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Oscar Doc Race Does Not Favor Lookalikes

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood October 6, 2011 at 9:03AM

In the Oscar documentary feature race, usually 80-90 films qualify for a shot at landing on the doc short list of 15. And when several films tackle similar themes and subjects, doc branch voters tend to pick one favorite. Take director/producer Michael King's Oscar-qualified The Rescuers, which I saw at the Ashland Film Festival, which was just acquired by Neil Friedman's Menemsha Films, which often reps doc award contenders, for North American release in theaters in early 2012.
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Thompson on Hollywood

In the Oscar documentary feature race, usually 80-90 films qualify for a shot at landing on the doc short list of 15. And when several films tackle similar themes and subjects, doc branch voters tend to pick one favorite. Take director/producer Michael King's Oscar-qualified The Rescuers, which I saw at the Ashland Film Festival, which was just acquired by Neil Friedman's Menemsha Films, which often reps doc award contenders, for North American release in theaters in early 2012.

The film follows charismatic Stephanie Nyombayire, a Rwandan anti-genocide activist who lost 100 members of her family in her country’s genocide in 1994. She travels across 15 countries and three continents with Brit historian Sir Martin Gilbert to interview survivors and descendants of 12 non-Jewish diplomats who sacrificed careers, families, and livelihoods to go against their countries’ policies to save tens of thousands of Jews from the Nazi death camps. Nyombayire uncovers potential solutions for the ongoing genocide in Darfur and elsewhere. The movie celebrates the power of goodness and altruism.

So does the rave-reviewed fest circuit hit which has already hit theaters, Steve James and Alex Kotlowitz's The Interrupters, which celebrates do-gooder former gang members in gang-ridden Chicago who intervene to stop violent situations as they happen, and save countless lives.

Award campaigners for the two films should try to differentiate them as much as possible.


This article is related to: Genres, Awards, Oscars, Documentaries, Independents


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Thompson on Hollywood

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.