The new decade marked the dawn of an era rife with public health crises, political turmoil and desperate calls for social change. Films born of 2020 reflect a year like no other: bringing darkness into focus, but emphasising points of light, as well. Read on to learn more about this year’s Oscar contenders for Best Documentary Feature, and where you can go to check them out for yourself.
Collective: Unraveling a Scandal
Collective is a 2019 documentary produced by Romanian filmmaker Alexander Nanau: creator of the International Emmy Award-winning documentary The World According to Ion B. The film follows a team of journalists as they fight to expose a conspiracy of healthcare fraud following a fatal nightclub fire in Bucharest, Romania.
Nanau’s piece premiered at the Venice Film Festival in 2019 and received wide critical acclaim, including accolades from the likes of the European Film Awards and the National Society of Film Critics.
Collective can currently be streamed on several platforms, including Amazon, Red Box and Hulu. In addition to its Oscar nomination for Best Documentary Feature, it is also a contender for Best International Film.
Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution
Crip Camp was co-produced by Nicole Newnham and James LeBrecht in conjunction with Higher Grounds: the fledgeling production company founded by Barack and Michelle Obama. The world premiere was held at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, where it was honoured with the Audience Award.
The film’s focus is the world of Camp Jened: birthplace of the disability rights movement. The camp was described as a “loose, free-spirited place designed for teens with disabilities”, and the youth who spent their summers there went on to fight for the passage of crucial accessibility legislation. Their activism ultimately led to the creation of the Americans With Disabilities Act in 1990: banning discrimination on account of disability and enforcing accessible features to be included in all buildings and public venues.
Peter Travers of Rolling Stone described the film as an “indispensable documentary, one that defines what it means to call a movie ‘inspiring’.”
The film was originally slated to receive a limited theatrical release following its Sundance premiere, but the release was cancelled due to pandemic restrictions. Crip Camp is currently available for viewing on Netflix.
My Octopus Teacher
Produced as a Netflix Original project, My Octopus Teacher is a documentary nature film co-directed by Pippa Ehrlich and James Reed. The film follows filmmaker and naturalist Craig Foster over ten years, as he bonds with a wild octopus in the kelp forests of Cape Town, South Africa.
Throughout the film, Foster elaborates on the impact the octopus left on him; teaching him lessons of life’s fragility and the wonders of humanity’s connections with nature.
My Octopus Teacher has garnered multiple accolades, including Best Documentary from the Critic’s Choice Documentary Awards and Best Documentary Feature from the Houston Film Critics Society. The film was produced in partnership with Sea of Change Project, Off the Fence and ZDF Enterprises, and was released onto the Netflix platform in September of 2020.
Time is the latest documentary to come from filmmaker Garrett Bradley, whose work tackles issues of social and political relevance found in our everyday lives. The film follows the plight of author and entrepreneur Sibil Fox Richardson. A mother of six, Richardson is caught in a battle for the release of her husband Rob, who is serving a 60-year prison term for his role in an armed bank robbery.
The film sports a unique visual aesthetic, shot on a Sony FS7 camera and produced with a monochrome finish. Bradley’s piece saw its world premiere at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, where it was honoured with the U.S. Documentary Directing Award. A theatrical release was held in October of 2020, coinciding with the film’s release on Amazon Prime Video.
With a few weeks to go until the red carpets roll, there’s still time to catch up on all of this year’s nominees! Which film are you rooting for?