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2011 Docs! Reception and Screening


2010 Feature Documentary Nominees

The filmmakers of the 10 Academy Award-nominated films in the feature documentary and the documentary short categories took the stage at the second annual Docs! Reception and Screening at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Feb. 23 for a very interesting night. There is such potential for something powerful and evocative in the observation of true life in cinema, and this was clearly evident in the nominees for the feature documentary – Exit through the Gift Shop, Jaimie D’Cruz; Gasland, Josh Fox and Trish Adlesic; Inside Job, Charles Ferguson and Audrey Marrs; Restrepo Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger; Waste Land, Lucy Walker and Angus Aynsley, as well as for the short subject documentary – Killing in the Name, Jed Rothstein, Poster Girl, Sara Nesson and Mitchell W. Block, Strangers No More, Karen Goodman and Kirk Simon, Sun Come Up, Jennifer Redfeam and Tim Metzger, and The Warriors of Qiugang, Ruby Yang and Thomas Lennon.

Nominees from the feature documentaries explore a wide range of topics. Exit Through the Gift Shop is a charmingly eccentric film about the mysterious artist Banksy. The film is an interesting concept: a filmmaker on a mission to make a documentary about Banksy unwittingly becomes the subject of the film himself. He’s not the most articulate, but in the film he speaks of “getting something in the daylight that you usually see in the nighttime.” It’s a profound statement – one that could be applied to all the nominated documentaries. They all shed light on a subject matter that might otherwise be hidden.

Gasland is an investigative film about the destruction in natural gas drilling. Inside Job exposes the truth about the economic breakdown. Restrepo is a visceral film following soldiers in combat that the filmmakers risked their lives to make. Wasteland is about the restorative powers of art connecting a group of scavengers in the largest garbage landfill in the world. These films traverse a varied emotional terrain but all are stirring nonetheless.

A panel of Documentary Shorts Nominees.

The short subject documentaries are a world apart from the glimmering manufactured stories that are often shown in theaters. These are stirring, gritty images that voice stories that otherwise might never be heard. Killing in the Name follows the journey of a man who survived a terrorist attack and is now on a mission to spread the truth about the horrors of terrorism. He is, as director/ producer Jed Rothstein said, “motivated not by anger or revenge but by hope.”

Poster Girl introduces us to Robynn Murray, a woman who has returned home from Iraq and is suffering from the crippling effects of post-traumatic stress disorder. Strangers No More is the astonishing story of a school in conflict-filled Tel Aviv that unites children from 48 countries to learn together peacefully. Director/producer Karen Goodman spoke of the kids she encountered lovingly. “When someone enters your world, they become a part of your world forever.” Her words ring true for all five of these shorts, where the viewer is intimately drawn into the stories of people who might be different and far away from us, but who are like us nevertheless – no matter the color, the culture, or the life circumstances. Sun Come Up and The Warriors of Quigang are about communities rising up and coming together in the face of events that threaten their livelihood.

Documentaries illuminate the brokenness and beauty, suffering and hope of those we might have never met. There is a sense of purpose in all of the films nominated this year. They are stories worth telling, told in a worthy way, taking the art of filmmaking to communicate realities that bridge gaps in cultures and locales. These documentaries are stunning portraits of stories that matter, about life that is devoid of artifice. Stories that need to be told are a reminder that there are numerous other stories that also matter – that also hold certain truths to them that are paramount, outside the glamor and allure of packaged films. This is the power of the documentary films nominated this year and all 10 films are remarkable contributions, reaching beyond just the scope of cinematic history.

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