Thanks to on-demand video and streaming, I’ve been able to see all five of the Oscar-nominated feature documentaries. I’m a fan of documentaries, but had these films not been nominated, I might not have sought them out. The one documentary that I felt should have been nominated but wasn’t was the film A Thousand Cuts, about a journalist’s efforts to expose Duterte’s human rights violations.
Here are the five nominated films:
Collective – A story about corruption and dysfunction with the healthcare system in Romania. After a nightclub fire kills 27 and injures hundreds more, preventable deaths of some of the survivors expose numerous problems with Romania’s healthcare system. Politics, graft, corruption, and outright fraud are exposed by a team of journalists. The real power of the story takes hold when a new health minister is appointed and he is forced to grapple with a broken system that has been in place for decades. This film had English language subtitles. I watched this on-demand from my cable provider.
The Mole Agent – When the daughter of a nursing home resident believes that items are being stolen from her mother, she enlists the help of a firm to expose potential elder abuse. That firm hires an eighty-year-old man to live in the nursing home for three months to see what he can uncover. What he finds is a nursing home that has some forty women residents and just four male residents. The eighty-year-old spy soon finds himself having to fend off amorous old ladies. The film is a humorous and also sad look at life in a nursing home. This film also has English subtitles. I caught this one on Amazon Prime.
Time – This film looks at the impact of a long prison sentence on one particular family. My feeling after watching this documentary was that it was a story that involved a long string of very bad decisions. The first bad decision was getting married at a young age. It goes downhill from there. One bad decision leads to the next: starting a family at a young age, starting a business destined to fail, deciding that the solution to all of their problems was to rob a bank, bad legal advice that led to one parent not accepting a plea deal that would have had him serve less than twelve years instead of the sixty-year sentence he received, agreeing to pay another lawyer $15,000 that resulted in that lawyer writing a letter saying that there was nothing he could do. There’s a lot going on here: the depressing life of being incarcerated, the impact on the wife and children forced to move on without a husband and father, sentencing disparities. If there is a message to take from this documentary, it is to not repeat the same mistakes. Another film covering a similar topic is the film Forty Years a Prisoner.
Crip Camp – A summer camp in the seventies for kids with disabilities. Former campers look back on their time bonding with staff and fellow campers. Catch this one on Netflix.
My Octopus Teacher – A diver forms a relationship with an octopus. Now here is a film that I can guarantee you I would not have sought out unless I was totally desperate for something to watch. Instead, I discovered a film that changed my view of other living beings. This film is so unusual that it commands your attention. It is beautifully filmed, emotionally narrated, and has a great soundtrack. Who knew that an octopus could be so intelligent? This documentary is available on Netflix.
My pick for best documentary (so far I’m about 0 for 10) is My Octopus Teacher.