From 'The Quiet One' to 'Woodstock': 6 Docs That Expanded the Genre Form

11:58 AM 1/7/2019

by Tara Bitran

The Oscars have given some latitude to nonfiction films, as films such as 'Hoop Dreams' and 'Navajo' were nominated in categories outside of doc feature.

'The Quiet One,' 'Woodstock'
'The Quiet One,' 'Woodstock'
Photofest

  • 'The Fight for Life'

    1940

    Columbia pictures/Photofest

    After a Chicago medical intern witnesses a mother die in the delivery room, he begins to investigate ways to prevent future fatalities in Pare Lorentz's film. A nominee for best music, original score, in 1941, composer Louis Gruenberg also earned noms from the Academy in 1942 and '44.

  • 'Hoop Dreams'

    1994

    Photofest

    Despite the uproar after a snub for best documentary, Steve James' story of two African-American high school students who dream of playing in the NBA did receive a nom for film editing. In light of the controversy, the Academy overhauled the nomination process for the documentary category.

  • 'Navajo'

    1952

    Lippert Pictures/Photofest

    Shot entirely on the Navajo Indian Reservation in the American Southwest, Norman Foster's film nabbed noms in both the documentary, features, and cinematography, black-and-white, categories. The doc explores a Navajo boy brushing up against a cultural clash when he resists assimilating and learning English.

  • 'The Quiet One'

    1948

    Photofest

    Sidney Meyers' film was nominated not only for documentary, features, but also in the best writing, story, category. Charting the rehabilitation of a taciturn African-American boy from Harlem, it explores the loneliness of an upbringing that led him to Wiltwyck School.

  • 'With Byrd at the South Pole'

    1930

    Paramount Pictures/Photofest

    The cinematography winner became the first documentary to win any Oscar. The official doc category wouldn't launch until 1942, though Kukan and Target for Tonight garnered special honors in 1941. Byrd captures Rear Admiral Richard E. Byrd on his first quest to the South Pole.

  • 'Woodstock'

    1970

    Warner Bros. Pictures/Photofest

    The landmark doc, on which Martin Scorsese served as an editor, set the bar for a theatrical concert experience when it was released. Chronicling the 1969 music festival in upstate New York, Woodstock won Oscars for best documentary, features, and received editing and sound noms.

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