Friday, November 17, 2006

15 Feature Docs Advance in 2006 Oscar® Race

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences® has announced that 15 films in the Documentary Feature category will advance in the voting process for the 79th Academy Awards. Eighty-one pictures originally qualified in the category.

The Documentary Branch screening committee viewed the eligible documentaries in a preliminary round of screenings. That branch's members will now select the five 2006 nominees from among the 15 titles on the shortlist. The full Academy membership with vote for their choices from the nominees.

Long gone are the days of someone holding a camera is an exotic locale as they observe the native inhabitants work and play. This year's crop of feature documentaries delves into living under the threats of war and somehow regaining one's sanity afterward, good and harmful politicians, sexual abuse of children, spousal abuse, environmental destruction, wrongful conviction because of racism, religious indoctrination of children, overly zealous patriots trying to destroy those who speak out for personal freedom, and overcoming blindness. Heady stuff all around.

The 15 films are listed below in alphabetical order:

BLINDSIGHT (UK). Directed by Lucy Walker, it has been described as a gripping adventure of six blind Tibetan teenagers who set out to climb the 23,000 foot mountain right next to Mount Everest.

CAN MR. SMITH GET TO WASHINGTON ANYMORE? (USA). This "Mr. Smith" follows the campaign of an unabashedly progressive 29-year-old political science prof, Jeff Smith, running for Dick Gephardt's Missouri congressional seat in 2004. Directed by Frank Popper.

DELIVER US FROM EVIL (USA). The Roman Catholic Church's hierarchy was aware that Father Oliver O'Grady was a dangerous active pedophile. They moved him from parish to parish for 30 years, allowing him to abuse countless children. Filmmaker Amy Berg exposes the deep corruption and the troubled mind of the man they sheltered. She juxtaposes an extended, deeply unsettling interview with O'Grady with the tragic stories of his victims.

THE GROUND TRUTH (USA), also known as The Ground Truth: When the Fighting Stops." Robert Acosta, Paul Rieckhoff, Sean Huze, and Herold Noel returned veterans of the war in Iraq are featured in the film. Viewers at Sundance reported being profoundly affected. Written and directed by Patricia Foulkrod.

AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH (USA). Directed by Davis Guggenheim, this

environmental documentary features former Vice President Al Gore. It was released in May.

IRAQ IN FRAGMENTS (USA/Iraq). This candid observations of Iraqis' lives under U.S. occupation, won three documentary prizes at Sundance in January: directing, cinematography, and editing. Careful! According to one review, the children in this film, directed by James Longly, will steal your heart.

JESUS CAMP (USA) premiered in April at the Tribeca Film Festival. Directed by Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady, it's the story of children at the "Kid's On Fire" summer camp, Devils Lake, North Dakota. Fundamentalists Evangelical Christians use the camp experience to indoctrinate children in their stance on hot-button issues, i.e., homosexuality, evolution, abortion, and George Bush.

JONESTOWN: THE LIFE AND DEATH OF PEOPLE'S TEMPLE (USA), directed by Stanley Nelson. Featuring never-before-seen footage, it delivers a startling new look at the Peoples Temple headed by preacher Jim Jones who, in 1978, led more than 900 members to Guyana, where he orchestrated a mass suicide via tainted punch.

MY COUNTRY, MY COUNTRY (USA). Filmmaker Laura Poitras follows a Sunni doctor in Baghdad as he runs for an office on the City Council, the United Nations team that will organize and monitor the elections in January 2005. Poitras lived with Dr. Riyadh and his family. She shows it all, the good, bad, and ugly of an amazing man's daily life in Baghdad. It aired on PBS's P.O.V., so this one I have seen, and it is extraordinary filmmaking under life-threatening circumstances.

SHUT UP & SING (USA). Barbara Kopple and Cecilia Peck’s documentary, also known as DIXIE CHICKS: SHUT UP AND SING, premiered at The Toronto Film Festival in September where it received a runner-up People's Choice award.

SISTERS IN LAW (Cameroon/UK). Directed by Florence Ayisi and Kim Longinotto, this documentary shows difficulties and landmark achievements of the Women Lawyers Association (WLS) in Cameroon. Their mission is to impose secular legal rights for women and children in cases of domestic violence within a Muslim culture where men have always been sovereign over women, according to Islamic Sharia law.

STORM OF EMOTIONS, no information found.

THE TRIALS OF DARRYL HUNT (USA) directed by Ricki Stern and Anne Sundberg. Hunt is a black man in the south who is wrongly accused of raping and murdering a white woman. He ended up spending nineteen years in jail, a victim of racism.

AN UNREASONABLE MAN ( USA ). Among the audience's top ten picks at the Canadian Hot Docs Festival in May, it is a look at the career of Ralph Nader, who evolved from consumer advocate to political spoiler because of his misguided ambition to be President. Directed by Henriette Mantel and Steve Skrovan.

THE WAR TAPES (USA). Filmed entirely by the members of the New Hampshire National Guard, it won Best Documentary at Tribeca. Directed by Deborah Scranton.

Nominations for the 79th Academy Awards will be announced on Tuesday, January 23, 2007, at 5:30 a.m. PST, in the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater, Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. For more, see links on this blogs' right sidebar.

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