Other prizes go to LA 92, HBO's The Defiant Ones, and New York Times Op-docs
When the Oscar shortlist of feature documentaries came out on Thursday, many were surprised by the omission of Dina, the film by Dan Sickles and Antonio Santini that tells the story of a woman and her fiancé who are on the autism spectrum.
The film may not have been rewarded by the Academy, but it earned one of the documentary world's highest honors on Saturday -- winning the IDA Award for best feature documentary of the year.
The filmmakers appeared shocked by the victory, coming so close on the heels of the Oscar shortlist announcement. It can hardly be described as a complete surprise, however, because Dina also won the grand jury prize for U.S. documentary at the Sundance Film Festival last January.
In the documentary short category, Laura Checkoway's Edith+Eddie won in a field of six contenders. The film centers on an interracial couple -- both of them in their 90s -- who decide to get married but then faces obstacles when they want to live their lives together.
Two octogenarian filmmakers make the list, but Turkish kitties are cut
The Oscar race for best documentary feature has been narrowed to 15 films, culled from a record-setting group of 170 qualifiers.
Agnès Varda claimed one of the 15 spots for her film Faces Places, co-directed by the street artist JR. At 89, Varda stands to become one of the oldest Oscar nominees in history if she makes the final five. At age 87, Frederick Wiseman is just a wee bit younger than Varda. He made the feature shortlist for his documentary Ex Libris: The New York Public Library.
The Oscar nominations will be announced January 23, 2018. The ceremony will be held Sunday, March 4, 2018.
Two films about the Syrian civil war made the list, including Matthew Heineman's City of Ghosts, his documentary about citizen journalists in Raqqa who have risked their lives to report on the ISIS takeover of their city. Last Men in Aleppo also made the cut, Feras Fayyad's searing film on the White Helmets of Aleppo who rush to the aid of victims injured in relentless bombing attacks by Russian warplanes and Syrian government forces.
But two other prominent documentaries about Syria were left off the shortlist: Hell on Earth: The Fall of Syria and the Rise of ISIS directed by Sebastian Junger and Nick Quested, and Cries From Syria, by Evgeny Afineevsky.
Nine of the 15 shortlisted docs:
She developed "frequency hopping" technology still in use today, but got far more credit for looks than intelligence
There has never been much dispute about Hedy Lamarr's pulchritude -- in the 1930s and 40s she was often referred to as "the most beautiful woman in the world."
While she never lacked attention for her physical appearance, she struggled to gain recognition for the beautiful mind behind the beautiful face. The new documentary Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story explores the contributions she made to science in the midst of her movie career.
She belongs "in the pantheon of great inventors," according to director Alexandra Dean, especially for her work on spread spectrum frequency hopping, a secure communications system with military and civilian applications. In fact it is central to Bluetooth technology, as well as early iterations of WiFi and GPS.
New York Times critic Manohla Dargis named Bombshell one of the best films of the year. It's now playing in New York and opens at the Nuart Theatre in Los Angeles on Friday (December 8). Nonfictionfilm.com attended the LA premiere on Sunday, followed by a party at the Chateau Marmont in West Hollywood, which Lamarr frequented in her early Hollywood days. Below are some of our photos from Sunday.
Film on exceptional artist makes list, along with short on would-be high divers
The Oscar race for documentary short subject is down to 10 films.
The Motion Picture Academy announced the shortlist on Monday, recognizing several films that were acquired or developed by New York Times Op-docs. Among them is 116 Cameras directed by Davina Pardo, the story of a Holocaust survivor who agreed to share her memories to create a 3-D interactive record. The process involved videotaping her interview with 116 cameras.
The New York Times Op-docs also made it onto the shortlist with Ten Meter Tower, directed by Maximilien Van Aertryck and Axel Danielson. The riveting film shows people on a 10-meter high dive platform as they try to muster the courage to leap into the pool below.
Our objective in making this film was something of a psychology experiment: We sought to capture people facing a difficult situation, to make a portrait of humans in doubt.
"Through an online advertisement, we found 67 people who had never been on a 10-meter (about 33 feet) diving tower before, and had never jumped from that high," the directors explained in their commentary for the New York Times. "We paid each of them the equivalent of about $30 to participate — which meant climbing up to the diving board and walking to its edge. We were as interested in the people who decided to climb back down as the ones jumping."
A third New York Times Op-doc made the shortlist: Alone, directed by Garrett Bradley, about a young African-American woman who becomes engaged to a man being held in a private prison in Louisiana.
Also earning a spot on the Oscar shortlist, Heaven Is a Traffic Jam on the 405, a film directed by Frank Stiefel that centers on Mindy Alper, an artist who has struggled with depression and anxiety for most of her life.
A few minutes with 'Filmworker' Leon Vitali: subject of AFI Fest doc helped Stanley Kubrick realize his vision
Vitali and director Tony Zierra talk with Nonfictionfilm.com on the AFI red carpet
His name may not be well known, but Leon Vitali played a vital role in the career of one of cinema's greatest artists, the late Stanley Kubrick.
Vitali began his work with the director as an actor -- starring as the simpering Lord Bullingdon in Kubrick's Barry Lyndon. He went on to become his chief man behind the scenes, a role that encompassed an astonishing array of activities, from casting films, working with actors, color correction -- whatever Kubrick needed and demanded to realize his uncompromising vision.
Vitali finally gets the attention he has long deserved in the documentary Filmworker, directed by Tony Zierra, which recently played at AFI Fest in Hollywood after premiering in May at the Cannes Film Festival. Release plans for the film are now being finalized.
Below is my conversation with Vitali and Zierra on the AFI Fest red carpet.
Matthew Carey is a documentary filmmaker and journalist. His work has appeared on CNN, CNN.com, TheWrap.com, NBCNews.com and Documentary.org.