10:50am PT by Scott Feinberg
J. Ralph Could Make Oscar History With Second Song Nom for Doc-Featured Tune
As discussed in another post earlier this month, only 20 Oscar nominations have ever been accorded to documentary features in categories other than the one designated for them. The most famous examples include "best writing, motion picture story" for Louisiana Story (1948), best film editing and best sound for Woodstock (1970), best film editing for Hoop Dreams (1994), best original song for An Inconvenient Truth (2006), best foreign language film for Waltz with Bashir (2008) and, most recently, best original song for Chasing Ice (2012).
The nom for Chasing Ice, a call-to-action about global warming, went to the tune "Before My Time," the music and lyrics of which were written by one J. Ralph. Two years later, Mr. Ralph, a singer-songwriter and a social activist, could repeat history: he has written the music and lyrics for another stirring song called "We Will Not Go" — which will hit iTunes on Tuesday and will be released by Jason Flom's Lava Records on Dec. 1 — for the Netflix doc Virunga, a harrowing look inside the fight to save the world's last mountain gorillas.
If "We Will Not Go" — or the jazzy "Until the End," another Ralph-written song from a 2014 Oscar-eligible doc, Garnet's Gold, the recording of which features the voice of Liza Minnelli and music performed by Wynton Marsalis — is nominated, Ralph would become the first songwriter ever to earn multiple Oscar noms for songs in docs.
The video at the top of this post, which THR is pleased to exclusively debut, shows the massive international effort that went into producing "We Will Not Go" earlier this year. (It was recorded in five languages and in four countries on three continents.) Its performance features the vocal talents of not only Ralph, a 39-year-old New Yorker, but also three of Africa's most revered musicians: Salif Keita of Mali, Fally Ipupa of the Congo and Grammy winner Youssou N’Dour of Senegal.
"This song is about solidarity and heroism and willingness to sacrifice everything to protect something that you believe in," says Ralph in the video.
Ralph also composed the music — though not original songs — for another 2014 Oscar-eligible doc, Finding Vivian Maier.