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Monday, December 03, 2012

85th Academy Awards Documentary Feature Shortlist


To top the incredible amount of activity happening at the same time, today the Academy announced that from the one hundred twenty-six films that originally qualified in the category, fifteen (15) will advance in the voting process to select the five nominees that will be announced on January 10, 2013.

These are the films that undoubtedly have strong stories about very difficult contemporary issues to tell.

Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, Alison Kayman, USA
A documentary that chronicles artist and activist Ai Weiwei as he prepares for a series of exhibitions and gets into an increasing number of clashes with the Chinese government.

Bully, Lee Hirsch, USA
A documentary on peer-to-peer bullying in schools across America.

Chasing Ice, Jeff Orlowski, USA
National Geographic photographer James Balog was once a skeptic about climate change. But through his Extreme Ice Survey, he discovers undeniable evidence of our changing planet. In Chasing Ice we follow Balog across the Arctic as he deploys revolutionary time-lapse cameras designed for one purpose: to capture a multi-year record of the world's changing glaciers. Balog's hauntingly beautiful videos compress years into seconds and capture ancient mountains of ice in motion as they disappear at a breathtaking rate. Traveling with a young team of adventurers by helicopter, canoe and dog sled across three continents, Balog risks his career and his well-being in pursuit of the biggest story in human history. As the debate polarizes America and the intensity of natural disasters ramp up around the world, 'Chasing Ice' depicts a heroic photojournalist on a mission to gather evidence and deliver hope to our carbon-powered planet

Detropia, Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady, USA
A documentary on the city of Detroit and its woes, which are emblematic of the collapse of the U.S. manufacturing base.

Ethel, Rory Kenedy, USA
ETHEL is a 95 minute feature-length documentary about the life of Ethel Kennedy. Scheduled for broadcast on HBO in 2012, the film was produced and directed by Mrs. Kennedy's Emmy Award-winning daughter, Rory Kennedy. An intimate family portrait, ETHEL includes a lengthy interview with Mrs. Kennedy, as well as interviews with seven of her children, providing unique insight into her family's story, her life with Robert F. Kennedy, and the years following his death when she raised their eleven children on her own. The film is an insider's view of a political dynasty, a personal story interwoven with some of the most important moments of the 20th century. The film also features a rich treasure trove of never-before-seen footage from the Kennedy family's private collection.

5 Broken Cameras, Emad Burnat and Guy Davidi, Palestine, Israel, France, Netherlands
When his fourth son, Gibreel, is born, Emad, a Palestinian villager, gets his first camera. In his village, Bil'in, a separation barrier is being built and the villagers start to resist this decision. For more than five years, Emad films the struggle, which is lead by two of his best friends, alongside filming how Gibreel grows. Very soon it affects his family and his own life. Daily arrests and night raids scare his family; his friends, brothers and him as well are either shot or arrested. One Camera after another is shot at or smashed, each camera tells a part of his story.

Shomerei Ha’saf (The Gatekeepers), Dror Moreh, Israel, France, Germany and Belgium
In an unprecedented and candid series of interviews, six former heads of the Shin Bet — Israel's intelligence and security agency — speak about their role in Israel's decades-long counterterrorism campaign, discussing their controversial methods and whether the ends ultimately justify the means.

The House I Live In, Eugene Jarecki, Netherlands, UK, Germany, Japan, Australia, and USA
From the dealer to the narcotics officer, the inmate to the federal judge, a penetrating look inside America's criminal justice system, revealing the profound human rights implications of U.S. drug policy.

How to Survive a Plague, David France, USA
The story of two coalitions -- ACT UP and TAG (Treatment Action Group) -- whose activism and innovation turned AIDS from a death sentence into a manageable condition.

The Imposter, Bart Layton, UK
A documentary centered on a young Frenchman who convinces a grieving Texas family that he is their 16-year-old son who went missing for 3 years.

The Invisible War, Kirby Dick, USA
An investigative and powerfully emotional documentary about the epidemic of rape of soldiers within the US military, the institutions that perpetuate and cover up its existence, and its profound personal and social consequences.

Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God, Alex Gibney, USA
Alex Gibney explores the charged issue of pedophilia in the Catholic Church, following a trail from the first known protest against clerical sexual abuse in the United States and all the way to the Vatican.

Searching for Sugar Man, Malik Bendjelloul, Sweden and UK
In the early 1970s, Sixto Rodriguez was a Detroit folksinger who had a short-lived recording career with only two well received but non-selling albums. Unknown to Rodriguez, his musical story continued in South Africa where he became a pop music icon and inspiration for generations. Long rumored there to be dead by suicide, a few fans in the 1990s decided to seek out the truth of their hero's fate. What follows is a bizarrely heartening story in which they found far more in their quest than they ever hoped, while a Detroit construction laborer discovered that his lost artistic dreams came true after all.

In film nist (This Is Not a Film), Mojtaba Mirtahmab and Jafar Panahi, Iran
It's been months since Jafar Panahi, stuck in jail, has been awaiting a verdict by the appeals court. By depicting a day in his life, Panahi and Mojtaba Mirtahmasb try to portray the deprivations looming in contemporary Iranian cinema.

The Waiting Room, Peter Nicks, USA
The Waiting Room is a character-driven documentary film that uses extraordinary access to go behind the doors of an American public hospital struggling to care for a community of largely uninsured patients. The film - using a blend of cinema verité and characters' voice over - offers a raw, intimate, and even uplifting look at how patients, executive staff and caregivers each cope with disease, bureaucracy and hard choices. It is a film about fighting for survival when the odds are stacked against you.

Perhaps the most visible omission is the documentary that just today won praise from the New York Film Critics Circle, The Central Park Five. I am aware of most documentaries but there are some new to me in the list, some really call my attention even when know will not be easy to watch them.

Watch trailers @MOC

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