Ben Proudfoot, Mstyslav Chernov, and Kris Bowers at the 96th Academy Awards | David Crane / AMPAS

20 Days in Mariupol, The Last Repair Shop Win Doc Oscars

Win marks second Oscar for Halifax native Ben Proudfoot

4 mins read

20 Days in Mariupol and The Last Repair Shop topped the documentary winners at last night’s Academy Awards. The films won in the categories for Best Documentary Feature and Best Documentary Short, respectively. Both films were heavy favourites going into the ceremony.

Raney Aronson-Rath, Mstyslav Chernov and Michelle Mizner accept the Oscar® for Documentary Feature Film during the live ABC telecast of the 96th Oscars® at the Dolby® Theatre at Ovation Hollywood on Sunday, March 10, 2024. | Phil McCarten ©A.M.P.A.S.

Accepting the Oscar for 20 Days in Mariupol, director Mstyslav Chernov took the stage with producers Michelle Mizner and Raney Aronson-Rath. Chernov acknowledged that the Oscar was Ukraine’s first win at the Academy Awards, but that he would trade the honour for the opportunity to undo the past and save his country from Russia’s invasion. 20 Days in Mariupol drew wide acclaim for its portrait of the unfolding violence in Ukraine. The film premiered at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival and won the Audience Award for World Cinema Documentary, continuing the run of success for Sundance premieres in the doc category. 20 Days in Mariupol is available to stream on YouTube.

It was another good night for Canada, too, as Halifax native Ben Proudfoot won his second Oscar. He previously won in the category for 2021’s The Queen of Basketball. Coincidentally, the last repeat winner in the category was Canadian-Pakistani filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy for 2015’s The Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness.

Proudfoot won alongside Kris Bowers for The Last Repair Shop, a deeply moving portrait of a Los Angeles repair shop that fixes musical instruments freely for schools. The directors were accompanied onstage by Porché Brinker, one of the young students featured in the documentary and Bowers used the acceptance speech to highlight the service that uplifts students by making the arts accessible.

Ben Proudfoot and Kris Bowers accept the Oscar® for Documentary Short Film with subject Proché Brinker during the live ABC telecast of the 96th Oscars® at the Dolby® Theatre at Ovation Hollywood on Sunday, March 10, 2024. | Phil McCarten / ©A.M.P.A.S.

Proudfoot and Bowers were also nominated together for 2020’s A Concerto Is a Conversation. The Last Repair Shop premiered last fall at the Telluride Film Festival and is available to stream on YouTube and Disney +.

The subject of last year’s documentary winner, Alexei Navalny, was honoured with a spotlight during the night’s in memoriam sequence. The late opposition leader and symbol for peace in Russia died in prison under mysterious circumstances on February 16. His film Navalny won the 2022 doc Oscar for Canadian filmmaker Daniel Roher.

The night’s big winner was director Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer, which scored seven Oscars including Best Picture, Best Actor for Cillian Murphy, and Best Supporting Actor for Robert Downey Jr. The film told the story of the creation of the atomic bomb and the moral burden that weighed down on J. Robert Oppenheimer. The rambunctious period comedy Poor Things followed with four wins, including Best Actress for Emma Stone in one of the night’s few upsets. Other winners included The Zone of Interest for Best International Feature, Da’Vine Joy Randolph for Best Supporting Actress for The Holdovers, and The Boy and the Heron for Best Animated Feature.

Pat Mullen is the publisher of POV Magazine. He holds a Master’s in Film Studies from Carleton University where his research focused on adaptation and Canadian cinema. Pat has also contributed to outlets including The Canadian Encyclopedia, Paste, That Shelf, Sharp, Xtra, and Complex. He is the vice president of the Toronto Film Critics Association and an international voter for the Golden Globe Awards.

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