Christopher Campbell is the managing editor of Nonfics and a freelance writer and editor for Film School Rejects, Movies.com, Fandango, RogerEbert.com and Moviefone. In the past he has contributed to Indiewire, MTV News, Movieline, Fandango, Spout, Documentary Magazine, Cinematical, Screen Crush, Pajiba, First Showing and The Documentary Channel Blog. He began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. Since then he has received a Master's degree in Cinema Studies from NYU, where he concentrated on nonfiction film.
For maybe the first time ever there's controversy brewing over docs double dipping as contenders for both the Oscars and the Emmys, thanks to 'The Square' being up for the latter mainly because Netflix is now considered a TV channel.
The latest HBO documentary from Kate Davis (director of 'Southern Comfort' and 'Jockey') and David Heilbroner (who with Davis helmed 'Stonewall Uprising' and 'The Cheshire Murders'), this film about a 2009 case of terrorism or entrapment -- depending on what you believe -- is perfect living room viewing material. It's not a cinematic work, but it's not playing in theaters and anyway it's about sparking discussion more than presenting interesting visuals.
Michael Lee Nirenberg makes his feature debut with a documentary about the magazine where his father worked for many years. The film covers some of the same ground as the 1995 dramatic movie 'The People vs. Larry Flynt,' but now after nearly two decades there's a doc option offering more genuine accounts of Larry Flynt, 'Hustler' magazine and the controversies within and without.
There are a few former Oscar nominees now up for Emmy Awards in news and documentary categories. Other favorites among those recognized include 'The Imposter,' 'Special Flight' and 'Planet Money Makes a T-Shirt.'
Two recent films, 'Supermensch' and 'Code Black,' feature talking-head interviews with their own directors. Other decent docs have gotten away with it in the past, including Banksy's 'Exit Through the Gift Shop.' But there's something really off about the practice, especially when it's clearly just a matter of self-indulgence.
Last week, the New York Times posted Brian Knappenberger's new Op-Doc on net neutrality, 'A Threat to Internet Freedom.' Because he is one of our greatest assets as far as documentaries about the net go, we thought it appropriate to list the best of these films, two of which are of course his. None of these docs were made prior to 2001, and only a couple really deal with anything from before this century, but the further we get in time with the Internet, the more complex it becomes. And, simultaneously, the better documentaries get as a whole.
'The Square,' which was previously nominated for an Oscar, received four nominations, while the miniseries 'Cosmos' received a whopping 13 nominations. Other nonfiction nominees include 'Life According to Sam' and 'The Amazing Race.'
The latest controversy over the Documentary Feature category of the Academy Awards is that smaller films are being shut out even more than before. But never mind qualifying, do these films even have the quality to be worthy of honors in the first place? We urge doc-makers to give up on the Oscar fight and just do great work.
Another title for this multi-fest audience award winner (including SXSW and Camden) could be "The Young Girl and the Sea." It's a documentary about Laura Dekker, who holds the record for youngest person to sail solo around the word, and simultaneously chronicles that voyage over water and the personal journey through one of the most confusing times in a person's life. We think it's an absolute treasure and yet another entry into the recent crop of excellent nonfiction teen movies.