Who Wins the Oscar for Documentaries?

It’s on Sunday the 24th that the Oscars will be distributed. 4 American feature documentaries are among the 5 nominated. The only non-American is “Of Fathers and Sons”. I have seen all five films, here follows some comments on their chances. I mention the directors knowing that on stage to receive the statuette the winner will be accompanied by producer(s):

Of Fathers and Sons, Director Talal Derki: Oh, I would love Talal to get the Oscar. I have seen the film several times, made Q&A’s and masterclass with him… a well told cinematic film that hurts and makes you depressed, sad is too weak a word; it goes to the heart and to the stomach… But a non-American film to win? Probably not, remember the two Joshua Oppenheimer films that were nominated but did not make it.

Free Solo, Directors Elizabeth C. Vasarhelyi & Jimmy Chin: Well, would not be surprised if it wins because of its theme: a man wants to climb the 3,000ft high El Capitan Wall without rope… but Oscars are meant to be for “artistic and technical merit”, this National Geographic product does not live up to the former.

Minding the Gap, Director Bing Liu: This is the one I think will win. And if so, no objections from me. The film is about three young boys (the director being one of them) growing up to be men, skateboarders all of them, friends who all three have suffered in their childhood and who fight to find themselves – it’s dynamically told, it touches racial questions, one is black, one is white, one has Chinese origins, and the three develop in the film that is shot over several years. And it’s a Film, produced by Kartemquin Films that stood behind the classic “Hoop Dreams” by Steve James.  

Hale County Thís Morning, This Evening, Director RaMell Ross: This is a fascinating film, an “auteur” documentary and for that reason it will not win in America! The director plays with style, it has strong poetic moments, it is impressionistic, surprises you and deep down you get the feeling of the Deep South in the US. Absolutely no objections if it wins, but not likely, I am afraid.

RBG, Directors Betsy West & Julie Cohen: If it wins, it is because of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, this fantastic woman who fought and still fights injustice as Supreme Court Justice, lovely to watch, a fine piece of journalistic documentary.


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Tue Steen Müller
Tue Steen Müller

Müller, Tue Steen
Documentary Consultant and Critic, DENMARK

Worked with documentary films for more than 20 years at the Danish Film Board, as press officer, festival representative and film consultant/commissioner. Co-founder of Balticum Film and TV Festival, Filmkontakt Nord, Documentary of the EU and EDN (European Documentary Network).
Awards: 2004 the Danish Roos Prize for his contribution to the Danish and European documentary culture. 2006 an award for promoting Portuguese documentaries. 2014 he received the EDN Award “for an outstanding contribution to the development of the European documentary culture”. 2016 The Cross of the Knight of the Order for Merits to Lithuania. 2019 a Big Stamp at the 15th edition of ZagrebDox. 2021 receipt of the highest state decoration, Order of the Three Stars, Fourth Class, for the significant contribution to the development and promotion of Latvian documentary cinema outside Latvia. In 2022 he received an honorary award at DocsBarcelona’s 25th edition having served as organizer and programmer since the start of the festival.
From 1996 until 2005 he was the first director of EDN (European Documentary Network). From 2006 a freelance consultant and teacher in workshops like Ex Oriente, DocsBarcelona, Archidoc, Documentary Campus, Storydoc, Baltic Sea Forum, Black Sea DocStories, Caucadoc, CinéDOC Tbilisi, Docudays Kiev, Dealing With the Past Sarajevo FF as well as programme consultant for the festivals Magnificent7 in Belgrade, DOCSBarcelona, Verzio Budapest, Message2Man in St. Petersburg and DOKLeipzig. Teaches at the Zelig Documentary School in Bolzano Italy.

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