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All About Documentaries and The Oscars


Leading Up To The Nominations:

Each year, voting members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences determine which feature length and short documentaries are most worthy of receiving Hollywood’s top honor. Hundreds of films covering a vast variety of subjects are submitted for consideration. A shortlist of fifteen films is selected by committee and, then, all voting members pick the five nominees that appear on the final ballot. Only one feature and one short can win, but all films that make it to the shortlist, and especially those on the final ballot, are very worth seeing. Each should be added to your ‘must see’ films list.

Requirements for Nominated Films:

The Academy's eligibility requirements for documentary film submissions were changed recently in response to documentarians' complaints that the costs of the (previously) required theatrical releases was prohibitive for low budget films. The revised Eligibility Requirements for Documentary Features are a mixed blessing for moviegoers. On the one hand, more lenient requirements mean that fewer of the submitted films will have screened in public movie theaters. However, the greater public awareness about the films that Academy exposure brings to them may ultimately make for their wider distribution.

Where to Watch Nominated Documentaries:

Oscar shortlisting can clinch distribution deals. But, before that happens, you may have to search for docs that interest you. For starters, frequent pre-Oscars festivals. Docs emerge at festivals, so attend major festivals and smaller festivals nearer your home. If you see docs early, like them and vote for them at festivals, you may actually be contributing to their ultimate Oscars bid. Popular docs distributed theatrically, like Sicko are likely Oscar nominees. But their theatrical runs may be limited, so see them quickly. If a nominated doc hasn't played a festival or theater near you, look for it on DVD.

Where to Watch The Oscars:

Frankly, your best bet is at home or at a friend's, in front of a large screen TV. That said, the still-unsettled Writers Guild of America strike may interfere with this year's Oscars ceremonies and broadcast, as it did with the Golden Globes event. But, at this time, the gala is still scheduled to take place at the Kodak Theater in Hollywood on Sunday, February 24. Red carpet bleacher tickets were distributed long ago, but you can witness all the hoopla--including the very small part of it that's dedicated to documentary film--on ABC TV. If you're feeling participatory, why not give an Oscars Party?

How to Raise Your Oscars IQ:

Whether you're at an Oscars party or enter into a heated debate with a friend after seeing one of the provocative Best Documentary Feature nominees, you'll want to have some Oscars facts on the tip of your tongue. Here are some good Oscar trivia sources:

Do you Agree With the Choices?:

If you've seen any documentaries during this past year, you undoubtedly have your own favorites. Do they coincide with the films selected by Academy members for nomination? Some of mine do. You can check my favorite documentary films of 2007 by taking a peek at my Top Ten Documentary Films of 2007.

2007 Oscars: Winner, Nominees, Shortlist:

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