The 95th Academy Awards race: Best Documentary Feature

| February 21, 2023

The Nominees are . . .
All That Breathes, Shaunak Sen, Aman Mann and Teddy Leifer, producers
All The Beauty and the Bloodshed, Laura Poitras, Howard Gertler, John Lyons, Nan Goldin and Yoni Golijov, producers
Fire of Love, Sara Dosa, Shane Boris and Ina Fichman
A House Made of Splinters, Simon Lereng Wilmont and Monica Hellström
Navalny, Daniel Roher, Odessa Rae, Diane Becker, Melanie Miller and Shane Boris

With an exception or two, the films nominated for this year’s Best Documentary Feature, ride very familiar rails, though each unique in its own way – animal rescue; a revolutionary; a love story amid lava; displaced children and a famous Russian opposition leader.

All That Breathes is a gentle but achingly sad story of two brothers living a polluted section of Delhi trying to save a dying species of birds called The Black Kite.   All the Beauty and the Bloodshed explores the life and career of photographer and artist Nan Golden and the downfall of the pharmaceutical Sacker Family.  Fire of Love is this year’s best nominee, a love story narrated by actress and filmmaker Miranda July, it chronicles the extreme lifestyle of French volcanologists Katia and Maurice Krafft and their near-suicidal exploration of the world’s active volcanos, a dangerous trek that bonds them mind body and soul.

A House Made of Splinters was this year’s surprise nominee beating out the heavily favored David Bowie doc Moonage Daydream.   Splinters tells the heartbreaking story of the children and staff in an institution for children in Eastern Ukraine who have been removed from their homes while awaiting custody results from the courts.  The staff does their best to keep the children safe and supportive.  This is a sad, sad story of often difficult to watch.

And finally is the CNN documentary Navalny, which is just as timely as Splinters tells the story of Alexei Navalny who survived being poisoned by Putin’s thugs, escaped and recovered in Germany and then when BACK to Russia where he was arrested and jailed.  Of the five, this one is probably the most conventional, a talking-head documentary dealing with a brave individual, it looks every bit like something made for CNN.  Unfortunately, timely leads to victory in this category when there isn’t a holocaust documentary to fall back on, and that could spell victory on Oscar night.

The Winner: Navalny
The Runner-Up: Fire of Love


About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.