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Festival Report: Cinema Eye Rolls With Docs

Thompson on Hollywood By Karina Longworth | Thompson on Hollywood November 7, 2009 at 2:53AM

Critic Karina Longworth reports on the Cinema Eye nominations from the Doc/Fest in Sheffield, England:
Thompson on Hollywood

Critic Karina Longworth reports on the Cinema Eye nominations from the Doc/Fest in Sheffield, England:

Karaoke has become the ubiquitous after-hours activity on the North American festival circuit, but at Doc/Fest in Sheffield, England, they roll differently. The non-fiction film festival regularly throws a roller disco party in an old-school skating rink a few blocks from festival headquarters, and at last night’s event grown-up festival attendees squeamish about donning skates for the first time in decades (myself included) were given the added incentive of being present for the announcement of the nominees for the 2009 Cinema Eye Honors.

The non-fiction awards were previously held in Spring, with nominations announced at Sundance. This put them at a disadvantage for a number of reasons: post-Oscars, they felt like an afterthought to the higher-profile awards cycle, and post-Sundance and SXSW, the attention of industry had already mostly shifted to a new batch of films. And so the 2010 event will take place in January — the entire endeavor has been shifted two months up the calendar with the goal of playing a larger role in the wider awards conversation.

The set of nominees announced at the roller disco last night by Cinema Eye co-founder/co-chair/filmmaker/blogger AJ Schnack, co-chair/previously nominated filmmaker Esther B. Robinson, and Cinema Eye winning producer Simon Chin, will likely have some overlap with the Oscars and other honors. Certainly, it seems likely that The Cove and Food Inc, both nominated for the Cinema Eye for Outstanding Feature, will make the Academy’s final five, and it’s hard to imagine that other Cinema Eye noms such as The September Issue, Valentino: The Last Emperor and We Live in Public won’t have a solid shot at the shortlist.

The major categories mix doc box office hits with festival favorites, issue pics with localized labors of love, and newcomers (such as Jessica Oreck, the 20-something director of Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo) with elder statespersons (such as Agnes Varda, the 80-something director of The Beaches of Agnes). Smaller films have a chance to win big. October Country, an impressionistic portrait of an upstate New York family and their ghosts, took five nominations including Outstanding Feature (and co-director/cinematographer/editor/composer Michael Palmieri became the first person in the history of the Cinema Eyes to be nominated five times in a single year), while 45365, which won the jury prize at SXSW before premiering over the summer on SnagFilms, took three nominations. In general, the Cinema Eyes are extraordinarily welcoming of personal/idiosyncratic/art film-style docs to an extent that the Oscars simply aren’t.

And of course, Oscar nominees generally don’t learn of the honor, as Palmieri and co-director Donal Mosher did, while on roller skates.

This article is related to: Awards, Festivals, Genres, Independents, Guest Blogger, Documentaries

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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.