2022 PGA Awards documentary nominations include Oscar frontrunners

The Producers Guild of America (PGA) announced the eight nominees for its 2022 Best Documentary award on Friday, December 10. The winner will be revealed at the 33rd Annual PGA Awards which will take place on Saturday, February 26, 2022. The remaining Producers Guild Awards nominations, including those for the Oscar bellwether Best Picture, will be unveiled on Thursday, January 27, 2022. The eight documentary features in the running are:

Ascension
The First Wave
Flee
In The Same Breath
The Rescue
Simple As Water
Summer Of Soul (…Or, When The Revolution Could Not Be Televised)
Writing With Fire

The PGA nomination is an important step on the path to Oscar glory. Five of the last six eventual Oscar champs for Best Documentary Feature were nominated first by the producers guild, including last year’s “My Octopus Teacher,” which took home both prizes. The PGA win was the film’s first major accolade after missing nominations from prestigious non-fiction bellwethers Cinema Eye Honors and the International Documentary Association. It was nominated by the Critics’ Choice Documentary Awards, but lost to “Dick Johnson Is Dead.”

Better positioned on the Oscar path this season is one of Neon’s PGA hopefuls, “Flee,” nominated by CEH and CCDA and has already taken home prizes with the New York Film Critics Circle and Gotham Independent Film Awards. “Flee” is also in the conversation as an Animated Feature and Denmark’s official section for consideration in the International Feature Film category at the Oscars. “Flee” tells the story of a man coming to terms with his personal history as a refugee on the precipice of advancing his relationship with his boyfriend. Neon’s other contender here is “The First Wave” which follows first responders as they manage the COVID-19 pandemic and is directed by Matthew Heineman, nominated for an Oscar in 2015 for “Cartel Land.”

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Hulu and Searchlight’s contender is “Summer of Soul,” which bested “Flee” for the CCDA’s top prize as well as that of the National Board of Review. It and “Flee” go head-to-head again with CEH and the IDA. Directed by music legend Questlove, “Summer of Soul” takes a critical look at the lack of attention afforded to the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival despite its large attendance and performances by some of the biggest names in music at the time. The only other PGA-nominated films also recognized for Best Feature at IDA are “In the Same Breath,” a look at the reactions to the COVID-19 outbreak by the Chinese and American governments, and “Writing with Fire” about India’s only newspaper run by Dalit women. “In the Same Breath” is directed by Nanfu Wang, who voters will recognize from her previous awards hopeful documentaries “One Child Nation” and “Hooligan Sparrow.”

Two other films nominated by the PGA, CEH and CCDA are Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi‘s “The Rescue” about the 2018 football team rescue from the Tham Luang cave in Thailand and MTV’s “Ascension,” an “observational” documentary about the pursuit of the “Chinese dream” through social class. Chin and Vasarhelyi won the Oscar in 2018 with “Free Solo.” The final PGA nominee is Megan Mylan‘s “Simple as Water,” a portrait of Syrian families in the aftermath of war. Mylan is also an Oscar winner, topping the Documentary Short Subject category in 2008 with “Smile Pinki.”

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