Tuesday, December 1, 2015

A Look at the 15 Final Titles Vying for Best Documentary

Scene from Amy
Back in October, The Academy released their short list of 124 titles all vying for the Best Documentary nomination. As the deadline gets ever closer, it has been announced that there are now a final 15 duking it out for the final five positions. While there's plenty of the familiar big subject fare that you've come to expect from this category, it also features a few more zeitgeist-prone entries. The following is a list of those entries followed by a few thoughts of what's likely to come from all of this.

Best of Enemies
Cartel Land
Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief
He Named Me Malala
Heart of a Dog
The Hunting Ground
Listen to Me Marlon
The Look of Silence
3 ½ Minutes, 10 Bullets
We Come as Friends
What Happened, Miss Simone?
Where to Invade Next
Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom

While I cannot claim to have seen too many of these, I can say that it's interesting to see what's made it this far. While I have yet to see The Look of Silence, I am having high hopes that it's as good as director Joshua Oppenheimer's The Act of Killing, which was nominated but failed to win the category two years ago. Among this list, I am excited to see if Going Clear can manage to sneak into the nominations. Its take on Scientology definitely was controversial and eye opening in ways that have since fueled conversation among the general public. With Scientology members also leaving the church, it feels timely to give it recognition. I am unsure how to feel about Where to Invade Next. I'm not the biggest Michael Moore fan, but I do feel like it's only gotten this far because of Moore's presence in The Academy. Then again, everything post-Bowling for Columbine hasn't fared too well, so maybe it's not worth complaining about.

There's a whole lot of pop documentaries on this list. I am not saying that they cannot have artistic value. I merely think that they don't hold as much weight as the more serious entries. I acknowledge that Amy was a moderate hit, and has some big push in that respects. However, it's also titles like Listen to Me Marlon that suggest that they're only here for biased reasons. Subject Marlon Brando was a highly acclaimed actor and thus that is his edge here. I haven't heard too many positive things about He Named Me Malala, so I am conflicted about seeing that here. I understand her importance as an individual, but the documentary has been described as self-serving and very contrived. I just wonder if that will be held against it.

Even if I am not an expert on the documentary category, I am trying to make more of an effort to recognize it in coverage and hopefully expose audiences to one of the few categories that is often seen as obscure. I do think that there's a lot of interesting titles here, though I do hope that a few of these can get nominated based on quality and not popularity. I don't have much further thoughts than that I hope for the best with this.

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