Nat Geo was in seventh heaven last year after its Oscar-winning documentary “Free Solo” won all seven Emmys for which it was nominated. The network will look to strike gold again in September with another harrowing doc that also competed at the Oscars.
“The Cave” gave Nat Geo its second straight Best Documentary Oscar nomination earlier this year, losing to Netflix’s “American Factory.” Because the film had a shorter-than-70-day theatrical release, it is also Emmy eligible — starting next year, Oscar-nominated docs are banned from double-dipping at the Emmys — and received four bids: Exceptional Merit in Documentary Filmmaking, which is a juried award, Best Directing for a Documentary/Nonfiction Program for Feras Fayyad, Best Writing for a Nonfiction Program for Fayyad and co-writer Alisar Hasan, and Best Cinematography for a Nonfiction Program.
“The Cave” spotlights Dr. Amani Ballor, the first female hospital manager in war-torn Syria. The film takes its title from her hospital, a subterranean makeshift maze of rooms constructed to hide and protect themselves and patients from the hellfire that rains above them. Dr. Amani not only faces the horrors of war, but frustrating sexism and misogyny of a patriarchal society.
Like “Free Solo,” “The Cave” won the People’s Choice Award at the Toronto Film Festival en route to the Oscars. Despite having fewer nominations, “The Cave” has a leg up on “Free Solo” at the Emmys in one big way: Though the heart-trending rock climbing doc went 7/7, claiming such categories as directing, editing and music, it was snubbed in Exceptional Merit in Documentary Filmmaking. Given its dominance, it likely would’ve won that as well had it been nominated.
But maybe not winning the Oscar is a good thing for “The Cave.” The last three Oscar documentary champs that competed at the Emmys were unable to snag the top prize. In 2017, Oscar winner “O.J.: Made in America” won two Emmys and was expected to add Exceptional Merit in Documentary Filmmaking to its awards haul, but it was upset by “LA 92,” which aired on — you guessed it — Nat Geo. The following year, Oscar winner “Icarus” received three Emmy bids, including Best Documentary or Nonfiction Special, but didn’t win any. And of course, “Free Solo” was snubbed. The only documentary to win the Oscar and Emmy is “Citizenfour” (2014).
“The Cave” currently tops our Exceptional Merit in Documentary Filmmaking odds at 12/5, followed by “One Child Nation” (59/20), “Chasing the Moon” (10/3) and “Moonlight Sonata: Deafness in Three Movements” (7/2).
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