The Broadcast Film Critics Assn. announced the nominees for the inaugural edition of the Critics’ Choice Documentary Awards on Monday. “13th,” “O.J.: Made in America” and “Gleason” lead the nominations this year with five apiece, including the marquee category of Best Documentary Feature Film (Theatrical Premiere). Nominees were determined by juries while winners will be decided on by the BFCA membership who will cast their ballots on Oct. 1 and Nov. 1 with winners revealed on Nov. 3 during a ceremony in Brooklyn, New York.
Before that awardsfest, we will have heard from two other influential groups. The International Documentary Association (IDA) announces nominees at the end of October while Cinema Eye Honors (CEH) reveals its slate on Nov. 2. In 2015, both the IDA and CEH previewed three of the five Oscar nominees: both nominated eventual Oscar champ “Amy” as well as “The Look Silence” while IDA chose “What Happened Miss Simone?” and CEH chose “Cartel Land.” Neither group nominated the fifth Oscar nominee “Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom.” The academy’s documentary branch will narrows the field to a short list of 15 films in early December.
Below, a closer look at the 10 films contending for Best Documentary Feature Film (Theatrical Premiere) at the Critics’ Choice Documentary Awards.
“13th” (Director: Ava DuVernay)
Chosen to open this year’s New York Film Festival, DuVernay’s film turns a sharp eye toward the Thirteenth Amendment, specifically the “punishment for a crime” clause, and its connection to the problem with mass incarceration and institutionalized racism in the United States. DuVernay’s 2014 film “Selma” was nominated for two Academy Awards, Best Picture and Best Original Song, and won the latter.
“30 for 30: O.J.: Made in America” (Director: Ezra Edelman)
Exploring the life and celebrity of O.J. Simpson through the lens of race relations in America, the ESPN documentary “30 for 30: O.J.: Made in America” is a five-part television series that premiered at Sundance and had an Oscar-qualifying theatrical run. Edelman is best known as a sports documentary filmmaker having won multiple Sports Emmys for “Brooklyn Dodgers: Ghosts of Flatbush” in 2008, but is new to the Oscar race.
“Cameraperson” (Director: Kirsten Johnson)
Using her own footage shot over decades around the world, Johnson reveals the power of the camera in this memoir. She is best known for her work as a cinematographer having won multiple awards for her work in that role on the Oscar-winning “Citizenfour” in 2014.
“Fire at Sea” (Director: Gianfranco Rosi)
Having won the Golden Lion at this year’s Berlinale and chosen by Italy as its submission in the Foreign Language Film race, “Fire at Sea” is already one of the year’s leading contenders at the Oscars. The film juxtaposes the ordinary life of the inhabitants of the Sicilian island of Lampedusa with the refugees escaping into the European Union from across the Mediterranean Sea.
“Gleason” (Director: J. Clay Tweel)
Covering five years in the life of former pro football player Steve Gleason and including video diaries recorded for his unborn son, this film focuses on his battle with ALS and the work he and his family do to raise money for ALS awareness.
“Life, Animated” (Director: Roger Ross Williams)
Winner of the 2016 Sundance Directing Award: Documentary, “Life, Animated” is the story of an autistic boy and his family who used Disney animated films as a way of learning to express himself. Williams is already an Oscar champ having won Best Documentary Short in 2010 for his film “Music by Prudence.”
“Tickled” (Directors: David Farrier and Dylan Reeve)
“Tickled” is an exploration into the world of competitive endurance tickling and the practices of those that produce the videos featuring it. Having funded the film on Kickstarter after coming across the subject during their work as journalists, this marks the directorial debut of both Farrier and the feature debut of Reeve.
“Tower” (Director: Keith Maitland)
Using animation, “Tower” is the first documentary about the 1966 shootings at the University of Texas at Austin. Maitland’s film won the Audience Award and Grand Jury Award in the documentary categories at the 2016 South by Southwest festival.
“Weiner” (Directors: Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg)
Chronicling his 2013 New York City mayoral campaign and image rehabilitation after the 2011 leaked photo scandal that ended his career in Congress, Anthony Weiner is the subject of this 2016 Sundance Grand Jury Prize: Documentary winner. This is directorial debut of both Kriegman and Steinberg.
“The Witness” (Director: James D. Solomon)
Bill Genovese tries to uncover the truth behind his sister Kitty’s murder in 1964, in which dozens of bystanders were alleged to have done nothing. This is Solomon’s directorial debut.
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