'Hal,' 'Into the Okavango,' 'The Dawn Wall' surprise as Producers Guild Awards nominations announced
They join expected nominees including Free Solo and Won't You Be My Neighbor?
The Producers Guild of America has produced some surprises with its nominees for Outstanding Documentary Motion Pictures.
Seven films were recognized by the PGA, including Won't You Be My Neighbor?, Morgan Neville's film about children's television icon Fred Rogers. No surprise there, as Neighbor has been nominated for every major award announced so far this year. Neither was it surprising to see Free Solo, RBG and Three Identical Strangers collect nominations -- all films that have established themselves as critical and commercial hits.
But the other three nominated films -- Hal, Into the Okavango and The Dawn Wall -- raised eyebrows because they have not factored as prominently in awards season as their fellow PGA Awards contenders.
Remarkably, two of the nominated documentaries tell the story of audacious attempts to scale the sheer granite face of Yosemite's El Capitan. The Dawn Wall focuses on climbers Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson, who ascended El Capitan's forbidding Dawn Wall over a grueling 19-day period. They used ropes, but only to secure them if they fell, not to actually lift them up the rock face.
Free Solo centers on climber Alex Honnold, who made it his goal to climb El Capitan without any ropes at all. The documentary by E. Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin has made close to $9 million at the domestic box office so far. Caldwell actually appears in Free Solo, in addition to being the main character in The Dawn Wall.
Hal, directed by Amy Scott, recounts the brilliant career of filmmaker Hal Ashby, who made some of the most important films of the 1970s including Shampoo and Harold and Maude. His clashes with studio executives were legendary, as was the generosity of his heart.
Into the Okavango explores the Okavango Delta in Southern Africa, home to an extraordinary array of wildlife. The film highlights the efforts of Dr. Steve Boyes and a team of scientists to uncover the cause of threats to the body of water that sustains human and animal life.
RBG, the hit documentary by Betsy West and Julie Cohen, has further cemented the "rock star" status of its subject, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. And Three Identical Strangers, directed by Tim Wardle, tells the extraordinary story of identical triplets who were separated as infants and only reunited by pure chance as young adults.
Final producer credits for each of the nominated films are still being reviewed by the PGA, according to a press release from the guild. Nominations for Theatrical Motion Pictures, Animated Theatrical Motion Pictures, Television Series/Specials, Limited Series Television, Streamed/Televised Movies, and Sports, Children’s and Short Form Programs will be announced January 4, according to the PGA.
The Producers Guild Awards ceremony will be held on January 19 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Los Angeles.
Matthew Carey is a documentary filmmaker and journalist. His work has appeared on Deadline.com, CNN, CNN.com, TheWrap.com, NBCNews.com and in Documentary magazine.