Critics’ Choice Documentary Awards Nominations: ‘Mr. Soul’, ‘Gunda’, ‘Crip Camp’ And ‘Totally Under Control’ Top List

Pete Hammond
·7-min read

In what is signaling a very good year for documentaries, the Critics’ Choice Association on Monday announced its list of nominations for the fifth annual Critics’ Choice Documentary Awards, and if the past is any clue it could be an indicator of what to expect from the Oscars next spring.

With an inclusive list, to say the least, of about 50 films from approximately 200 submissions, three docs led the way with five noms apiece: Mr. Soul, about a historic Black TV show; Gunda, a touching film about the daily life of a pig and farm companions from exec producer Joaquin Phoenix; and Netflix’s Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution, an archival film about a summer camp catering to disabled young people.

Close behind with four nods each were Alex Gibney’s striking COVID-19 docu Totally Under Control that was actually just completed about two weeks ago (additionally, it received a Most Compelling Living Subject mention for Dr. Rick Bright); the personal story of a father and daugher, Dick Johnson Is Dead; the remarkable nature doc My Octopus Teacher; and gymnastics scandal pic Athlete A. The latter three hail from Netflix, which swamped the competition with 31 nominations, a more than 2-to-1 distance between next closest distributor Neon with 14. They are the only two distributors to reach double digits.

Overall the critics were in a generous mood, offering 15 films noms for Best Documentary Feature alone.

“At a unique time for the entertainment industry and the world, documentaries are more important and fortunately more abundant and more available and more essential than ever,” said Christopher Campbell, president of the documentary branch of CCA. “In 2020, documentaries have taken us to places and shown us perspectives we’ve never experienced before. They’ve chronicled events and life stories that are enlightening and enthralling — and sometimes frightening. It is a great honor for the CCA to celebrate these stories and subjects and shed light on the work of so many incredible filmmakers. The Documentary Branch faced its greatest task yet considering the quantity and quality of nonfiction cinema released this year. Ultimately, these nominees represent the best of the best of a remarkably fruitful moment for documentary filmmaking.”

Nominees were selected by Critics’ Choice members who were divided into five committees to whittle down the field. (Full Disclosure: I am a member and voted on Best Political, Historical/Biographical, and Archival docu nominees. Due to the ongoing pandemicc, winners will not be announced at a ceremony as in the past, but rather by a special announcement November 16.

Here are the nominees:

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

Athlete A (Netflix)

Belushi (Showtime)

Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution (Netflix)

Dick Johnson is Dead (Netflix)

Feels Good Man (Wavelength Productions/PBS Independent Lens)

The Fight (Magnolia Pictures)

The Go-Go’s (Showtime)

Gunda (Neon)

Mr. SOUL! (Shoes in the Bed Productions)

My Octopus Teacher (Netflix)

The Painter and the Thief (Neon)

A Secret Love (Netflix)

The Social Dilemma (Netflix)

Time (Amazon Studios)

BEST DIRECTOR

Garrett Bradley, Time (Amazon Studios)

Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk, Athlete A (Netflix)

Kirsten Johnson, Dick Johnson is Dead (Netflix)

Victor Kossakovsky, Gunda (Neon)

James Lebrecht and Nicole Newnham, Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution (Netflix)

Dawn Porter, John Lewis: Good Trouble (Magnolia Pictures)

Benjamin Ree, The Painter and the Thief (Neon)

BEST FIRST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

Robert S. Bader, Ali & Cavett: The Tale of the Tapes (HBO)

Chris Bolan, A Secret Love (Netflix)

Melissa Haizlip, Mr. SOUL! (Shoes in the Bed Productions)

Arthur Jones, Feels Good Man (Wavelength Productions/PBS Independent Lens)

Elizabeth Leiter and Kim Woodard, Jane Goodall: The Hope (National Geographic)

Elizabeth Lo, Stray (Magnolia Pictures)

Sasha Joseph Neulinger, Rewind (Grizzly Creek Films/PBS Independent Lens)

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

Michael Dweck and Gregory Kershaw, The Truffle Hunters (Sony Pictures Classics)

Roger Horrocks, My Octopus Teacher (Netflix)

Kirsten Johnson, Dick Johnson is Dead (Netflix)

Victor Kossakovsky and Egil Håskjold Larsen, Gunda (Neon)

Scott Ressler, Neil Gelinas and Stefan Wiesen, The Last Ice (National Geographic)

Gianfranco Rosi, Notturno (Stemal Entertainment)

Ruben Woodin Dechamps, The Reason I Jump (Kino Lorber)

BEST EDITING

Don Bernier, Athlete A (Netflix)

Eli Despres, Greg Finton and Kim Roberts, The Fight (Magnolia Pictures)

Lindy Jankura and Alex Keipper, Totally Under Control (Neon)

Helen Kearns, Assassins (Greenwich Entertainment)

Victor Kossakovsky and Ainara Vera, Gunda (Neon)

Eileen Meyer and Andrew Gersh, Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution (Netflix)

Charlotte Munch Bengtsen, The Truffle Hunters (Sony Pictures Classics)

BEST SCORE

Ari Balouzian and Ryan Hope, Feels Good Man (Wavelength Productions/PBS Independent Lens)

Marco Beltrami, Brandon Roberts and Buck Sanders, The Way I See It (Focus Features)

Tyler Durham, Sven Faulconer and Xander Rodzinski, The Last Ice (National Geographic)

Peter Nashel and Brian Deming, Totally Under Control (Neon)

Daniel Pemberton, Rising Phoenix (Netflix)

Jeff Tweedy, Long Gone Summer (ESPN)

Jeff Tweedy, Spencer Tweedy and Sammy Tweedy, Showbiz Kids (HBO)

BEST NARRATION

David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet (Netflix)
David Attenborough, Narrator
David Attenborough, Writer

Dick Johnson is Dead (Netflix)
Kirsten Johnson, Narrator
Kirsten Johnson, Writer

Fireball: Visitors From Darker Worlds (Apple)
Werner Herzog, Narrator
Werner Herzog, Writer

Mr. SOUL! (Shoes in the Bed Productions)
Blair Underwood, Narrator
Melissa Haizlip, Writer

My Octopus Teacher (Netflix)
Craig Foster, Narrator
Craig Foster, Writer

Time (Amazon Studios)
Fox Rich, Narrator
Fox Rich, Writer

Totally Under Control (Neon)
Alex Gibney, Narrator
Alex Gibney, Writer

BEST ARCHIVAL DOCUMENTARY

Ali & Cavett: The Tale of the Tapes (HBO)

Belushi (Showtime)

Class Action Park (HBO Max)

Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution (Netflix)

MLK/FBI (Field of Vision/IFC Films)

Mr. SOUL! (Shoes in the Bed Productions)

Spaceship Earth (Neon)

BEST HISTORICAL/BIOGRAPHICAL DOCUMENTARY

Belushi (Showtime)

Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution (Netflix)

Howard (Disney+)

John Lewis: Good Trouble (Magnolia Pictures)

Mr. SOUL! (Shoes in the Bed Production)

Mucho Mucho Amor: The Legend of Walter Mercado (Netflix)

Natalie Wood: What Remains Behind (HBO)

BEST MUSIC DOCUMENTARY

Beastie Boys Story (Apple)

Crock of Gold: A Few Rounds with Shane MacGowan (Magnolia Pictures)

The Go-Go’s (Showtime)

Laurel Canyon (Epix)

Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and The Band (Magnolia Pictures)

Other Music (Factory 25)

Zappa (Magnolia Pictures)

BEST POLITICAL DOCUMENTARY

All In: The Fight for Democracy (Amazon Studios)

Boys State (Apple)

John Lewis: Good Trouble (Magnolia Pictures)

MLK/FBI (Field of Vision/IFC Films)

The Social Dilemma (Netflix)

Totally Under Control (Neon)

The Way I See It (Focus Features)

BEST SCIENCE/NATURE DOCUMENTARY

Coded Bias (7th Empire Media/PBS Independent Lens)

Fantastic Fungi (Moving Art)

Gunda (Neon)

I Am Greta (Hulu)

The Last Ice (National Geographic)

My Octopus Teacher (Netflix)

Spaceship Earth (Neon)

BEST SPORTS DOCUMENTARY

Ali & Cavett: The Tale of the Tapes (HBO)

Athlete A (Netflix)

Be Water (ESPN)

A Most Beautiful Thing (50 Eggs Films)

Red Penguins (Universal Pictures)

Rising Phoenix (Netflix)

You Cannot Kill David Arquette (Super LTD)

BEST SHORT DOCUMENTARY

Blackfeet Boxing: Not Invisible (ESPN)
(Directors: Kristen Lappas and Tom Rinaldi. Producers: Craig Lazarus, José Morales, Lindsay Rovegno, Victor Vitarelli and Ben Webber)

The Claudia Kishi Club (Netflix)
(Director and Producer: Sue Ding)

Crescendo! (Quibi)
(Director: Alex Mallis. Producers: Matt O’Neill and Perri Peltz)

Elevator Pitch (Field of Vision)
(Director and Producer: Martyna Starosta)

Hunger Ward (Spin Film/Vulcan Productions/RYOT Films)
(Director and Producer: Skye Fitzgerald. Producer: Michael Scheuerman)

Into the Fire (National Geographic)
(Director: Orlando von Einsiedel. Producers: Mark Bauch, Harri Grace and Dan Lin)

My Father the Mover (MTV Documentary Films)
(Director: Julia Jansch. Producer: Mandilakhe Yengo)

The Rifleman (Field of Vision)
(Director: Sierra Pettengill. Producer: Arielle de Saint Phalle)

The Speed Cubers (Netflix)
(Director and Producer: Sue Kim. Producers: Evan Krauss and Chris Romano)

St. Louis Superman (MTV Documentary Films)
(Directors and Producers: Sami Khan and Smriti Mundhra. Producer: Poh Si Teng)

MOST COMPELLING LIVING SUBJECTS OF A DOCUMENTARY (HONOR)

Dr. Rick Bright – Totally Under Control (Neon)

Steven Garza – Boys State (Apple)

The Go-Go’s – The Go-Go’s (Showtime)

Judith Heumann – Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution (Netflix)

Dick Johnson – Dick Johnson is Dead (Netflix)

Maggie Nichols, Rachael Denhollander, Jamie Dantzscher – Athlete A (Netflix)

Fox Rich – Time (Amazon)

Pete Souza – The Way I See It (Focus Features)

Taylor Swift – Miss Americana (Netflix)

Greta Thunberg – I Am Greta (Hulu)

DISTRIBUTOR NOMINATIONS

Netflix: 31

Neon: 14

Magnolia Pictures: 9

Showtime: 6

Amazon Studios: 5

HBO: 5

National Geographic: 5

PBS Independent Lens: 5

Shoes in the Bed Productions: 5

Apple: 4

ESPN: 3

Focus Features: 3

Wavelength Productions: 3

Field of Vision: 2

Hulu: 2

IFC: 2

MTV Documentary Films: 2

Sony: 2

7th Empire Media: 1

50 Eggs Films: 1

Disney+: 1

Epix: 1

Factory 25: 1

Greenwich Entertainment: 1

Grizzly Creek Films: 1

HBO Max: 1

Kino Lorber: 1

Moving Art: 1

Quibi: 1

Spin Film/Vulcan Productions/RYOT Films: 1

Stemal Entertainment: 1

Super LTD: 1

Universal: 1

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