The Academy Award nominations for Best Documentary Feature went as expected with five of the year’s most acclaimed features landing nominations. Two Canadians earned nominations as producer Ina Fichman and director Daniel Roher were among the nominees for their films Fire of Love and Navalny, respectively. Both films joined the doc branch in making a strong showing for Sundance documentaries this year as four of the five feature nominees premiered at last year’s festival. World Cinema Jury Prize winner All that Breathes and Directing winner A House Made of Splinters added to the quartet. (All that Breathes also won the doc prize at Cannes.) Rounding out the nominations was Laura Poitras’s fall festival sensation All the Beauty and the Bloodshed, which won the Golden Lion at Venice and was the only film to play all four of the major festivals this fall: Venice, Toronto, Telluride, and New York.
All the Beauty and the Bloodshed is widely tipped as the frontrunner, but the last time a director won a second Oscar for a feature documentary was Barbara Kopple for 1990’s American Dream. Having won for 2014’s Edward Snowden doc Citizenfour, Poitras overcame the previous winners’ curse that left many recent winners, including Morgan Neville (Won’t You Be My Neighbor?) and Jimmy Chin and Chai Vasarhelyi (The Rescue) among the most notable omissions come nominations day.
Once again, though, documentaries weren’t recognized outside their respective categories. Despite wide acclaim for the editing and sound design, Brett Morgen’s Moonage Daydream didn’t crack the technical categories, nor did fellow archival doc Fire of Love. Both films simply wouldn’t be what they are without their editors.
The inclusion of Danish doc Splinters and the Indian title All that Breathes, however, helped give the category an international reach. “We are beside ourselves with joy and also a bit lost for words at this moment!” write the All that Breathes team of Shaunak Sen, Aman Mann and Teddy Leifer in a reaction statement. “Thank you so much to the Academy, we are honored to be recognized amongst such a wonderful group of films. We want to offer our deepest, heartfelt thanks to our protagonists, Nadeem, Saud and Salik who are doing incredible work. We are delighted that their story has touched so many around the world.”
Splinters director Wilmont, meanwhile, reacted: “We are honoured and humbled by the nomination for A House Made of Splinters. It is wonderful that the kids’ story has touched so many people and we hope it will continue to touch the hearts of audiences around the world. Thank you to Margarita, Olga, Eva, Alina, Sasha, and Koyla for their bravery in telling their extraordinary stories and giving us the privilege of sharing them. Thank you to Final Cut For Real, Moonman, Arte, POV, BBC, Cinephil, and the entire international crew. We are incredibly proud to be working with all of you. Without you, there would be no film.” Splinters producer Monica Hellström is a back-to-back nominee in the category after being cited last year for Flee among its record trio of nominations.
Moreover, Canadian artists generally performed well among the Oscar nominees. Joining Fichman and Roher among the nominees were Women Talking‘s Sarah Polley (Best Adapted Screenplay), Avatar‘s James Cameron (Best Picture), The Flying Sailor‘s Amanda Forbis and Wendy Tilby (Best Animated Short), Turning Red‘s Domee Shi (Best Animated Feature), The Sea Beast‘s Chris Williams (Best Animated Feature), The Whale‘s Adrien Morot (Best Make-up) and Brendan Fraser (Best Actor), and honorary Canadian Guillermo del Toro (Best Animated Feature).
The documentary Oscar nominees are as follows. Winners will be announced on March 12.
Best Documentary Feature
All That Breathes – Shaunak Sen, Aman Mann and Teddy Leifer
All the Beauty and the Bloodshed – Laura Poitras, Howard Gertler, John Lyons, Nan Goldin and Yoni Golijov
Fire of Love – Sara Dosa, Shane Boris and Ina Fichman
A House Made of Splinters – Simon Lereng Wilmont and Monica Hellström
Navalny – Daniel Roher, Odessa Rae, Diane Becker, Melanie Miller and Shane Boris
Best Documentary Short
The Elephant Whisperers –Kartiki Gonsalves and Guneet Monga
Haulout – Evgenia Arbugaeva and Maxim Arbugaev
How Do You Measure a Year? – Jay Rosenblatt
The Martha Mitchell Effect – Anne Alvergue and Beth Levison
Stranger at the Gate – Joshua Seftel and Conall Jones