Dave Itzkoff has a piece up at The New York Times today detailing new rules for the Best Documentary Oscar. Apparently members have too many (eighty, to be specific) damn films to watch. Steve James, director of Hoop Dreams and The Interrupters weighs in:
“Should it be about the way in which the public engages a documentary — films that they have seen at the theater, that have been hits on the festival circuit, that are going to have the best chance?” he asked. Or, he said, should it “throw open the doors to every single film that can wrangle a date in L.A. and New York?”
“You can’t have it both ways,” Mr. James said.
The truth is that documentary cinema has simply outgrown a single award. Moreover, the rules that govern what makes a great doc are very different from what makes a great narrative fiction film. For example, the new rule, per Itzkoff, is in part intended to “to weed out films that were made for television…” Why not cast an even wider net with more awards, or a second awards show? Or perhaps allow other voters to consider documentaries in other categories, like editing or, dare I say it, Best Picture.