Thursday, December 05, 2013

86th Academy Awards Documentary Shortlist

From the one hundred forty-seven films that originally qualified in the category, fifteen (15) will advance in the voting process in which Documentary Branch members will select the five nominees.

Have seen only two, excellent Sarah Polley's opus Stories We Tell and a documentary that mesmerized me because I could not believe what I was seeing and hearing while impressing me as there is nothing shown but you intensively feel all the horrors, Joshua Oppenheimer's The Act of Killing. There are too many American documentaries for my taste but was good news to discover that Lucy Walker has a new documentary which perhaps will see even if know that the story is VERY different to her previous work, and unfortunately there is not much more that calls my attention but believe that the two mentioned above have high possibilities to be nominated and maybe one will win.

The Act of Killing, Joshua Oppenheimer, Anonymous and Christine Cynn, Denmark, Norway and UK

A documentary that challenges former Indonesian death squad leaders to reenact their real-life mass-killings in whichever cinematic genres they wish, including classic Hollywood crime scenarios and lavish musical numbers.

The Armstrong Lie, Alex Gibney, USA

A documentary chronicling sports legend Lance Armstrong's improbable rise and ultimate fall from grace.

Blackfish, Gabriela Cowperthwaite,USA

Notorious killer whale Tilikum is responsible for the deaths of three individuals, including a top killer whale trainer. Blackfish shows the sometimes devastating consequences of keeping such intelligent and sentient creatures in captivity.

The Crash Reel, Lucy Walker, USA

Fifteen years of verite footage show the epic rivalry between half-pipe legends Shaun White and Kevin Pearce, childhood friends who become number one and two in the world leading up to the Vancouver Winter Olympics, pushing one another to ever more dangerous tricks, until Kevin crashes on a Park City half-pipe, barely surviving. As Kevin recovers from his injury, Shaun wins Gold. Now all Kevin wants to do is get on his snowboard again, even though medics and family fear this could kill him. We also celebrate Sarah Burke who crashed in Park City and died January 19, 2012.

Cutie and the Boxer, Zachary Heinzerling, USA

For years, Ushio Shinohara has been one of the leading, and most underappreciated, alternative artists in Japan and New York City with an wildly esoteric style. For many of those years, his wife, Noriko, has been a faithful companion to this idiosyncratic man, but grew want to be more. This film covers the relationship of these special couple as Ushio struggles for commercial success on his own terms. Meanwhile, we also follow Noriko pursuing her own artistic vision with her semi-autobiographical line art project that reveals much about her own soul as eloquently as her husband's work.

Dirty Wars, Rick Rowley, USA, Afghanistan, Iraq, Kenya, Somalia and Yemen

Dirty Wars follows investigative reporter Jeremy Scahill, author of the international bestseller Blackwater, into the hidden world of America's covert wars, from Afghanistan to Yemen, Somalia, and beyond. Part action film and part detective story, Dirty Wars is a gripping journey into one of the most important and underreported stories of our time. What begins as a report on a deadly U.S. night raid in a remote corner of Afghanistan quickly turns into a global investigation of the secretive and powerful Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC). As Scahill digs deeper into the activities of JSOC, he is pulled into a world of covert operations unknown to the public and carried out across the globe by men who do not exist on paper and will never appear before Congress. In military jargon, JSOC teams "find, fix, and finish" their targets, who are selected through a secret process. No target is off limits for the "kill list," including U.S. citizens.

First Cousin Once Removed, Alan Berliner, USA

This is filmmaker Alan Berliner's intimate portrait of his distant cousin, friend and former mentor Edwin Honig, who is living out the last years of his life with Alzheimer's. Honig was once a prominent and highly successful poet, translator, literary critic and university lecturer. In the final stage of his disease, however, he has lost almost all connection with his own past, his family and his personal identity. But sometimes in conversation his poetic soul flickers back to life again, producing beautiful moments in the film. This sensitive documentary tackles Edwin Honig's illness with compassion and humor, describing the story of his life with the same raw candor that characterized his poetry. Conversations with friends and family members paint a fragmentary picture of a life marked by tragedy, love, loss, irony and literary daring. Together, Honig's personal history and the study of his mental decline are more than the sum of their parts: this is a film essay on the function of memory and the importance of our ability to remember and forget.

God Loves Uganda, Roger Ross Williams, USA

A powerful exploration of the evangelical campaign to infuse African culture with values imported from America's Christian Right. The film follows American and Ugandan religious leaders fighting sexual immorality and missionaries trying to convince Ugandans to follow biblical law.

Life According to Sam, Sean Fine and Andrea Nix

'Life According to Sam' is about one family's courageous fight to save their only son from a rare and fatal disease, progeria. The average age of death from progeria is 13, there is no treatment, and no cure. Dr. Leslie Gordon and Dr. Scott Berns are set on changing this. When their son Sam, now 16 years old, was diagnosed with progeria at age two, doctors told Leslie and Scott to enjoy Sam while they could. They refused to believe this was the answer. In less than a decade, their advances have led to identifying the gene at fault, creating the first drug trials for treatment, and revealing the amazing discovery that progeria is linked to the aging process in all of us.

Pokazatelnyy protsess: Istoriya Pussy Riot (Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer), Mike Lerner and Maxim Pozdorovkin, Russia and UK

Three young women face seven years in a Russian prison for a satirical performance in a Moscow cathedral. But who is really on trial in a case that has gripped the nation and the world beyond, three young artists or the society they live in?

Al Midan (The Square), Jehane Noujaim, Egypt and USA

'The Square' is an intimate observational documentary that tells the real story of the ongoing struggle of the Egyptian Revolution through the eyes of six very different protesters. Starting in the tents of Tahrir in the days leading up to the fall of Mubarak, we follow our characters on a life-changing journey through the euphoria of victory into the uncertainties and dangers of the current 'transitional period' under military rule, where everything they fought for is now under threat or in balance.

Stories We Tell, Sarah Polley, Canada

In this inspired, genre-twisting new film, Oscar-nominated writer/director Sarah Polley discovers that the truth depends on who's telling it. Polley is both filmmaker and detective as she investigates the secrets kept by a family of storytellers. She playfully interviews and interrogates a cast of characters of varying reliability, eliciting refreshingly candid, yet mostly contradictory, answers to the same questions. As each relates their version of the family mythology, present-day recollections shift into nostalgia-tinged glimpses of their mother, who departed too soon, leaving a trail of unanswered questions. Polley unravels the paradoxes to reveal the essence of family: always complicated, warmly messy and fiercely loving. Stories We Tell explores the elusive nature of truth and memory, but at its core is a deeply personal film about how our narratives shape and define us as individuals and families, all interconnecting to paint a profound, funny and poignant picture of the ...

Tim’s Vermeer, Teller, USA

Inventor Tim Jenison seeks to understand the painting techniques used by Dutch Master Johannes Vermeer.

20 Feet from Stardom, Morgan Neville, USA

The backup singer exists in a strange place in the pop music world; they are always in the shadow of the feature artists even when they are in front of them in concert while they provide a vital foundation for the music. Through interviews with veterans and concert footage, the history of these predominately African-American singers is explored through the rock era. Furthermore, special focus is given to special stand outs who endeavored to make a living in the art burdened with a low profile and more personal career frustrations, especially those who faced the very different challenge of singing in the spotlight themselves.

Which Way Is the Front Line from Here? The Life and Time of Tim Hetherington, Sebastian Junger, USA

A moving portrait of the acclaimed war photographer and filmmaker Tim Hetherington by his RESTREPO co-director - journalist Sebastian Junger.

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