The Oscar’s Documentary Short List Unveiled

The 15 Documentary features considered for an Oscar nomination have been revealed, and I thought I would make my own list of favourites contenders for the Oscar Race.

So here are my TOP 5 from the list, in no particular order:

1. Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief

Based on Laurence Wright’s Pulitzer prize winner book by the same name, Alex Gibney’s new film sucks you into the world of Scientology and leaves you with a creepy mixture of outrage and sadness you can’t ignore. It’s a chilling watch, with a clearly stated objective: how to stop the worrying rise of scientology and perhaps more importantly, how to discourage people from praising the “divine” or “alien” authorities that chains them.

The HBO doc is structured in 3 acts : 1. High profile former Church members describe how and why they joined. 2. You are taken on a historical journey to the beginnings of Scientology through the creepy portrait of its founder, average sci-fi writer L Ron Hubbard. 3. The two acts converge to show how the church cultivates and controls true believers, detailing the morally questionable things followers have done to preserve the church.

Now, a rational mind can draw similarities between the cult following Scientology conveys and those we see in more ancient religions. Fair. But the freak factor here is that believers are enrolled without knowledge of what they should believe in. That part is withheld by the Church to keep you spending money and time in the institution until you are ready for the truth. Yes a Must Watch.

In one phrase: WTF!
Watch it here

2. Cartel Land

Director Matthew Heineman’s on the ground look of the Mexican drug war deserves a watch. The film takes place on both sides of the American Mexican border and focuses on two men Tim Foley in the US and Dr Jose Mireles in Mexico who both lead “vigilante” or self-defense militias against the drug cartels.

The film is shot like a thriller and feels like an immersion into the real Breaking Bad at times. The camera work and access he gets are also applaudable, no doubt. But the best part of it, is that this is not a Good guys vs Bad guys type of scenarios. Some vigilante fighters are also involved with the cartels, it turns out, Foley and Mireles have their own questionable traits, and the government, yes, where is the government in this blood-soaked anarchy?

In one phrase: How the hell did he get access to these guys?
Watch it here

3. Winter on Fire : Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom

Russian Israeli filmmaker Evgeny Afineevky led a crew of about a dozen cameramen to capture the popular uprising against Russian backed Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych in Kiev’s Maidan square in the winter of 2013-2014.

The story is told through the eyes of the protesters and chronicles the evolution of the revolt from a peaceful to a violent march against the regime which led to the death of 125 Ukrainians and many more wounded in Kiev alone. The footage is amazing, and the testimonies of the protesters are heartbreaking. But it feels like the whole thing has been packaged to please a Western audience. The Pro-Russian vs. Pro-European divide amongst Ukrainians is completely dismissed leaving the viewer with a one-sided argument to the story that doesn’t help us understand the full picture. Worth a watch.

In one phrase: Take out the snow and this reminds me of Tahrir square.

4. Best of Enemies

Best of Enemies is a behind-the-scenes account of the explosive 1968 televised debates between liberal Gore Vidal and conservative William F. Buckley Jr., and their rancorous disagreements about politics, God and sex. Need I say more? A trip back down the 60’s lane, is always delightful to me, I love the esthetics the political incorrectness and the taste of change that era injected on generations to come. But if you have no care for the sixties, learning about the moment that changed television and politics in the US should be enough to convince you to watch it.

In one phrase: Wit, wit, and more wit!
Watch it Here

5. We Come as Friends

I haven’t seen it but I want to see it so perhaps better if I turn you to Read Kenneth Thuran’s review for the LA times here.

In one phrase: Do we ever learn?
Watch it here

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