Diverse Documentaries Draw More Filmgoers Beyond the ‘World’s End’
BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has announced the 15-film short-list in the Documentary Feature category. 94 films qualified for the category this year, a record number. The selected films will advance in the voting process. Five of the 15 films will then be nominated for the award at the 81st Academy Awards, a press release stated.
Covering an amazingly diverse range of subjects, this year’s documentary feature short-list includes filmmaker James Marsh’s “Man on a Wire,” which looks at tightrope walker Philippe Petit’s illegal but incredible 1974 high-wire walk between the World Trade Center’s twin towers in New York City, and Scott Hamilton Kennedy’s “The Garden,” which tells the story of a 14-acre community garden in South Central L.A., and the residents fighting to save it from developers.
Werner Herzog, who previously chronicled the life of controversial Malibuite Timothy Treadwell in “The Grizzly Man,” turns his camera on the researchers who live in close quarters in Antarctica, in “Encounters at the World’s End.”
Errol Morris shines a spotlight on the national debt in “I.O.U.S.A.”; and Gini Reticker uses contemporary interviews, archival images, and scenes of present-day Liberia to tell the story of women fighting to reclaim their country from chaos.
Documentary features aren’t usually the films that grab the headlines or top the box office, and they can often be hard to catch, because they depend on the film festival circuit rather than theatrical release for exposure. This is too bad, because they often offer filmgoers a window into worlds unimagined. Award season provides film enthusiasts, and Academy members, a chance to take a closer look, and everyone’s life is richer because of it.
The films on the Academy’s Documentary Short-list (in alphabetical order) are: “At the Death House Door”; “The Betrayal (Nerakhoon)”; “Blessed Is the Match: The Life and Death of Hannah Senesh;” “Encounters at the End of the World”; “Fuel”; “The Garden”; “Glass: A Portrait of Philip in Twelve Parts”: “I.O.U.S.A”; “In a Dream”; “Made in America”; “Man on Wire”; “Pray the Devil Back to Hell”; “Standard Operating Procedure”; “They Killed Sister Dorothy”; and “Trouble the Water.”