to me. I meant to see Project Nin when it briefly played at the Dallas Angelika but, for whatever reason, I missed it. (I may have been burned out on movies about chimpanzees after seeing Rise of the Planet of the Apes.) I’ll definitely see Paradise Lost 3 if it ever manages to get down to my part of the world.
If anything surprises and disappoints me, it’s that Werner Herzog’s Cave of Forgotten Dreams isn’t on the semi-finalist list. Neither are two other documentaries that I loved — Jig and Resurrect Dead. (I have to admit that I’m not sure if those two films were submitted for consideration or if they would have even been eligible to be considered. I just know that I enjoyed them when I saw them OnDemand.) I’m also surprised that The Paper isn’t on the list of semi-finalists. I haven’t actually seen The Paper but just judging from the trailer and the subject matter (The New York Times struggling to remain relevent), it seemed like the type of documentary that traditionally seems to get nominated.
Finally, despite the fact that I haven’t seen it, I would kinda like to see Paradise Lost 3 win the award if just to honor the entire Paradise Lost series. After all, if not for those films, the West Memphis 3 would still be sitting in prison. Every year, during the Academy Awards ceremony, we have to sit through some pompous speech about how documentaries can change the course of history. Well, the Paradise Lost films actually did and, again taking into consideration that I haven’t seen the actual film yet, it seems like that deserves to be honored, no?
(And before any of you excitable types start bitching and whining — and you know who you are — Undefeated is a documentary about a high school football team and should not be mistaken for The Undefeated, the documentary about Sarah Palin that also came out this year.)