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Live Review: 84th Academy Awards Celebrates 2011 Documentary Nominees

Documentary lovers gathered at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills on Wednesday to celebrate the Academy Award 2011 Documentary nominees for feature and short subjects. Michael Moore, know for Bowling for Columbine and Fahrenheit 9/11, hosted the panel after each screening. Directors and producers discussed their creative process, goals and even the hardships faced when dealing with their topics. The documentary clips evoked a wide array of emotion including feelings of sadness, laughter, fear and even utter disgust.

Excerpts from Documentary Short Subjects: 

The first film we saw was The Barber of Birmingham: Foot Soldier of the Civil Rights Movement, by Robin Fryday (director-producer) and Gail Dolgin (director-producer). We watched the story of 85-year-old Mr. Armstrong reflect on history and the possibility of Barack Obama becoming president. During the panel, we learned how Mr. Armstrong became the focus and learned a bit about his history in Alabama. We also learned that Dolgin passed away of Breast Cancer and how the film was important to her.

During God Is the Bigger Elvis, by Rebecca Cammisa (director-producer) and Julie Anderson (producer), we were intrigued when we watched former actress Dolores Hart speak about what it was like to co-star in a movie with Elvis, then leave Hollywood to become a Benedictine nun. Anderson and Cammisa discussed how they found Hart, the types of interview questions they asked her surrounding abortion, sex and stated that she very modern although she was a nun.

The next film was shocking, informative and enlightened us about the rampant acid attacks in India. On screen, we gasped and sympathized when we saw female Pakistani burn victims inflicted by their angry husbands in Saving Face, by Daniel Junge (director-producer) and Sharmen Obaid-Chinoy (director-producer).

The next film took us on an emotional roller coaster where we fought back tears while watching The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom. Tsunami victims recalled the horror of seeing loved ones die right in front of their very eyes. They had to cope with the idea of relatives who've gone missing. Watching the wreckage was heart-wrenching. During hte panel, Lucy Walker (director-producer) and Kira Carstensen (producer) discussed the adventure of capturing the story and deciding to make the documentary on a whim. Walker and Carstensen shared what it was like facing radiation in Japan, dealing with 7.0 aftershocks, surviving without basic amenities and interviewing victims.

Incident in New Baghdad, by James Spione (director-producer), gave us a bitter taste of what it was like in the middle of the Iraq War, witnessing children injured only to find it was at the hands of the American army. We cringed at the gruesome descriptions of how badly kids were hurt and how the soldier reflected on the incidents and thought about his own children of the same age. During the panel, Spione discussed the Wiki Leaks and how it played a part in making the film.

Documentary Feature directors and producers

Excerpts from Documentary Features: 

In Hell and Back Again, we were concerned when we watched a war veteran suffering from post traumatic stress disorder, contemplating suicide and pointing a gun at his girlfriend. 

During Undefeated, we were rooting for an inner-city coach who went above and beyond his job description. TJ Martin directed along with Dan Lindsay (director-producer) and Rich Middemas (producer).

In Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory, we learned about a Damien Nichols who's been in prison for 18 years and discusses how his life stopped the minute he stepped into the confinement. We watched as Nichols described the changes he's noticed while living in prison, including getting older. During the panel, Joe Berlinger (director-producer) and Bruce Sinofsky (director) told the audience that because of their films, three individuals have been released from prison after evidence emerged and one of the freed inmates will attend the Oscar Awards show.

The next film definitely got a reaction from the crowd. When If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front was shown, the entire theater gasped as police officers in Oregon pepper sprayed peaceful protesters. The documentary follows former environmentalist Daniel McGowan. Marshall Curry (director-producer) and Bruce Sinofsky (director) discussed the film and the craziness of the era during the panel.

The last film we saw was a clip from Pina, a 3D documentary surrounding the beauty of interpretive dance by Pina Bausch. Wim Wenders and Gian-Piero Ringle produced and directed the film. We learned why the film was created and how the art of dance was a language that Wenders did not understand, therefore he felt the need to make the film to share the beauty with viewers of his documentary.

During the panel, the audience was told that "there's something about sitting in a dark theater alongside strangers watching films that garner emotion," Moore said. "People are social creatures." Theaters will never go away as long as long as people want to get out of their homes," Moore continued.

We hope he's right.
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About the Author

Formerly an editor at Demand Media, writer at Citysearch, The Examiner, LA Youth Newspaper and proofreader at The Los Angeles Daily News, Christy Buena decided to start Disarray Magazine because she missed writing what she wanted. From hiring writers, to contacting publicists and making assignments, Christy is responsible for the editorial strategy of Disarray Magazine. Get to know the team of talented contributors.
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