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One hundred forty-four documentary features were eligible for this season’s best documentary feature Oscar. The directors of 10 appeared on the ‘Docs to Watch’ panel at October’s SCAD Savannah Film Festival — the nation’s largest university-run film festival — which, for the ninth year in a row, was presented by The Hollywood Reporter and moderated by yours truly.
And in late December, the Academy announced its best documentary feature Oscar shortlist, revealing that of the 15 titles chosen to move on to the next round, eight had been represented at the ‘Docs to Watch’ gathering — Shaunak Sen’s All That Breathes (HBO), David Siev’s Bad Axe (IFC), Margaret Brown’s Descendant (Netflix), Sara Dosa’s Fire of Love (Nat Geo), Ondi Timoner’s Last Flight Home (MTV), Brett Morgen’s Moonage Daydream (Neon), Daniel Roher’s Navalny (Warner Bros./CNN) and Matthew Heineman’s Retrograde (Nat Geo) — alongside two other equally special projects, Ryan White’s Good Night Oppy (Amazon) and Kathlyn Horan’s The Return of Tanya Tucker (Sony Classics). Not a bad batting average.
(Six of the eight prior editions of the panel featured the eventual winner of the best documentary feature Oscar: 2015’s Amy, 2016’s O.J.: Made in America, 2017’s Icarus, 2018’s Free Solo, 2019’s American Factory and 2021’s Summer of Soul.)
Click the player to watch video of the entire conversation — preceded by the presentation of the SCAD Savannah Film Festival’s inaugural Daring Documentarian Award to Evgeny Afineevsky, the director of Freedom on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom — and learn about the challenges and rewards of making these outstanding works of non-fiction.
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