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Saturday
Feb232013

Rules for Voting Have Changed for Selecting the Best Documentary at the Oscars

ABC/BOB D'AMICO(LOS ANGELES) -- The 2013 Oscars marks the first time all the members of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences will be voting for Best Documentary.

Academy Award winner Michael Moore (Bowling for Columbine), who was on the board of governors of the Academy's documentary branch, described the process. "For far too long, the nominees had been selected by committees, and sometimes just one or two people could block a film from even being considered for the short list," he told The New Yorker. And instead of the winner's being "decided on by sometimes as few as 200 people," there are now close to 6,000.

For filmmakers, it's a signal that "the Academy is paying attention to documentaries," said Kirby Dick, whose film on rape in the military, The Invisible War, has been nominated this year.

James Longley's first venture to the Oscars was in 2007 for Iraq in Fragments. There he was, the moment mere mortals only dream of, on Hollywood's ultimate red carpet, cameras flashing, microphones everywhere, sandwiched in between Al Gore and the Queen. Well, not exactly the queen -- it was Helen Mirren, who had starred in The Queen.

And nobody knew who he was. "The journalists who are all there, in huge numbers along the red carpet, they're all calling out the names of people they want to have a picture of," said Longley, speaking by phone from Kabul, where he's working on a new doc. "And when you come along, unless you're Michael Moore, they don't really know who you are. The first time you do this, it can be extremely intimidating. As a documentary filmmaker, you realize just how far down the Hollywood totem pole you really are."

Perhaps. But Oren Jacoby, whose 2004 short film Sister Rose's Passion was nominated for an Oscar, told ABC News, "There's been a sea change within the last five to 10 years in terms of the documentary's prominence. With digital distributing and everybody watching everything everywhere, the barriers are down, and people are looking for things they're interested in, and they're as interested in watching a documentary as anything else."

Dick agrees. "I've been making films for 25 years," he said. "And I've seen this change in the last 10 years. People come up to me all the time and tell me, 'Documentaries are my favorite genre.'"

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