The 2011 Nominees For Best Documentary Feature Film are…
• HELL AND BACK AGAIN • Danfung Dennis, Mike Lerner
• IF A TREE FALLS… • Marshall Curry, Sam Cullman
• PARADISE LOST 3: PURGATORY • Joe Berlinger, Bruce Sinofsky
• PINA • Wim Wenders, Gian-Piero Ringel
• UNDEFEATED • TJ Martin, Dan Lindsay, Rich Middlemas
One of the most polarizing categories historically in Oscar’s canon, the Best Documentary Feature prize has been the source of great controversy throughout its existence. Year to year and season to season, the list of films snubbed and/or directors and filmmakers flat out ignored by the Academy’s esteemed documentary branch is an impressive one. Some would say impressive for all the wrong reasons.
Fledgling television network Current TV aired an ambitious program entitled “The 50 Documentaries To See Before You Die” in August 2011 and the show was a well-made talking heads countdown show hosted by Oscar nominated filmmaker Morgan Spurlock (Super Size Me). Spurlock counted down 10 films per episode and the list was a solid one, but hardly definitive and capped at films made within the past 25 years. Topping that list was the film that many have cited as one of, if not the greatest documentaries ever made, Steve James’ Hoop Dreams, a 1994 documentary which famously was not even nominated for its genre’s most prestigious trophy.
The controversy and outcry over the Academy failing to nominate Hoop Dreams for Best Documentary (the film did receive a nod for Editing that year) saw a complete overhaul of the Documentary Branch’s standards and practices. Little by little, the category moved away from its Jethro Tull moment (look up the list of Best Metal Recording Grammy winners for the reference) and gained a bit more credibility with its award winners. And still, year to year, the list of films left out of the final nomination list have some eye-raising snubs and surprises. However, when looking at the stretch of winners from the early 2000′s to last year’s recipient, Inside Job, the films at least look and feel the part of a Best Documentary Oscar winner, even if people remain outraged at the failure to nominate films such as Grizzly Man, Touching The Void, The King of Kong, Standard Operating Procedure, Dear Zachary, Anvil! The Story Of Anvil, Metallica: Some Kind Of Monster, and countless others.