Oscar Documentary Nominees Respond to International Film Big Day – Deadline
Shakespeare cautioned to “beware of the Ides of March,” but the 15th brought good news to a select group of feature documentary directors who won coveted Oscar nominations.
Among them was Pippa Ehrlich, the South African director of the documentary Netlix. My octopus teacher.
“I was surprised enough to jump about a meter and a half in the air,” Ehrlich told Deadline of his reaction to the nomination. When we reached her, she said she still wasn’t quite down to earth. “I’m halfway on Earth now. It has been a beautiful afternoon.
It was the same feeling of elation for the Romanian Alexander Nanau, director of Collective, which won nominations for Feature Documentary and Best International Film.
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“It was kind of like a football game, everyone was jumping,” Nanau said, watching the live announcement. “This is the first time that a Romanian film has been nominated and it has also been nominated twice.”
Collective tells the story of a devastating fire in a Bucharest nightclub in 2014, which initially left more than a dozen dead, then dozens more of those burned to death in hospitals from infections preventable. Three of the five nominees for Best Feature Documentary actually come from abroad: My octopus teacher was filmed in South Africa, while Mole agent is originally from Chile. Director Maite Alberdi’s funny and touching film, which she calls a “black documentary,” centers on an octogenarian amateur secret agent who infiltrated to investigate conditions at a nursing home in Chile.
Alberdi is delighted to see the documentary branch broaden its horizons to films beyond the American coasts.
“It’s a sign of how the Academy has really changed over the past few years and how it has really incorporated foreign voices,” she notes. “They were more open to other contexts, to other voices, to new styles.”
Ehrlich echoed this opinion. “I don’t know if it is the rise of streaming platforms that has made international films more accessible to a wider audience or if it is the fact that the Academy has become more and more international, but it is is really wonderful. Obviously you grow up wanting to be a filmmaker and you watch the Oscars every year, but you live in this little country at the tip of Africa, so feeling like you are a part of something like that is surreal.
American films, however, have not been ignored. Crip Camp, from Netflix and Obamas production company Higher Ground, got a nomination, as did Garrett Bradley’s Time. The latter film centers on Fox Rich, an African-American woman from Louisiana who spent two decades trying to get her husband released from prison after receiving a draconian 61-year sentence for armed robbery. He was a first-time offender, but risked spending the rest of his life behind bars.
“More than anything, I think the nomination is a testament to the power of love and of history itself,” observes Bradley. “The appointments are at best a kind of reflection of a broader cultural awareness. They reflect what matters to us as a society and I stand in solidarity with all the issues for which the other four beautiful films that I have had the honor to be nominated for – we are together… I am honored and grateful that L black love and black joy, but also the real issues behind the incarceration are next to this and are in the foreground. “
Nanau said he would spend the night meeting with the subjects of Collective, including intrepid journalists who exposed how corrupt medical vendors and hospital officials diluted the disinfectant to save a few bucks, a fatal shortcut that allowed infections to flourish in Romanian burn wards.
“For me, this film is above all a tribute to the victims and survivors who had the courage to let us follow their lives,” comments Nanau. “It really is a victory for independent investigative journalists and whistleblowers who are the gatekeepers of society and in our film you can really see that they can have an impact, a positive impact on society.”
The Academy has released few details on the make-up of the ceremony, other than saying it will take place at two locations: Union Station in downtown LA and the Dolby Theater in Hollywood.
“It’s great news that there is a possibility for an item in person,” said James Reed, who, along with Ehrlich, directed My octopus teacher. “Selfishly, that would be amazing to me. But who knows. “
TimeBradley’s anticipating a big Oscars event, however it turns out.
“I know whatever it will be an evening of celebration and collective warmth and coming together as far as we can manage,” she said, “as far as we can.”