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Documentary Short List Posted by the Academy

by Sydney Levine
November 22, 2010 4:30 AM
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IndieWIRE and all the trades have listed the shortlisted documentaries submiitted for nomination for Best Documentary Oscar 2010. Unfortunately for me, I have not seen all the 15 shortlisted docs (30% of which are directed by women ♀). But I have seen a few and heard about many of the others. Of those that should have been on the list, personally the two I miss most are Cave of Forgotten Dreams by the ever vigorous German New Film survivor, Werner Herzog (see what Patrick Goldstein has to say about that!) and Sundance premiere, A Film Unfinished, the extraordinary testament to the Warsaw Ghetto, created as cinematic propaganda by the Nazis.

Having just featured the international sales agent and producer Ehud Bleiberg during AFM, I feel like I have a personal stake in his Precious Life which premiered in Jerusalem Film Festival and then was also in Berlin, Telluride and Toronto. Patrick Goldstein's article in L.A. Times said all that I could say.



Also, having covered Enemies of the People from its debut in Sundance 2010 to its theatrical release by Wendy Liddell's International Film Circuit, timed to coincide with the first trials in Cambodia of the leadership of Khmer Rouge, I feel personally connected to this as well. Therefore I put the video preview here. The issue of killing in the name of government (or religion) is one ever present in every age and is a theme running through most of these on the shortlist.

Itt is addressed in Quest for Honor about honor killings in the tribal regions of Kurdistan, Enemies of the People about the Khmer Rouge and The Killing Fields, Restrepo about a year with one platoon in the deadliest valley in Afghanistan, and it is expressed in Precious LIfe which deals with the struggle of an Israeli pediatrician and a Palestinian mother to get treatment for her baby. All these are focused on such international issues of far away places.

The Tillman Story brings the far away closer to home as one family risks everything for the truth about military manipulation of a soldier's tragic death to create a propaganda tool. And more insights which sear one's sense of decency about what is going on at home are provided by Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer, GasLand, Inside Job, Waiting for Superman which I believe is having strong affect on the public's understanding of public education and its utter failing the people it was designed to serve, and The Lottery, which by its description sounds like the second part of Waiting for Superman.

William Kunstler: Disturbing the Universe inspires by Kunstlers' choosing justice over law and order, by defending pariahs because pariahs are most in need of defense although all was done at the expense of his family as shown here by his daughters Emily Kunstler and Sarah Kunstler ♀ . Another father's lionhearted struggles to create a life of idyllic simplicity for his family make the home the center of contradictions of the world in This Way of Life .

And in the end it is Art -- from the inspiration of Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould, and of Lucy Walker's Waste Land about top-selling contemporary artist Vik Muniz, to the fun of watching Banksy's Exit Through the Gift Shop which unites all these films and unites us all in our attempts to create a world of peace and harmony through film.

The 15 films that made the list are listed below in alphabetical order by title, with their director and production company. The Female Factor: 4.5 out of 15 are directed by women = 30%. The best ratio yet!

From a business perspective, it is interesting to note that 15%, or only 5 of the 15 films, have international sales agents. No doubt some international TV sales companies will pick them up so they will have some chance of overseas exposure and sales...

Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer,” Alex Gibney, director (ES Productions LLC), No ISA.

Enemies of the People,” Rob Lemkin and Thet Sambath, directors (Old Street Films). No ISA.

Exit through the Gift Shop,” Banksy, director (Paranoid Pictures). Rep: Cinetic. No ISA.

”Gasland,” Josh Fox, director (Gasland Productions, LLC). ISA: Cinema Management Group.

Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould,” Michele Hozer ♀ and Peter Raymont, directors (White Pine Pictures). ISA: Films Transit.

Inside Job,” Charles Ferguson, director (Representational Pictures). No ISA.

The Lottery,” Madeleine Sackler ♀, director (Great Curve Films). No ISA.

Precious Life,” Shlomi Eldar, director (Origami Productions). ISA: Bleiberg

Quest for Honor,” Mary Ann Smothers Bruni, ♀ director (Smothers Bruni Productions). No ISA.

Restrepo,” Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger, directors (Outpost Films). ISA: Goldcrest

This Way of Life,” Thomas Burstyn, director (Cloud South Films). No ISA.

The Tillman Story,” Amir Bar-Lev, director (Passion Pictures/Axis Films). ISA: Submarine

Waiting for ‘Superman’”, Davis Guggenheim, director (Electric Kinney Films), Sales Rep: Paramount

Waste Land,” Lucy Walker ♀, director (Almega Projects). No ISA

William Kunstler: Disturbing the Universe,” Emily Kunstler and Sarah Kunstler ♀, directors (Disturbing the Universe LLC). Sales Rep: Arthouse

The Documentary Branch Screening Committee viewed all the eligible documentaries for the preliminary round of voting. Documentary Branch members will now select the five nominees from among the 15 titles on the shortlist.

The 83rd Academy Awards nominations will be announced on Tuesday, January 25, 2011, at 5:30 a.m. PT in the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater.

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