Last year was the first time that I was able to accomplish my goal of seeing every shortlisted documentary feature before the Academy Award nominations came out. I had been trying for a few years, mostly because the Documentary Branch seems to nominate the most dense and inaccessible films as opposed to the rare docs that audiences enjoy. So I wanted to see the whole shortlist of 15 to get a real sense of the quality before the nominations were announced, because if the five nominees end up being the five worst of the set (last year three of the nominees were my personal bottom three), I feel you have the right to know that.
I was able to achieve this feat thanks to the Academy’s Oscar Spotlight: Documentaries program, which they started last year. To get as many eyes on the potential nominees as possible, they set up screenings in a dozen or so cities nationwide, with the filmmakers and producers often on hand for insightful Q&A sessions afterward. Had I known this was a nationwide program, I would have posted about it here, so that readers across the country could get a chance to see some brilliant nonfiction films. Sadly, I didn’t find out until I had already finished the marathon.
Well this year I’m ahead of the curve. Yesterday, the Academy announced the shortlists, and today they’ve come out with the city list for the Spotlight series. Beginning on Christmas Day, audiences in 20 cities will have access to the entire Documentary Feature shortlist, at an array of theatres and chains. If you live in or near any of these cities, I urge you to contact your appropriate venue and see all you can:
Los Angeles, CA
New York, NY
Salt Lake City, UT
San Francisco, CA
Santa Barbara, CA
St. Louis, MO
Tampa-St. Pete-Sarasota, FL
Click here for full details on the participating theatres. Do yourself a favor and see these films if you can. I’ve already seen four of the potential nominees and haven’t been disappointed yet!
Join the conversation in the comments below! How many of these documentaries have you seen? Are you excited to see the rest? What will your rankings be if you complete the set? Let me know!