Under the Circuit: Bradford Young


Most Known For: “Selma,” “A Most Violent Year,” “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints”

Snubbed For: “A Most Violent Year,” “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints

The last time Under the Circuit went with below-the-line filmmakers still overdue for an Oscar nomination we focused on cinematographer Sean Bobbit,.We’ll stick with another director of photography this time around and look at Bradford Young, who had more than one snub this past year.

Young’s career started small, with the first part consisting of mostly short films and documentaries. It’s only been in the last four years that his work on feature films has become more consistent. But despite the short shelf life thus far, Young has been putting out great work, highlighted by his recent snubs by the Academy.

Things truly started to take off for young in 2011 when he served as the cinematographer for the indie film “Pariah.” Dee Rees film was an indie favorite of that year, but was mostly recognized for her contributions and the performance from Adepero Oduye. Though awards may not have come, Young had completed his most widely known film and things would only grow from there.

He’d be part of another indie hit in 2012 when he took part in his first collaboration with Ava DuVernay with “Middle of Nowhere.” Once again, the acting and the director would take center stage, but that would soon change.

movies-aint-them-bodies-saints-still-3Young’s work on David Lowery’s “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints” finally brought deserved attention to the DP. Lowery’s film was compared to Terrence Malick and a large part of that must be attributed to the beautiful cinematography that Young provided in this southern tale of a criminal on the run hoping to reunite with his wife and daughter. “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints” premiered at Sundance in 2013 where Young would take the prize for Best Cinematography for his work on “Saints” as well as another film, “Mother of George.” “Saints” never could build up enough support to really make a run at the Oscars though, which is a shame because there is much to admire in the film beyond the great work from Young.

If there’s an axe to grind on behalf on Young for the Academy, however, it should be for “A Most Violent Year.” J.C. Chandor’s crime drama is one of the year’s best and was criminally shut out by the Academy altogether. 1980s New York is portrayed so magnificently by Young as he offers the perfect backdrop for the saga that unfolds for Oscar Isaac’s lead. It was certainly a tough field to crack this year, and the Academy did already make one inspired choice nominating “Ida” in cinematography, but Young was certainly worthy of a nomination.amvy_day6-219.CR2

Also on Young’s resume this past year was “Selma.” Another example of strong work by the young cinematographer, but I would certainly put it below that of “A Most Violent Year.” Had “Selma” had a better showing with the Academy, however, it would not have been inconceivable to see him squeeze in, it just didn’t happen.

After his recent string of successes it isn’t to tough to realize that the future is bright for Young, and while he has no new feature films immediately on the horizon, we will get to see one he completed in 2014 this year, as he worked on Edward Zwick’s chess drama “Pawn Sacrifice.” A September release certainly puts that film in the thick of awards season, so who knows what could happen. Young is a undisputable talent and it be hard not imagine him as an Oscar nominee sometime down the line.


What do you think?

72 points

Written by Michael Balderston

NoVA native who has returned to the Washington D.C. area after two years in L.A. My biggest annoyance since leaving L.A. is not having immediate access to indie films on their first weekend, but I'm making due. When I'm not tracking the year's Oscar players or exploring film history, I'm rooting for my Philadelphia sports teams.


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