The polls are officially closed! As PWC tallies the votes, take a moment to learn the stories behind the nominees for Best Documentary Feature in this directors’ roundtable. The Academy recently hosted a panel with nominees Jessica Kingdon (Ascension), Stanley Nelson and Traci A. Curry (Attica), Sushmit Ghosh and Rintu Thomas (Writing with Fire), Jonas Poher Rasmussed (Flee), and Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson (Summer of Soul).
The filmmakers engaged in a one-hour conversation about the challenges and creative approaches they took to their films. Questlove, for example, talked about embracing chaos while navigating their archives, while the Attica team underscored the importance of tackling the historic event while making audiences see the fullness of the Attica inmates. For Kingdon, she noted the creative challenge of finding a film in the editing phase and creating the motif of people ascending social strata. Ghosh and Thomas, meanwhile, discussed the importance of finding stories of hope and opening doors for others. Rasmussen, finally, unpacked the nine-year creative process with Flee and navigating an art form that was completely new after his background in radio.
Moderator Shawn Finnie also asked the nominees if documentary could or should be subjective. Or if “objectivity” even exists in the medium. Nelson, for example, unpacked the “illusion of objectivity” that often permeates his historical films. “You’re making hundreds of decisions a day,” noted Nelson on the choices in editing and shooting, “so it’s all subjective.” For Questlove, it was a matter of approaching the Harlem Cultural Festival from the perspective of how people “felt,” rather than telling the story from a purely factual level. “That’s the jackpot for me,” he said.
Watch the feature documentary nominees’ Academy panel below and stay tuned for POV’s Oscar picks this week!