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indieWIRE @ Hulu Docs: Oscars Flashback, Part One

February 9th, 2011 by Basil Tsiokos indieWIRE Contributor

With the 83rd Annual Academy Awards coming later this month, we decided to take a two-part look back at some past nominees and winners in the Best Documentary Feature category for indieWIRE‘s curation of Hulu’s Documentaries page.

EDITOR’S NOTE: “indieWIRE @ Hulu Docs” is a regular column spotlighting the iW-curated selections on Hulu’s Documentaries page. Be sure to check out the great non-fiction projects available to watch free of charge.

Morgan Spurlock made a name for himself at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival with “Super Size Me,” and secured an Oscar nomination the next year for his investigation into the health consequences of eating a diet consisting of only McDonald’s fast food for one month. While “Born Into Brothels” took home the gold statue that year, the media attention around the film influenced the fast food chain to make changes to its “super size” program and push healthier menu options.

Sundance also played host to the debut of another Oscar nominee, 2002’s “Daughter From Danang,” the story of a Vietnamese mother and daughter separated for 22 years as part of “Operation Babylift” at the end of the war. But directors Vicente Franco and the recently passed Gail Dolgin saw the Oscar go to Michael Moore for “Bowling for Columbine” in a tough year, which also included nominations for “Spellbound,” “Prisoner of Paradise,” and “Winged Migration.”

Rob Epstein’s “The Times of Harvey Milk,” the story of the assassinated openly gay San Francisco supervisor that later informed Gus Van Sant’s “Milk,” premiered at Telluride in 1984 and won him the first-ever special jury prize at the 1985 Sundance Film Festival. The same year, “Times” won the Best Documentary Academy Award, most notably beating out Maximillian Schell’s “Marlene.”

Noted German director Wim Wenders premiered “Buena Vista Social Club” at the 1999 Berlin Film Festival, telling the story of the reunion of legendary Cuban musicians for a series of concerts and a studio recording. The film faced competition at the Oscars from films like “Genghis Blues” and “On the Ropes,” with Kevin MacDonald’s “One Day in September” ultimately securing the win.

Finally, looking far into the past at 1957’s doc contenders, we offer the documentary/biopic hybrid “Albert Schweitzer,” directed by Jerome Hill and written by Schweizer himself. The film recounts the life of the Nobel Peace Prize winning samaritan who founded and sustained a hospital in Africa among other impressive deeds. The film won the Oscar, besting the recently re-released “On the Bowery” by Lionel Rogosin and “Torero” by Carlos Velo.

ABOUT THE WRITER: Basil Tsiokos is a Programming Associate, Documentary Features for Sundance, consults with documentary filmmakers and festivals, and recently co-produced Cameron Yates’ feature documentary “The Canal Street Madam.” Follow him on Twitter (@1basil1 and @CanalStMadamDoc) and visit his blog (what (not) to doc).

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