‘OJ’, ‘White Helmets’ Win Doc Oscars

By Pat Mullen

Last night’s Oscars will be remembered for a grand finale. After the La La Land team took the stage and accepted the award for Best Picture, presenter Warren Beatty clarified that Moonlight actually won the prize. The Academyand accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers keep two envelopes for each category on reserve backstage and Beatty had accidentally received the duplicate Best Actress envelope, which read ‘Emma Stone, La La Land‘. PwC took responsibility for the snafu and apologized to Moonlight, La La Land, Beatty and his co-presenter Faye Dunaway.

Aside from the blunder that made for a moment of great TV, the Oscars made history by awarding great TV in the documentary category. ESPN mini-series OJ: Made in America took the award for Best Documentary Feature for director Ezra Edelman and producer Caroline Waterman. Edelman dedicated the award to victims Nicole Simpson-Brown and Ronald Goldman as well as to victims of police brutality everywhere. “It is also for others, the victims of police violence, police brutality, racially motivated violence and criminal injustice,” Edelman said. “This is their story, as well as Ron and Nicole’s.”

The masterful doc about the murder trial of OJ Simpson and the racial tensions in America that contributed to the media frenzy—and Simpson’s eventual acquittal—was produced for television but the five-part seven-and-a-half hour miniseries screened theatrically prior to broadcast to ensure eligibility. There’s no question that Made in America is award worthy work, and it’s encouraging to see the leaders in the field show their support for docs of any form of exhibition, but this win for OJ opens the door to a flood of aggressive campaigning and submissions in a category that is already swelling year by year.

The Oscar for Best Documentary (Short Subject) went to The White Helmets. The doc is a powerful portrait of volunteers in Syria who have rescued over 82,000 lives current the current war. The film’s cinematographer Khalid Khateeb, however, was denied entry into America on Friday and was unable to attend the ceremony. Director Orlando von Einsiedel and producer Joanna Natasegara bagged the first Oscar win for Netflix and made history as fellow streaming site Amazon Studios also took home Oscars for dramas Manchester by the Sea and The Salesman. The director read a statement from White Helmets leader Raed Saleh, who was also unable to attend the ceremony: “We’re so grateful that this film has highlighted our work to the world… To save one life is to save humanity.” The White Helmets later Tweeted that their volunteers were saving the life of a child when the film won the prize.

What did you think of last night’s winners? Agree? Disagree?