The European Film Awards are really spreading out their nominations announcement this year — a couple of weeks ago, we got the nominees for Best Animated Feature, last week brought the winners in the technical categories, and today we have the final three films in the running for Best Documentary Feature. On Saturday, nominees in all remaining categories will be revealed; I guess this is their way of shining an individual spotlight on less covered races.
The EFA nominees for Best Documentary are:
“The Act of Killing” (Joshua Oppenheimer)
“The Missing Picture” (Rithy Panh)
“Stop-Over” (Kaveh Baktiari)
It’s a short list, but an interesting one. Two of the three — “The Act of Killing” and “The Missing Picture” — are among the 151 films vying for Academy Award consideration in the same category. The former, of course, remains one of the year’s buzziest docs: Oppenheimer’s one-of-a-kind experiment, addressing Indonesia’s legacy of violence by way of horrifying re-enactment, has a grabby, auspicious aura about it. It’s a very fine film, but that isn’t the sole source of its fascination.
I’m guessing it will win here, and at many other ceremonies this season besides — but will the Academy respond? It may be quite strong medicine for them, and this branch has a mixed track record of recognizing formally adventurous docs. It’s one of several unique efforts in the race that critics will no doubt push hard, so this could go either way at this point.
You might remember that “The Act of Killing” was at one point shortlisted as Denmark’s submission for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar; it wasn’t selected, but one film currently stands a chance of being nominated in both the foreign-language and documentary categories. It’s Cambodia that submitted “The Missing Picture” for the former; as a French co-production it gets to compete for the EFAs. Like “The Act of Killing,” albeit in a very different way, Panh’s highly personal film uses stylized measures — in this case, roughly finished clay puppetry — to illustrate a country’s darkest political history, and the director’s own first-hand experience thereof. Winner of the Un Certain Regard section in Cannes, it’s moving and wholly distinctive; I’d be surprised to see it show up in either category when the Oscars roll around, though it’d certainly make the race more interesting.
The outsider of the group, “Stop Over,” is a study of Iranian illegal immigrants struggling to get by in Athens. Inspired by Swiss-Iranian director Kaveh Bakhtiari’s own experience with his cousin, it was well regarded at Cannes Directors’ Fortnight in May.
The European Film Awards will be presented in Berlin on December 7.