Toronto: Can Netflix's 'Quincy' Become the Latest Music-Centric Doc to Win Oscar?

Al Hicks and Rashida Jones' portrait of an icon could follow in the footsteps of 'Searching for Sugar Man,' '20 Feet From Stardom' and 'Amy.'
Courtesy of Netflix
Quincy Jones in 'Quincy'

Almost everyone is familiar with Quincy Jones' name, but, because he has had such a long and varied career, almost always operating behind bigger names — as an orchestrator, arranger, composer, film producer and the list goes on — many can't tell you too much about him. That will change as a result of Quincy, which Netflix will begin streaming Sept. 21. The film was co-directed by Rashida Jones, one of its subject's daughters, and Al Hicks, an Aussie musician-turned-filmmaker who first crossed paths with Jones on his prior doc, Keep On Keepin' On, which centered on Jones' musical mentor Clark Terry and, like this one, was produced by Paula Dupre Pesmen. And I sincerely hope that the streaming service realizes what it has in this film: namely, a potential best documentary feature Oscar winner.

Quincy had its world premiere on Sunday at Toronto's Princess of Wales Theatre and played through the roof, receiving a standing ovation as soon as its end-credits began to roll, even before most in the audience realized that the doc's subject himself was in the house, the realization of which only exacerbated things. What most distinguishes the doc is the manner in which it balances Jones' personal and professional past (drawing on more than than 2,000 hours of archival footage) with conveying what the man himself is actually like today (pulled from another 800 hours of footage filmed since 2015). It seamlessly cuts back and forth between the two (Andrew McAllister and Will Znidaric were the film's editors), while including nary a single talking-head interview, in the tradition of other masterpiece-docs like Senna.

The documentary branch seems likely to respond to Quincy's powerful story, remarkable craftsmanship and celebration of diversity — and if indeed that relatively small pool of voters nominates it (they have been averaging two Netflix nominees a year the last few years), thereby sending it to the full Academy for further consideration, I think it would stand a very good shot at winning. The full Academy seems particularly drawn to music-centric docs, having recently awarded best documentary feature Oscars to Searching for Sugar Man (2012), 20 Feet From Stardom (2013) and Amy (2015), and also having nominated What Happened, Miss Simone? (2015). Quincy, like those others, is actually about much more than just music, but the fact that it features tons of the great music for which Jones has been at least partially responsible certainly won't hurt its prospects.

And, as if to hammer home the point that Jones, at 85, is still going strong, it features over its closing-credits an original song — "Keep Reachin,'" co-written by Chaka Khan, Marc Ronson and Jones — that could make a run at a best original song nom, as well.

This story first appeared in The Hollywood Reporter's Sept. 9 daily issue at the Toronto International Film Festival.