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Thanks to advances in digitial technology, filmmaking has undergone a radical shift in the past ten years, and with that, there's been an explosion of documentary films. This year's shortlist for the Academy Awards' Best Documentary Feature is a fine example of the fascinating human stories that can only—thrillingly—come to life through documentary film, and we're proud of the three Tribeca Film Festival alumni that made this list: Soundtrack for a Revolution, Which Way Home, and Under Our Skin.
It's become a yearly tradition in certain film circles to grouse over the invevitable documentary "snubs" of the year—and maybe that held some water when Hoop Dreams lost out on a nomination in 1994. Many on this year's list of the ignored—from Anvil! The Story of Anvil! to The September Issue to Capitalism: A Love Story (and many more)—were films with the great good fortune to find a following in theaters and in the societal gestalt; ergo, the outrage when they were "ignored." To be frank, that grousing is misplaced: as the typically strong Tribeca Film Festival documentary program proves, documentaries are thriving right now, so let's celebrate the abundance of riches: how lucky are we that there are so many excellent films that deserve recognition?
Luckily, this Oscar shortlist sheds some light on excellent films that haven't had their chance to get as much publicity, that had to contend with a limited release/no release/or a showing on HBO (and thank goodness for HBO!), and we're happy that they're getting some well-deserved attention. If you haven't had the chance to catch up with Soundtrack for a Revolution, Which Way Home, or Under Our Skin, here are three videos and features about the films from our archives.
Soundtrack for a Revolution
In Soundtrack for a Revolution, directors Dan Sturman and Bill Guttentag (Nanking) combine vintage footage of the American civil rights movement, heartfelt and heart-wrenching interviews with the men and women who overcame hatred and threats, and protest songs (in forms old and new) to create a stirring documentary, with performances by artists such as John Legend, TV on the Radio, The Roots, The Blind Boys of Alabama, and more.
Read the Q&A from the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival.
Watch the behind the scenes video:
Which Way Home
Which Way Home will break your heart: director Rebecca Cammisa follows migrant children on their dangerous journey through Mexico as they try to cross the border to get into the United States. Their preferred mode of transportation? The top of freight trains. (Interestingly enough, Which Way Home and the recent fiction feature, Sin Nombre, are set in the same world.) A project that took six years in the making (and plenty of perilous train riding), Cammisa shines a spotlight on kids whose stories are too rarely told.
Read the Q&A from the Tribeca Film Festival.
Watch our interview with Cammisa:
Under Our Skin
Andy Abraham Wilson's documetary digs deep into the medical controversy over Lyme disease, a grave epidemic that often goes undiagnosed or misdiagnosed, and which the medical establishment shunts aside as something that's "curable." Under Our Skin is both fascinating and terrifying, and it shows how a broken health care system can trump "first, do no harm."
Read our feature on Under Our Skin.
Watch our full-length Behind the Screens (sponsored by iShares) panel discussion with Robert Bazell, Wilson, Amy Tan, and Dr. Richard Horowitz:
We will certainly post updates regarding future theatrical showings and DVD releases of these films. Until then, the best way to keep up with these films is through these links:
Soundtrack for a Revolution
Which Way Home: Facebook, HBO Documentary Series
Under Our Skin: Facebook, Twitter, Official Blog, DVD