Docs scramble for the deadline

Posted by · 5:12 am · August 28th, 2008

Today’s New York Times carries an interesting piece about the crunch of documentaries currently being screened in Manhattan to empty houses – all in the name of Oscar eligibility. A simplified rule change now requires that, in order to qualify for the awards, feature docs must be screened for a week – on both coasts – before August 31.

However, in a rather surreal bit of logic, the filmmakers involved are doing their utmost not to attract audiences, presumably so as to avoid peaking too early in terms of media coverage:

“I didn’t advertise, I didn’t seek reviews,” said Roberta Grossman, producer of “Blessed is the Match: The Life and Death of Hannah Senesh,” the story of a Jewish-Hungarian resistance fighter during World War II. “My goal for this run was to qualify for the Academy Awards, period.”

And so on:

“I was advised that if I wanted to show again, then I shouldn’t advertise,” said Khashyar Darvich, the director and producer of “Dalai Lama Renaissance,” a film narrated by Harrison Ford that follows 40 Western thinkers to a meeting with the Dalai Lama. “If there was press about these academy-qualifying screenings, then that would discourage the theater from showing the film again in the future.”

Bizarre. But if this new system means more opportunities for the littler guys to crack the race, then kudos to the Academy. The article quotes the Academy’s executive director, Bruce Davis, as being “scared to death” that they’ll have over a hundred documentary entries this year, as opposed to the usual figure of sixty.

On another note – a documentary about a Jewish-Hungarian resistance fighter in WWII? Can the Academy possibly resist?

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