Entries in Documentary (9)


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.'"

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Oscar-Nominated Film, 'Open Heart,' Set in Africa, Where Children Die for Lack of Antibiotics

Courtesy Kief Davidson(NEW YORK) -- When documentary filmmaker Kief Davidson was looking for crew members to accompany him to Rwanda and Sudan in February 2012, he warned them up front there was a good chance they might see a child die.

Davidson would be following eight children with rheumatic heart disease from Rwanda to a state-of-the-art hospital just outside Khartoum, the capital of Sudan, for high-risk surgery.

Open Heart, which has been nominated for an Academy Award in the short documentary category, features Angelique Tuyishimere, a petite, bright-eyed six-year-old daughter of a Rwandan farmer who spent two years in and out of hospitals, her father falling deeper and deeper into debt paying for food, transportation, treatment, and time away from his crops. Another one of the children is Marie Claver, age 17, sick for close to 10 years, her father never far from her side; she's undergone numerous treatments and by early 2012 she had a hole in her aortic valve.

"We made the film because we were outraged by the situation," Davidson told ABC News. He worked with co-producer Cori Shepherd Stern. "Rheumatic heart disease is such a preventable disease, antibiotics are so cheap, and we wanted to bring attention to it. There's so much attention on AIDS and tuberculosis and malaria [in Africa], but very little on rheumatic heart disease."

Before 1960, it was a leading cause of death for children in the U.S. It begins with strep throat, which can lead to rheumatic fever if untreated, causing permanent damage to the heart valves and muscle. Today, with antibiotics, the disease is rare in children in the West, but according to the World Health Organization, 18 million people in Africa are affected by rheumatic fever or heart disease, two thirds between the ages of 5 and 15.

"I was 100 percent convinced that one of these children was going to die," said Davidson, who has a five-year-old son close to Angelique's age. "I was constantly trying to force myself not to become attached to them."

The film is moving, lingering over the relationships between daughters and fathers -- "They were the ones that were able to go to the hospital with their children, the mothers were home taking care of the other children," said Davidson. When the camera follows Angelique into the operating room, the scene is nothing if not tense. "My God, the heart is coming out of the chest," says Strada. "I don't even know if it makes sense to try a repair."

Yet he does repair it, and Angelique survives, as do the other seven, although Marie needs another operation and cannot return home with the group.

"After the surgery, all of a sudden I started to see their personalities emerge," said Davidson. In one scene at the lunch table, Angelique, who had been very lethargic before the operation, teases her peers and the filmmakers. "Angelique has a great sense of humor. She was always really curious. Everyone forgot about us, or were bored with us. Angelique liked having us around. She turned into an energetic, fun, sweet girl."

Returning home presents its own challenges. Many of the children will be on medication for the rest of their lives, and "local" health care is often hours away. But now, a year later, the children featured in "Open Heart" are doing well, according to Davidson. The two doctors in the film -- Dr. Gino Strada and Dr. Emmanuel Rusingiza  -- will be traveling to Los Angeles for the Academy Awards. And, if passport and visa issues are resolved, so too will Angelique and her dad.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Beyonce Shares Blue Ivy Ultrasound in New Trailer

Jim McIsaac/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Beyonce is getting up close and personal in her new HBO documentary, Beyonce: Life is But a Dream.

In a new 90-second trailer for the documentary, which the singer directed, Beyonce shares a never-before-seen video of her daughter Blue Ivy’s ultrasound.

The trailer also shows intimate shots of Beyonce, 31, on vacation, in her bedroom with no makeup and rehearsing. The film includes “extensive first-person footage, some of it shot by Beyonce on her laptop, in which she reflects on the realities of celebrity, the refuge she finds onstage and the transcendent joy of becoming a mother last year,” according to HBO’s website.

The documentary, for which Beyonce also acted as executive producer, is set to air on HBO Feb. 16.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


"2016": Anti-Obama Film Set to Become Box Office Hit

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(NEW YORK) -- It's rare that a low-budget documentary becomes a genuine blockbuster, but conservative firebrand Dinesh D'Souza's controversial new film, 2016: Obama's America, is one of the hottest tickets at the box office right now.

"I'm overwhelmed," D'Souza said. "This is my first venture into film territory."

The film is now showing in more than 1,000 theaters, and that number is expected to double by Friday, which would put the movie's release on par with a major Hollywood blockbuster. Last weekend, 2016 was already earning more money per screen than The Bourne Legacy and The Expendables 2 -- combined. The film has grossed an estimated $10.5 million to date, according to

D'Souza's controversial screed makes the case that President Obama has a secret un-American agenda. He claims the president is desperate to fulfill the anti-colonial dreams of his late father, a man Obama barely knew, and that he is intentionally trying to diminish America's power abroad. D'Souza makes the case that by 2016, a second Obama term would inexorably lead to an utter collapse of the United States' economy and the rise of a United States of Islam, led by a nuclear-armed Iran.

"I think he would like to see America have a small economy, use less energy, he'd like to see money redistributed away from America, towards the rest of the world," D'Souza told Nightline at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, where delegates have been an especially receptive audience.

In the movie, D'Souza stalks his way through the president's life story, retracing the sojourn Obama took in his bestselling memoir, Dreams From My Father, but with a totally different spin. D'Souza attempts to turn the narrative upon which Obama has built his political career against him.

Many have dismissed the film and the bestselling book upon which it is based, The Roots of Obama's Rage, as conspiracy theory. But D'Souza insists he's being scholarly and fair-minded.

"We hold Obama accountable for what he actually not only wrote, but actually recorded in audio books," D'Souza said.

Traveling through Hawaii, Indonesia and Kenya, D'Souza claims that Obama's every ambition is motivated by an effort to please his radical father, now dead.

"I'm doing Obama the credit of taking him seriously as a thinker and as someone who is a man of ideas," D'Souza told Nightline. "There [are] a lot of people who say about Obama, he's a fool, he's a bungler, he's an amateur. I say no. I say he's not getting results opposite to what he intends. He intends the results he's getting."

D'Souza journeys to Kenya to interview Obama's half-brother George, a man Obama met just twice, several years ago.

"He looks like Obama. He talks like Obama. He has some of Obama's street smartness and native intelligence," D'Souza said.

But George Obama is no left wing radical. To the contrary, he tells D'Souza that colonial imperialism actually helped Kenya's economic development. D'Souza insists the president has turned his back on his brother as a result.

Perhaps surprisingly D'Souza rejects the birther controversy -- stating matter-of-factly that Barack Obama was born in Hawaii. Instead, he pursues a line of argument that many say is even more outlandish and speculative: that the leader of the Free World is some sort of agent of foreign interests.

The filmmaker stops short of calling Obama a Manchurian candidate. "A Manchurian candidate implies that someone else is manipulating him," D'Souza said. "I say he is manipulating them. He is manipulating the whole country that, 'I, Obama, have a different agenda than even most Democrats."

Ironically, the film was produced by a close associate of one of the President's most ardent supporters in Hollywood. Oscar winner Gerry Molen, who also produced Steven Spielberg's Jurassic Park, Minority Report and Schindler's List, produced 2016. Molen said he didn't know what Spielberg thought of his latest project.

"I'm sure he's aware of it like most everybody in the country," he said.

This weekend, 2016 is on track to surpass Al Gore's Inconvenient Truth in total box office revenue, putting it right behind the highest-grossing documentary of all time, Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11.

D'Souza joked he is a little uncomfortable with the comparison.

"To me Michael Moore is a bit like the federal government -- he's big, fat and out of control," he said, laughing. "I'm a little more like the private sector, lean and nimble."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


"Bully" Gets PG-13 Rating Following Edits

Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- After weeks of openly protesting the "R" rating of its documentary Bully, the Weinstein Company announced Thursday that the film has been given a new rating. 

The distributor says the Motion Picture Association of America lowered the film's rating to PG-13 after three uses of the "F" word were removed.  The Weinstein Company stresses that a "crucial" scene in which a teenager is harassed on a bus was not edited.

The PG-13 version of Bully will be released on April 13, when the movie expands to 55 markets.

The Weinstein Company, which previously lost an appeal of the "R" rating, released an unrated version of Bully in New York City and Los Angeles last week.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


"Bully" Documentary to Be Released Without Rating

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Bully, the much-publicized documentary about teen bullying, will be released as an unrated film following an unsuccessful attempt by its distributor to overturn its R rating.

The Motion Picture Association of America gave Bully an R rating due to the use of profanity in the film.  The Weinstein Company lost an appeal of the rating by one vote.

The Weinstein Company has announced the unrated version of Bully will be released this Friday in New York City and Los Angeles.

Despite the announcement, Bully director Lee Hirsch told ABC News Radio that he and the Weinstein Company will continue to fight for a PG-13 rating.

"Bully is a film we would actually like our kids to see and think that is appropriate.  Whereas actually all of the sort of violence in films that are often PG-13 is more offensive to us or troubling or is sending the wrong message to our youth," Hirsch said.

An online petition started by a 17-year-old high school student in Michigan to lower the film's rating has received hundreds of thousands of signatures.  In addition, the documentary has received the support of celebrities including Meryl Streep and Johnny Depp.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Report: Conrad Murray Filming and Shopping Documentary

David McNew-Pool/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Conrad Murray is still in the midst of an involuntary manslaughter trial in the death of Michael Jackson, but that reportedly hasn’t stopped the doctor from quietly filming a documentary that’s being offered to major TV networks, the New York Post reports.

Sources tell the newspaper Murray has sold the rights “to his story” to an unidentified production company that has been filming him as the trial progresses.  The source says the company is now shopping the documentary around to various TV networks for $1 million as part of a package deal that would also include a video diary and a sit-down interview with Murray.  It’s not known how much money Murray would get from any deal.

The source tells the Post, “A news division that pays for the documentary will end up with a side deal of getting the sit-down with Conrad.  It’s crafted in such a way for a news division that doesn’t pay for interviews.”

The report says the production company has already filmed a long interview with Murray in case he is found guilty and taken immediately into custody.

The Post says a CNN rep confirmed they were pitched the Murray package but passed on it.  Other sources tell the newspaper NBC is close to making a deal.  A spokesman for Murray's legal team declined to comment on the story.

Murray faces up to four years in prison if found guilty of giving Jackson a fatal dose of the powerful anesthetic propofol prior to the singer's death in 2009.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


HBO Documentary 'Citizen U.S.A.' Airs Monday Night

John Foxx/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- HBO salutes America on its birthday with a documentary that tells the stories of people who've recently become U.S. citizens.

In Citizen U.S.A.: A 50 State Road Trip, filmmaker Alexandra Pelosi, daughter of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, attends naturalization ceremonies in all 50 states and speaks with newly minted citizens regarding their American dreams.  The documentary features appearances by former Secretaries of State Madeleine Albright and Henry Kissinger, and KISS rocker Gene Simmons.

The documentary airs Monday, July 4 at 9:00 p.m. Eastern time.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Justin Bieber's Documentary Now Third-Highest-Grossing of All Time

Paramount Pictures (NEW YORK) -- Justin Bieber's movie, Never Say Never, is now officially the third-highest grossing documentary in film history, according to Box Office Mojo.

Never Say Never has so far grossed $64,162,036, earning it the number three spot, and is hot on the tail of the number two documentary of all time, March of the Penguins, which earned over $77 million.  Most pundits feel it's unlikely that it will grab the number one spot that's currently held by Fahrenheit 9/11, which earned $119 million, but to quote Bieber, never say never.  His 3-D flick has already cruised by other heavyweight documentaries including Bowling for Columbine, Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, and Earth.

On another note, there has also been talk that Never Say Never could earn an Oscar nod as best documentary.  Sources tell The Hollywood Reporter that that possibility was a topic of discussion at some post-Oscar parties -- it caught the attention of some Academy members due to its impressive track record.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio