The Gold Knight: Celebrating the Documentary Oscars nomineesWritten by James A. Molnar | The Gold Knight | firstname.lastname@example.org
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — Oscar Week events continued here Wednesday night at the Academy’s headquarters. Oscar winner and Documentary Branch governor Michael Moore hosted the event, titled “DOCS!” — which fêted the nominees in the Documentary Short and Documentary Features categories. The Oscar-winning films will be announced on Sunday.
The continuing theme throughout the evening was the preservation of documentaries and ways in which the genre can thrive.
“We believe it’s important to tell true stories,” said Moore in his opening comments. “The public wants the truth … and they turn to docs.”
Moore is frequently told “to do a documentary about …,” he said. This was the case most recently during his trip to Los Angeles, from New York City.As for the future of the genre, Moore noted that there is a digital challenge for documentarians.
“What you’re shooting on, isn’t going to last,” he said to the sold-out crowd at the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater.
Preservation of documentaries is also “a very serious problem,” according to Moore.
He recently asked Warner Bros. for a copy of his first documentary, “Roger and Me,” for a screening. The film is from 1989. The three prints Warner Bros. were found to be damaged and unusable. The solution was to create a new copy from the film negatives.
Another topic Moore touched on was distribution.
Documentaries need to be in movie theaters, he said, mentioning his plan for a distribution center where documentaries can be shown in theaters and the power in the documentarians hands.
“It’s our art,” he said. “Why do we turn (the power) over to someone else.”
He then said his “sermon” was over and it was time to honor the nominees.
Robin Fryday, a director-producer nominated for “The Barber of Birmingham: Foot Soldier of the Civil Rights Movement,” was sitting next to an empty seat during the discussion with the nominees.
The seat was in memory of the film’s other nominee, Gail Dolgin, who passed away three month’s before the film’s premiere at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival. Dolgin died following a 10-year battle with breast cancer.
This was Fryday’s first film.
“I thought it was really important to document this moment in history,” she said.
While looking for a way to document the civil rights movement in Birmingham, Fryday was told to go to “the barber.” There, she found her leading character.
Daniel Junge, nominated with Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy for “Saving Face,” said the short film format was perfect for their film.
“Saving Face” tells a story of acid-attack survivors in Pakistan. The imagery is vivid and eye-opening.
Junge said that if the film was too long, it could have anesthetized audiences. The effect of seeing the damaged faces needed to be done correctly, as to not numb the audience, he said.
In a category filled with political and social issues, Moore noted that “Pina” did not include politics or heavy issues.
He also added that it was “a great honor to have (its director Wim Wenders) here.”
The film took 20 years to create, according to Wenders because he was waiting for the best way to showcase the story, an homage to late choreographer Pina Bausch.
“My tools weren’t good enough to catch that splendor and beauty,” he said. ”I was stalling for time.”
Ringel said that 3-D was the perfect “tool” and solution for the film.
”In this town, this ‘tool’ you refer to,” Moore said to Wenders, “has actually been abused and misused.”
Ringel called making a good 3-D film his “social context.”
Wenders would say later in the night that 3-D could be a new “fantastic” tool for documentarians to use, calling it a “secret weapon.” He also urged Moore to shot his next film in 3-D.
TJ Martin, one of three co-directors of “Undefeated” retorted.
“I personally think the secret weapon is telling really good stories,” he said. “I think at the end of the day, we’ve been really fortunate — in terms of technological advancements — that the medium has been so democratized. You have a much broader range of stories being told.”
Martin said the good stories will rise to the top.
And Moore continued by asking the nominees what can be done to advance the genre.
“It’s just about exhibition and how people consume it,” said Dan Lindsay, of “Undefeated,” noting that non-fiction films are becoming more popular. “There is so much stuff competing for our attention.”
Moore asked for a solution.
“To me, it’s about expanding the definition of what is a ‘cinematic experience’,” said Joe Berlinger, director of “Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory.”
Berlinger added that presently audiences seem to want blockbusters on the big screen.
Wenders and Moore responded, saying that the audience is there.
The Academy has the full three-hour event available for viewing, for a limited time, here:
The 84th Academy Awards are Feb. 26 and will air locally at 8:30 p.m. on WTVG 13abc. Red carpet coverage begins at 7 p.m.
Toledo Free Press Lead Designer and Film Editor James A. Molnar blogs about all things Oscar at TheGoldKnight.com.