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  • James Kunovski

Tribute to Those Overlooked: Feature Documentary

“…documentary filmmakers… they are journalists.” – Robert Redford

Overlooked by the Academy, yet outstanding as ever, these five documentaries masterfully capture a moment in time, and their subjects’ infinite lyrics.


Crumb | 1994

Directed by Terry Zwigoff

For its exemplary achievement in capturing an artist in their locale.

An outline of controversial cartoonist Robert Crumb, this challenging documentary resonates as an unflattering, yet also affectionate glimpse into his troubled upbringing and divisive work.

Who won in its eligible year?

Anne Frank Remembered, directed by Jon Blair

What did critics have to say?

“A documentary with a keen eye, a playful sense of timing and an inquisitive soul.” – Walter Addiego, SF Examiner.

“When it comes to unflinching, riveting looks at a compulsive artist who can't be other than who he is, nothing comes close to Crumb.” – Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times.


Hoop Dreams | 1994

Directed by Steve James

For its thorough inquiry into the dealings of race and socio-economic values in the United States.

Spanning five years, we follow two inner-city Chicago boys William Gates and Arthur Agee on their road to NBA stardom.

Who won in its eligible year?

Maya Lin: A Strong Clear Vision, directed by Freida Lee Mock and Terry Sanders

What did critics have to say?

“It gives us the impression of having touched life itself.” – Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times.

“Hoop Dreams affirms the role of film as a medium for exploring social issues.” – Caryn James, The New York Times.


Koyaanisqatsi | 1982

Directed by Godfrey Reggio

For its emotionally intense experimental visuals.

Its title drawing from the Hopi word meaning “life out of balance”, this surreal piece reveals the extent to which humanity has grown apart from nature. Following no conventional plot, the creation proves its worth purely through image and music.

Who won in its eligible year?

He Makes Me Feel Like Dancin', directed by Emile Ardolino

What did critics have to say?

“...enraged with modern societal convention, but still expresses awe of the spontaneous, incidental poetry that can exist despite invisible oppression.” – Chuck Bowen, Slant.

“...should be admired for their vivid, astonishing illustrations of humanity consuming itself...” – Noel Murray, AV Club.


Paris is Burning | 1990

Directed by Jennie Livingston

For its triumphant recognition of an underground culture.

A vivacious account of New York’s ball culture in the 1980s and a celebration of community, fashion and voguing.

Who won in its eligible year?

In the Shadow of the Stars, directed by Allie Light and Irving Saraf

What did critics have to say?

“...a rapturous, desperate ode to self-invention.” - Hal Hinson, Washington Post.

“If all you know about ‘Voguing’ comes from Madonna, this spirited and heartbreaking documentary… will be an eyeopener.” – Peter Travers, Rolling Stone.


The Thin Blue Line | 1988

Directed by Errol Morris

For its influence on the crime re-enactment genre and for tilting the justice system.

November 1976. Dallas. Randall Dale Adams accepts a ride from teenager David Harris. Later that night, a police officer pulls the stolen car over. The officer is shot and killed. Who murdered the officer? A jury believes Adams is the killer but a deeper web of perjured testimony, misleading witness accounts and police misconduct soon begins to unravel.

Who won in its eligible year?

Hôtel Terminus: The Life and Times of Klaus Barbie, directed by Marcel Ophuls

What did the critics have to say?

“More like a waking nightmare than a docudrama.” – Desson Thomson, Washington Post.

“The most provocative miscarried-justice movie ever.” – Mike Clark, USA Today.


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