As with the foreign language film nominees for the Academy Awards that I previewed yesterday, the selections for Best Documentary Film reflect the excellence of filmmaking outside the limited scope of mainstream Hollywood features. Documentary films, especially over the past decade, have also continued to probe highly controversial and often political subject matter, pushing the possibilities for wider social action. I was especially thrilled to see Waste Land nominated in this category, a film that was among my top picks from the Vancouver International Film Festival and a film that I highlighted and reviewed for its close connections to contemporary artist Vik Muniz. When director Lucy Walker appeared in Vancouver during VIFF to promote the film, I was especially captivated with her discussion of how much Waste Land had shifted the public perception within Brazil of homelessness, class divisions, and the very real concerns about the country’s giant landfills in the short time since it had been screened. I continue to believe that documentary films are to our generation what large scale history paintings were to many nineteenth century audiences—representations to help bring into discourse the most pressing social and political concerns of the moment.
WASTE LAND: The film documents two years of work of Brazilian contemporary modern artist Vik Muniz in creating art with the cooperation of garbage pickers working at Jardim Gramacho, one of the world's largest landfills, serving the metropolis of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. Official Website | New York Times Review
EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP: A film directed by Banksy, Exit Through the Gift Shop tells the story of Thierry Guetta, a French immigrant in Los Angeles, and his obsession with street art. Official Website | Guardian Review
GASLAND: The film focuses on communities in the United States impacted by natural gas drilling and, specifically, a stimulation method known as hydraulic fracturing. Official Website | Globe and Mail Review
INSIDE JOB: the subject of Inside Job is the global financial crisis of 2008. It features research and extensive interviews with financial insiders, politicians, journalists, and academics. Official Website | New York Times Review
RESTREPO: The film follows the deployment of the 2nd Platoon of Battle Company on a fifteen month deployment in the Korengal Valley of northeast Afghanistan. It chronicles the lives of the men from their deployment to the time of their return back home. Official Website | New York Times Review