Documentaries and International Film Deserve Extra Consideration

The film medium, all too often, is boxed or labeled into specific genres, and when it comes time for awards, that’s the only place voters deem “appropriate” for recognition. This includes documentaries, international and animated features, as well big-budget blockbusters that only find distinction in sound and visual effects, or comedies in a rare instance of the screenplay and a supporting acting nomination.

We’ve seen an eclectic and vibrant selection of films unveiled in this unconventional year. While milestone recognitions look to be on the horizon, all awards voters still have work to do in getting a more dynamic number of films recognized in other key categories. We’ve seen AMPAS take an important step in the right direction with HBO’s “Welcome to Chechnya,” which made the shortlists for both documentary and visual effects. Like last year’s “Honeyland,” which was nominated for both international and documentary feature, two films made those shortlists and have a chance of achieving the same success: Romania’s “Collective” and Chile’s “The Mole Agent.” But there are some other films that should be given extra consideration.

“Dick Johnson Is Dead” (Netflix)

Kirsten Johnson helms this moving and often funny examination of her father, a former psychiatrist who has dementia, with humility and grace. Already landing a spot on the shortlist for documentary feature, the film is worthy of consideration in other key races such as editing, cinematography and original screenplay. The director’s branch should also consider Johnson’s direction. We have never had a documentary nominated for any major categories including picture, director and screenplay. In this historic year for women filmmakers (i.e., Emerald Fennell, Regina King, Chloé Zhao), how incredible would it be to see the first documentary filmmaker among the nominees.

“Another Round” (Samuel Goldwyn)

Leading in the critics’ awards for international feature prizes, Thomas Vinterberg’s “Another Round” is looking all but assured a nomination, which will mark Denmark’s 12th citation in this category, winning three: “Babette’s Feast” (1987), “Pelle the Conqueror” (1988) and “In a Better World” (2010). Not a well known fact, but Denmark was the first country to submit a film from a female director to the international feature category (1957’s “Be Dear to Me” from Annelise Hovmand) and the first to receive a nomination for a female director (1959’s “Paw” from Astrid Henning-Jensen).

This year, the Danes have one of their strongest entries yet, and it encompasses a masterful turn from Mads Mikkelsen, one of our finest actors who has yet to be recognized by the acting branch. As seen by his work in “The Hunt” (2013), another Vinterberg collaboration, there’s been ample opportunity. He’s a worthy inclusion in the lead actor race that looks likely to feature record diversity (i.e., Riz Ahmed, Chadwick Boseman, Steven Yeun); that conversation also includes recognizing more international actors for non-English-speaking roles. This movie will expand the cinematic palettes of entertainment consumers, and the evolution of the film medium as a whole.

Other films for consideration: “Onward” (best picture), “A Sun” (original screenplay), “Totally Under Control” (editing)

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