A few weeks ago The Academy announced One hundred forty-five (145) documentary films were submitted for consideration, now announces the shortlist with a surprising fifteen docs -instead of the usual ten- in the shortlist from where five (5) will be honored with a nomination.
As expected Golden Bear winner Fire at Sea made the short list but also the three docs that up-to-today have won film critics awards, OJ: Made in America, 13th and I Am Not Your Negro. Then also made the shortlist Weiner, which I tried to watch but really was annoying watching the excess of delusional situations, so stopped watching.
These are the fifteen films that will be considered by the Academy's Documentary Branch to select the five nominations that will be announced on Tuesday, January 27, 2017.
Cameraperson, Kristen Johnson, USA
Command and Control, Robert Kenner, USA
The Eagle Huntress, Otto Bell, UK, Mongolia and USA
Fuocoammare (Fire at Sea), Gianfranco Rosi, Italy and France
Gleason, Clay Tweel, USA
I Am Not Your Negro, Raoul Peck, USA. Belgium, Switzerland and France
The Ivory Game, Kief Davidson and Richard Ladkani, Austria
Life, Animated, Roger Ross Williams, USA
O.J.: Made in America, Ezra Edelman, USA
13th, Ava DuVernay, USA
Tower, Keith Maitland, USA
Weiner, Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg, USA
The Witness, James D. Solomon, USA
Ye Haiyan (Hooligan Sparrow), Nanfu Wang, China and USA
Zero Days, Alex Gibney, USA
Cameraperson by Kristen Johnson
Synopsis: A boxing match in Brooklyn; life in postwar Bosnia and Herzegovina; the daily routine of a Nigerian midwife; an intimate family moment at home: these scenes and others are woven into Cameraperson, a tapestry of footage captured over the twenty-five-year career of documentary cinematographer Kirsten Johnson. Through a series of episodic juxtapositions, Johnson explores the relationships between image makers and their subjects, the tension between the objectivity and intervention of the camera, and the complex interaction of unfiltered reality and crafted narrative. A work that combines documentary, autobiography, and ethical inquiry, Cameraperson is both a moving glimpse into one filmmaker’s personal journey and a thoughtful examination of what it means to train a camera on the world.
Command and Control by Robert Kenner
Synopsis: The message of Robert Kenner's documentary Command and Control is crisp and scary. Atomic weapons are man-made machines. Man-made machines sooner or later break. A very serious accident, or even atomic apocalypse is only a matter of time. Actually a very serious accident did happen in 1980 at a nuclear missile in Arkansas, when the area around, the continent and maybe the whole world was close to a disaster maybe similar in proportions to the one that happened in Chernobyl in Ukraine (than part of the Soviet Union) a few years later. I liked the low-key documentary style of this production. The authors restrained from commenting too much (although there are a few punch lines) and let the facts speak. It is amazing how much filmed material was available if we are taking into account the classified nature of the events that took place. We can also draw some conclusions, this being mostly left to us, viewers. At the end of the day the safety systems in place worked, but the wrong decisions of the human factors did not lack either. What was different from the incident in the Soviet Union besides the very existence and quality of the safety equipment was also the fact that the decisions were made at a relative low level, and eventually the right decisions prevailed. Heroism was there, at least one precious life was lost, and several people remained with physical and psychological traumas, not to speak about the imposed silence about the events. For these people the film is an act of recovery and rehabilitation which seems to be well deserved. One more thought could not escape me when seeing this film - how young the heroes of this story were. The safety of the nuclear devices was put in the hands of very young people in uniform, who were only a few years before just kids. Many of the members of the emergency teams were also very young. Maybe one day a film needs to be made about those kids, or men and women who have been so recently kids to whom we trust not only the manipulation of deadly weapons, but the very existence of the planet and of life on it.
The Eagle Huntress by Otto Bell
Synopsis: Follows Aisholpan, a 13-year-old nomadic Mongolian girl who is fighting to become the first female eagle hunter in twelve generations of her Kazakh family.
Fuocoammare (Fire at Sea) by Gianfranco Rosi
Synopsis: The documentary captures life on the Italian island of Lampedusa, a frontline in the European migrant crisis. Situated some 200km off Italy’s southern coast, Lampedusa has hit world headlines in recent years as the first port of call for hundreds of thousands of African and Middle Eastern migrants hoping to make a new life in Europe. Rosi spent months living on the Mediterranean island, capturing its history, culture and the current everyday reality of its 6,000-strong local population as hundreds of migrants land on its shores on a weekly basis. The resulting documentary focuses on 12-year-old Samuele, a local boy who loves to hunt with his slingshot and spend time on land even though he hails from a culture steeped in the sea.
Gleason by Clay Tweel
Synopsis: At the age of 34, Steve Gleason was diagnosed with ALS. Doctors gave the former NFL defensive back and New Orleans hero two to five years to live. So that is what Steve chose to do - LIVE: with purpose, for his newborn son, for his wife, and to help others with his disease.
I Am Not Your Negro by Raoul Peck
Synopsis: In 1979, James Baldwin wrote a letter to his literary agent describing his next project, Remember This House. The book was to be a revolutionary, personal account of the lives and successive assassinations of three of his close friends—Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. At the time of Baldwin’s death in 1987, he left behind only thirty completed pages of this manuscript. Now, in his incendiary new documentary, master filmmaker Raoul Peck envisions the book James Baldwin never finished. The result is a radical, up-to-the-minute examination of race in America, using Baldwin’s original words and flood of rich archival material. I Am Not Your Negro is a journey into black history that connects the past of the Civil Rights movement to the present of #BlackLivesMatter. It is a film that questions black representation in Hollywood and beyond. And, ultimately, by confronting the deeper connections between the lives and assassination of these three leaders, Baldwin and Peck have produced a work that challenges the very definition of what America stands for.
The Ivory Game by Kief Davidson and Richard Ladkani
Synopsis: The Ivory Game is an undercover feature-documentary, set to expose the dark world of ivory trafficking. The African elephant faces extinction as poachers wreak slaughter in pursuit of the ‘white gold’ of ivory, considered a symbol of luxury and power amongst the new rising Chinese middle-class.
Life, Animated by Roger Ross Williams
Synopsis: the inspirational story of Owen Suskind, a young man who was unable to speak as a child until he and his family discovered a unique way to communicate by immersing themselves in the world of classic Disney animated films.
O.J.: Made in America by Ezra Edelman
Synopsis: It is the defining cultural tale of modern America - a saga of race, celebrity, media, violence, and the criminal justice system. And two decades after its unforgettable climax, it continues to fascinate, polarize, and even, yes, develop new chapters. Now, the producers of ESPN's award-winning "30 for 30" have made it the subject of their first documentary-event and most ambitious project yet. From Peabody and Emmy-award winning director Ezra Edelman, it's "O.J.: Made in America," a 10-hour multi-part production coming summer of 2016. To most observers, it's a story that began the night Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman were brutally murdered outside her Brentwood apartment. But as "O.J." lays bare, to truly grasp the significance of what happened not just that night, but the epic chronicle to follow, one has to travel back to a much different, much earlier origin point, at not the end, but the beginning of the 20th century, when African-Americans began migrating to California ...
13th by Ava DuVernay
Synopsis: Extraordinary and galvanizing documentary 13th refers to the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, which reads “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States.” The progression from that second qualifying clause to the horrors of mass criminalization and the sprawling American prison industry is laid out by DuVernay with bracing lucidity. With a potent mixture of archival footage and testimony from a dazzling array of activists, politicians, historians, and formerly ncarcerated women and men, DuVernay creates a work of grand historical synthesis.
Tower by Keith Maitland
Synopsis: August 1, 1966, was the day our innocence was shattered. A sniper rode the elevator to the top floor of the iconic University of Texas Tower and opened fire, holding the campus hostage for 96 minutes in what was a previously unimaginable event. TOWER combines archival footage with rotoscopic animation of the dramatic day, based entirely on first person testimonies from witnesses, heroes and survivors, in a seamless and suspenseful retelling of the unfolding tragedy. The film highlights the fear, confusion, and visceral realities that changed the lives of those present, and the rest of us, forever - a day when the worst in one man brought out the best in so many others.
Weiner by Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg
Synopsis: Serving seven consecutive terms, Anthony Weiner, good friends with and political allies to the Clintons, was once a highly respected member of Congress from New York City, he seen as a man sticking up for the every day person. That all changed in June, 2011 when he was forced to resign in disgrace after admitting that he did tweet lewd "headless" photos of himself from his public Twitter account to women he met online, and that it was not the work of a hacker or that the photos were of someone else. At the time, his wife Huma Abedin, herself a key aide to Hillary Clinton, was pregnant with their first child, she who decided to stand by her man. Two years later with Abedin still by his side, Weiner tries to resurrect his political career in a run for New York City mayor. He realizes that he has an uphill battle not only because of the known previously tweeted photos, but that there are other lewd photos from that era that may also come to light during the campaign
The Witness by James D. Solomon
Synopsis: Bill Genovese's decade-long journey to unravel the truth about the mythic death and little-known life of his sister, Kitty, who was reportedly stabbed in front of 38 witnesses and became the face of urban apathy. THE WITNESS begins in 2004 when The Times questions its original story: the number of witnesses, what they observed, the number of attacks. None was more affected by the story than Bill. He vowed not to be like the 38, volunteered for Vietnam, and lost both legs. What if Kitty's mythic story is an urban myth? Breaking his family's half-century of silence, Bill seeks to find the truth confronting the witnesses, the killer, their families and his own. THE WITNESS is about bearing witness, loss and forgiveness, and what we owe each other.
Ye Haiyan (Hooligan Sparrow) by Nanfu Wang
Synopsis: The danger is palpable as intrepid young filmmaker Nanfu Wang follows maverick activist Ye Haiyan (a.k.a Hooligan Sparrow) and her band of colleagues to Hainan Province in southern China to protest the case of six elementary school girls who were sexually abused by their principal. Marked as enemies of the state, the activists are under constant government surveillance and face interrogation, harassment, and imprisonment. Sparrow, who gained notoriety with her advocacy work for sex workers’ rights, continues to champion girls’ and women’s rights and arms herself with the power and reach of social media.
Zero Days by Alex Gibney
Synopsis: A black ops cyber-attack launched by the U.S. and Israel on an Iranian nuclear facility unleashed malware with unforeseen consequences. The Stuxnet virus infiltrated its pre-determined target only to spread its infection outward, ultimately exposing systemic vulnerabilities that threatened the very safety of the planet. Delve deep into the burgeoning world of digital warfare in this documentary thriller from Academy Award® winning filmmaker Alex Gibney.