When Oscar nominations were announced last week, the Documentary Feature category was among the most surprising; acclaimed docs like Dick Johnson Is Dead, All In, and Boys State were all shut out, in favor of five diverse films, ranging from terrific to a disappointing and ineffective. Here are my reviews of the nominees, in order from best to worst.
Review: The Way I See It (2020)
The Way I See It is aimed at being a bi-partisan film that could appeal to everyone on the political spectrum, from hardcore conservatives to a so-called liberal snowflake like myself. Sure, the subject of the film, former presidential photographer Pete Souza, photographed both Democratic (Obama) and Republican (Regan) presidents, but Souza is himself a staunch liberal and far more time is spent on Souza’s time with Obama than on his time with Regan.
Review: The Cave (2019)
The Cave, like fellow Oscar-nominated documentary, For Sama, is centered on Syrians trying to survive in a war zone. While this one is not autobiographical, it is still impactful, emotional, and harrowing.
Review: For Sama (2019)
For Sama is a tremendous achievement. Filmed and directed by journalist Waad al-Kateab, this powerful, haunting, and real documentary is an intimate look at the female experience of War — in particular, a young mother’s experience in the former bustling town of Aleppo.
Review: American Factory (2019)
The first film released by Michelle and Barack Obama’s new production, American Factory, is well worth watching. I knew next to nothing about this story, which centers on a car glass-making factory that opens up in Ohio, a few years after the GM was shut down — putting many people out of work.
Review: Honeyland (2019)
I was reluctant to watch this documentary about a beekeeper in Macedonia, as I am vegan and I am unable to watch movies (fiction or documentary) that portray individuals using animals in any way. Yet, the woman featured in this movie — an indigenous woman who lives alone in the country with her ailing mother — treats the bees well; in fact, she calls them “my bees” because that’s how much she cares about them.