Documentary Spotlight

'Our Planet' to 'Chef's Table': How Docuseries Told Impactful Stories About Chefs, Nature and More

11:15 AM 8/21/2019

by Rebecca Ford

Filmmakers behind 'American Masters,' 'Hostile Planet' and '30 for 30' turned their cameras on artists, animals and sports figures to craft the tales nominated in the documentary or nonfiction series category.

'Chef's Table' (left) and 'Our Planet'
'Chef's Table' (left) and 'Our Planet'
Courtesy of Networks

  • 'American Masters'

    PBS

    PBS

    The iconic series, examining the life and works of the world’s greatest artists, earned its 75th Emmy nomination this year. It has won 28 times, including 10 for outstanding nonfiction series and five for outstanding nonfiction special. Masters’ 32nd season included profiles on artist Basquiat, painter Elizabeth Murray, sculptor Eva Hesse and musician Sammy Davis Jr. (pictured).

  • 'Chef's Table'

    Netflix

    Netflix

    The fifth season of the delicious Netflix series from Jiro Dreams of Sushi filmmaker David Gelb, which follows world-class chefs and their passion for food, visited chefs in Istanbul, Bangkok and Barcelona. It was the show’s most diverse season yet. A standout episode featured Cristina Martinez, the undocumented Mexican immigrant chef behind Philadelphia’s South Philly Barbacoa and El Compadre.

  • 'Hostile Planet'

    National Geographic

    National Geographic

    Narrated by Bear Grylls, this docuseries examining climate change focuses on animals that have adapted to different environments in order to survive. “We’re not offering a political pamphlet on what should happen. It’s really about creating awareness,” EP Guillermo Navarro tells THR of the animals chronicled in the series. “The planet also belongs to them. So they do have a right to be part of it.”

  • 'Our Planet'

    Netflix

    Netflix

    The nature doc (narrated by David Attenborough) got a glitzy London premiere, with guests including Prince Charles, Prince William and Prince Harry. And portions of Our Planet were screened at the World Economic Forum in Davos, as well as for the IMF and the World Bank. Says EP Keith Scholey: “What is really frustrating about the climate crisis is, it can be fixed. We know exactly what we need to do — it’s just a case of will.”

  • '30 for 30'

    ESPN

    Courtesy ESPN Films

    The series (which started in 2009) focuses on interesting people and events in sports history. This season’s eligible episodes examined pro football Hall of Famer Deion Sanders’ ability to bounce between the NFL and MLB and Buster Douglas’ 1990 knockout of the then-undefeated Mike Tyson. The series was previously nominated in the category in 2011 and 2017.

    This story first appeared in an August stand-alone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.