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Oscars Short List For 2011 Documentaries

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The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences shortlists 15 films for Oscars consideration. The 83rd Academy Awards takes place Febrary 27, 2011. The number of documentaries eligible this year is a record 101, making 2010 a banner year for nonfiction film.

The 15 film shortlist was selected by the Academy's Documentary Branch Screening Committee, which viewed all eligible documentaries for the preliminary voting round, Five final five nominees will be selected by the Academy's Documentary Branch members. Final nominees will be announced on January 25, 2011. Here's the shortlist:

  • Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer - Director: Alex Gibney - Chronicling the downfall of NY State Governor Eliot Spitzer following disclosure of his involvement with a prostitution ring, director Gibney suggests Spitzer's political enemies and financial foes -- acquired when, as NY's Attorney General, he prosecuted Wall Street cheats, conspired to end his career. Spitzer, aka Client 9, is also a subject of Charles Ferguson's Inside Job, (also shortlisted).
  • Enemies of the People - Directors: Rob Lemkin and Thet Sambath - Cambodian journalist Thet Sambath embarks on a personal journey to expose the truth about his country's 'killing fields' and the brutal Khmer Rouge regime that killed his father and brother. After years of reaearch and getting to know former Khmer Rouge soldiers, he gets to meet and interview Nuon Chea, Pol Pot's second in command. Sambath's quiet, dignified demeanor and objectivity make Nuon Chea's revelations about the brutality all the more shocking and heartbreaking. Read my review.
  • Exit through the Gift Shop - Director: Banksy - Banksy, an acclaimed British artist who rose from the streets to the galleries, focuses on a wannabe documentary filmmaker who gsined fame and fortune a pop artist. Quirky, stylish, sophisticated and satirical, the film explores the art world's fame quotient. See the trailer
  • Gasland - Director: Josh Fox - Fox began this expose about how the 'fracking' of natural gas extraction contaminates our fresh water supply because he was concerned about his property in rural NY State. Fox, a great storyteller, shows people lighting fire to water coming from kitchen sink taps. If that doesn't alarm you about the dangers of 'fracking,' the testimony of witnesses -- scientists, environemtnalists and those already adversely effected by contamination -- will. And, then there's Fox in his gas mask! Watch the trailer.
  • Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould - Directors: Michele Hozer and Peter Raymont - A fascinating profile about the acclaimed pianist. Watch the trailer
  • Inside Job - Director: Charles Ferguson - A meticulously researched revelation about how political and financial insiders, and ivy league cronies from the White House to Harvard's hallowed halls, created economic circumstances that made millions for them, while they put the the nation's interests at risk. The system failed, but they've not been brought to justice. Former NY State Governor Eliot Spitzer, who appears in Client 9 (also nominated), is shown as a leader who tried to halt the widespread, scandalous economic fraud that left millions of Americans bankrupt, homeless and/or jobless.
  • The Lottery - Director: Madeleine Sackler - Documents the hopes and heartaches of deserving underprivileged children who've applied to publicly-funded charter schools, hoping for a good education that will improve their lives. Their future depends on an annual lottery for the limited placements. The film is critical of public schools' standards for teacher behavior, and charges the teachers' union with detrimental self-interest. Watch the trailer.
  • Precious Life - Director: Shlomi Eldar - A West Bank Palestinian family appeals to Israeli doctors to save their child. The moving film shows cooperation is possible between Palestinians and Israelis, and that the outcome can be wonderful. Watch the trailer
  • Quest for Honor - Director: Mary Ann Smothers Bruni - About the prevalence of honor killings -- where men kill wives, daughters or sisters for suspected (or invented) infidelity -- in Kurdish society. Watch the trailer
  • Restrepo - Directors: Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger - Journalists embedded with American troops in Afghanistan show the constant danger of their duty, and how it devastates them, especially after their comrade, Restrepo, is killed shortly after their deployment. Read my review and watch the trailer
  • This Way of Life - Director: Thomas Burstyn - An unusual family -- Peter and Coleen Karena and their six children -- try to lead a 'natural,' self-sufficient life in New Zealand's rural, rugged Ruahine Mountains. Beautiful and fascinating.
  • The Tillman Story - Director: Amir Bar-Lev - Incorporating archival footage and interviews with Pat Tillman's family, friends and comrades at arms, Bar-Lev's moving profile of the pro-football-player-turned-soldier-and-patriot shows how the military tried to cover up his untimely death in combat by friendly fire. Read my review.
  • Waiting for 'Superman' - Director: Davis Guggenheim - Concerned about the contrast between his own children's private school education and that offered less affluent children, Guggenheim following several kids applying for the limited number of spots available annually in publicly-funded charter schools. Guggenheim explores solutions that charter schools povide to our current crisis in education, while asserting that the powerful teachers' union has obstructed change for the better. The Lottery (also shortlisted) has a similar theme. Watch the trailer
  • Waste Land - Director: Lucy Walker - Acclaimed Brooklyn, NY-based artist Vik Muniz returns to his native Brazil, where he embarks upon a transformative creative journey with a group of men and women catadores (garbage pickers), using recyclables to make their portraits. Read my review and see the trailer

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