'Apollo 11' Named the Best Documentary of the Year

The Critics Choice Association recognized the Moon-landing film with five awards while also honoring Peter Jackson, Bruce Springsteen, Frederick Wiseman, and more.

Apollo 11

Out of 15 competitive categories, Apollo 11 won a third of the awards at the 4th annual Critics’ Choice Documentary Awards on Sunday night. The film took the top prize and was named the Best Documentary Feature of 2019 by voting members of the Critics Choice Association (formerly the Broadcast Film Critics Association). Filmmaker Todd Douglas Miller also received the award for Best Editing and accepted for Best Archival Documentary and Best Science/Nature Documentary. Composer Matt Morton won for the Apollo 11 score.

All in all, Neon was the biggest winner of the night thanks to the five wins for Apollo 11 as well as for John Chester winning Best Cinematography for his film The Biggest Little Farm and filmmakers Tamara Kotevska and Ljubomir Stefanov winning Best First Documentary Feature with Honeyland. Warner Bros. also did very well. The studio was recognized with Bruce Springsteen winning for Best Narration with Western Stars and Peter Jackson tying in the Best Director category for They Shall Not Grow Old, which also won Most Innovative Documentary.

Netflix had a decent showing in three categories: Best Director and Best Political Documentary went to American Factory (Julia Reichert and Steven Bognar tying with Jackson in the former category) and Best Short Documentary went to Period. End of Sentence, which previously won the Oscar this year. The rest of the winners included Maiden (Best Sports Documentary), Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am (Best Biographical Documentary) and Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice (Best Music Documentary).

A lot of films and distributors went home empty-handed (I’m shocked Sea of Shadows didn’t come away with something), but the ceremony was more of a wide celebration of all of this year’s nominees and documentary cinema in general than it has been in the CCDAs short life.

That seemed to be in part thanks to the show honoring such monuments of the form as Frederick Wiseman, who received the first DA Pennebaker Award for Lifetime Achievement and was also thanked by many filmmakers accepting their awards. And of course, the late Pennebaker himself was recognized through the renaming of the special award. Michael Apted, who was given the first Critics Choice Landmark Award for his 55-year-old project the Up series, was also a highlight as he was humbly presented the honor by Michael Moore.

This year’s event was also my introduction as the President of the CCA Documentary Branch, and it was an incredible personal honor being able to participate in the celebration of this year’s amazing documentaries and the continued opportunity to showcase the vast scope of nonfiction cinema today.

Here are all the winners of the night:

Best Documentary Feature – Apollo 11 (Neon)

Best Director – TIE – Peter Jackson – They Shall Not Grow Old (Warner Bros.)

Best Director – TIE – Julia Reichert and Steven Bognar – American Factory (Netflix)

Best Cinematography – John Chester – The Biggest Little Farm (Neon)

Best Editing – Todd Douglas Miller – Apollo 11 (Neon)

Best Score – Matt Morton – Apollo 11 (Neon)

Best Narration – Bruce Springsteen – Western Stars (Warner Bros.)

Best First Documentary Feature – Tamara Kotevska and Ljubomir Stefanov – Honeyland (Neon)

Best Archival Documentary – Apollo 11 (Neon)

Best Biographical Documentary – Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am (Magnolia)

Best Music Documentary – Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice (Greenwich)

Best Political Documentary – American Factory (Netflix)

Best Science/Nature Documentary – Apollo 11 (Neon)

Best Sports Documentary – Maiden (Sony Pictures Classics)

Most Innovative Documentary – They Shall Not Grow Old (Warner Bros.)

Best Short Documentary – Period. End of Sentence (Netflix)

Discretionary Awards:

The D A Pennebaker Award – Frederick Wiseman

The Landmark Award – Michael Apted

(Editor in Chief)

Christopher Campbell is the founding editor of Nonfics.