By Pete Hammond
In what is signaling a very good year for documentaries, the Critics’ Choice Association on Monday announced its list of nominations for the fifth annual Critics’ Choice Documentary Awards, and if the past is any clue it could be an indicator of what to expect from the Oscars next spring.
With an inclusive list, to say the least, of about 50 films from approximately 200 submissions, three docs led the way with five noms apiece: Mr. Soul, about a historic Black TV show; Gunda, a touching film about the daily life of a pig and farm companions from exec producer Joaquin Phoenix; and Netflix’s Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution, an archival film about a summer camp catering to disabled young people.
Close behind with four nods each were Alex Gibney’s striking COVID-19 docu Totally Under Control that was actually just completed about two weeks ago (additionally, it received a Most Compelling Living Subject mention for Dr. Rick Bright); the personal story of a father and daugher, Dick Johnson Is Dead; the remarkable nature doc My Octopus Teacher; and gymnastics scandal pic Athlete A. The latter three hail from Netflix, which swamped the competition with 31 nominations, a more than 2-to-1 distance between next closest distributor Neon with 14. They are the only two distributors to reach double digits.
Overall the critics were in a generous mood, offering 15 films noms for Best Documentary Feature alone.
“At a unique time for the entertainment industry and the world, documentaries are more important and fortunately more abundant and more available and more essential than ever,” said Christopher Campbell, president of the documentary branch of CCA. “In 2020, documentaries have taken us to places and shown us perspectives we’ve never experienced before. They’ve chronicled events and life stories that are enlightening and enthralling — and sometimes frightening. It is a great honor for the CCA to celebrate these stories and subjects and shed light on the work of so many incredible filmmakers. The Documentary Branch faced its greatest task yet considering the quantity and quality of nonfiction cinema released this year. Ultimately, these nominees represent the best of the best of a remarkably fruitful moment for documentary filmmaking.”
Nominees were selected by Critics’ Choice members who were divided into five committees to whittle down the field. (Full Disclosure: I am a member and voted on Best Political, Historical/Biographical, and Archival docu nominees. Due to the ongoing pandemicc, winners will not be announced at a ceremony as in the past, but rather by a special announcement November 16. Read More.