The Emmy race for Best Documentary or Nonfiction Special includes three familiar titles. "Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief," an expose directed by Alex Gibney, could contend at this year's Oscars. Netflix's "Virunga" was an Oscar nominee last for Best Documentary Feature and "The Case Against 8" made the motion picture academy's longlist of 15 semifinalists in 2014. They're all eligible at the Emmys because the TV academy makes an exception for films that have very limited theatrical runs to qualify for awards (read our complete breakdown of those rules here).
Gibney is a previous Oscar champ for Best Documentary ("Taxi to the Dark Side," 2007), and he won the Emmy for Exceptional Merit in Documentary Filmmaking for another film about religious crimes: "Mea Maxima Culpa" (2013), about child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. His acclaimed documentary "Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief" is nominated for seven Emmys in all, including Best Nonfiction Writing and Best Nonfiction Directing.
"Virunga" documents the efforts to save mountain gorillas in a protected area of the Congo. In addition to its support from rising film and TV distributor Netflix, the conservationist documentary also boasts the star-power of executive producer Leonardo DiCaprio, who is listed among the Emmy nominees. This is one of two Emmy bids for "Virunga," which also contends for Best Nonfiction Cinematography.
"The Case Against 8" details the battle against California's Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage in the state. The film is one of four nominees in this category from HBO, and it also contends for Best Nonfiction Editing.
Gibney also directed another nominee in the category: "Sinatra: All or Nothing at All," which tells the story of legendary entertainer Frank Sinatra using hours of archive interviews. But this is the only nomination for that two-part, four-hour documentary.
Rounding out the category is another film about a famous musician: "Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck," an authorized documentary about the Nirvana frontman, who committed suicide in 1994 at age 27. The film is tied with "Going Clear" as the most nominated program in the category with seven bids, also including Nonfiction Writing and Nonfiction Directing for Brett Morgen, who was a 1999 Oscar-nominee for the sports doc "On the Ropes."
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Photo: "Going Clear" Credit: HBO
Photo: "Virunga." Credit: Netflix/Everett/REX