EFA announces doc nominations

Political issues dominate Prix Arte nominations

COLOGNE, Germany -- Political issues have pride of place among this year's nominees for the Prix Arte, the European Film Academy's documentary award.

Andres Ostergaard's "Burma VJ," on the 2007 protest by thousands of Burmese monks; German directors Leon Geller and Marcus Vetter's "The Heart of Jenin," an investigation into the Israeli army's shooting of Palestinian boy Ahmed Khatib; and Jawad Rhalib's "The Damned of the Sea," which looks at the plight of Moroccan fisherman, all made this year's short list.

Political undercurrents are also clearly visible in other nominees, including Gianfranco Rosi's portrait of anarchists living in a makeshift "slab city" in the California desert and "Defamation," a critical look at anti-Semitism from Israeli director Yoav Shamir.

But the scope of the 2009 Prix Arte nominees ranges from Agnes Varda's autobiographical essay "The Beaches of Agnes" to portraits of extraordinary people in Lilian Franck & Robert Cibis' "Pianomania" (obsessive piano tuner) and Vadim Jendreyko's "The Woman with the 5 Elephants" (literary translator of five elephantine novels from Fyodor Dostoyevsky); from Peter Kerekes' "Cooking History," a series of interviews with military cooks in various European armies to the surreal real-life/literary adaptation "The Sound of Insects -- Record of a Mummy" from Swiss director Peter Liechti.

Unlike other European Film Awards, which are decided on by members of the European Film Academy, the documentary prize is voted on by a jury. This year's threesome are Georgian actress/director Nino Kirtadze, Austrian producer Franz Grabner and Russian documentary filmmaker Viktor Kossakovsky.

The winner of the 2009 Prix Arte will be honored at the 22nd European Film Awards Dec. 12 in Bochum, Germany.