There were some very unexpected moments at the 94th Academy Awards, but the winners in the two documentary categories were not among them. While not quite sure things, frontrunners Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised) and The Queen of Basketball were named Best Documentary Feature and Best Documentary Short Subject, respectively.
Both films were previously winners at the Critics Choice Documentary Awards last fall, among their other accolades. This was hardly a sign of their Oscar glory, however. This was actually the first year the Best Documentary Feature winner at the CCDAs was nominated by the Academy. Let alone was the winner. And the CCDAs have only matched the Oscars in a reverse manner before this with the short category, awarding the same doc after the Academy had.
The Queen of Basketball is by Canadian filmmaker Ben Proudfoot, who was previously nominated in the same category last year for A Concerto is a Conversation, which he co-directed with Kris Bowers. Summer of Soul (which was also named the Best Documentary of 2021 in our annual poll) is the debut feature by drummer and bandleader Questlove (a.k.a. Ahmir Thompson). That’s right, he won an Academy Award with his first try at feature filmmaking.
Sadly, Flee went home empty handed after its historical nominations in three categories — tying the record for a documentary at the Oscars. The animated Danish film was the only doc to receive nominations outside of two categories reserved for nonfiction works. Flee lost to Encanto in the Best Animated Feature category, and it lost to Drive My Car in the Best International Feature category.
But there were some other notable winners tied to documentaries. Jessica Chastain was named Best Actress for her portrayal of the titular woman in The Eyes of Tammy Faye, which is a dramatic remake of the 2000 documentary of the same name. The film also won the Oscar for Best Makeup and Hairstyling. Meanwhile, the Best Actor-winning biopic King Richard also has ties to docs, such as Venus and Serena.
Also, Billie Eilish and Finneas won the Oscar for Best Original Song for their titular theme for the James Bond flick No Time to Die. They can be seen writing the tune while on tour in the Oscar-shortlisted doc Billie Eilish: The World’s a Little Blurry.
Outside of the main ceremony, at the Academy’s Governor’s Awards, Danny Glover, who has produced many documentaries in his career, received the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award “for [his] decades-long advocacy for justice and human rights reflects his dedication to recognizing our shared humanity on and off the screen.”