NO END IN SIGHT
In his first film, Charles Ferguson examines the decisions behind the invasion of Iraq. Ferguson, nominated with associate producer Audrey Marrs, describes the Representational Pictures production as 'a comprehensive portrait of occupation policies, their errors, and their consequences'.
The film won the special documentary jury prize at Sundance last year and has been named best documentary of 2007 by both the New York and Los Angeles critics' associations.
It has grossed $1.4m since it was released theatrically in North America last July by Magnolia Pictures. Ferguson was also nominated for the Writers Guild of America documentary screenplay award.
OPERATION HOMECOMING: WRITING THE WARTIME EXPERIENCE
The experiences of Iraq war veterans are seen through their writings in this Documentary Group production, the feature debut of director-producer Richard E Robbins.
Interviews and dramatic readings by such actors as Robert Duvall, Josh Lucas, Beau Bridges and Blair Underwood bring the writing to life. The film had a brief theatrical release in the US in February 2007 and has screened at festivals across the country. A television version was broadcast nationally on PBS last April.
Michael Moore's look at the American health care system, produced by Dog Eat Dog Films for Lionsgate and The Weinstein Company, is by far the most commercially successful of this year's feature documentary nominees, though compared to the writer-producer-director's Fahrenheit 9/11 it grossed only a relatively modest $24.5m when it was released in the US last June.
Moore, who won the 2002 documentary feature Oscar for Bowling For Columbine and is nominated with producer Meghan O'Hara, has said Sicko 'is about health care, and it isn't. As with all my films, I take a subject and use it as a vehicle to address larger and bigger ideas.'
Moore was nominated for the Writers Guild of America documentary screenplay award. The film won the Producers Guild of America's theatrical documentary award and the Critics' Choice award.
TAXI TO THE DARK SIDE
Writer-director Alex Gibney uses the case of an Afghan taxi driver beaten to death in 2002 while in US military custody to form the heart of his examination of the abuses committed during the detainment of political prisoners.
Nominated with producer Eva Orner, Gibney (who is also executive producer of nominated documentary No End In Sight) concedes that his film deals with 'a tough subject, a subject a lot of people want to close their eyes to'.
The X-Ray production has just been released theatrically in the US by ThinkFilm. Gibney - who was previously nominated in this Oscar category in 2006 for Enron: The Smartest Guys In The Room - won the Writers Guild of America documentary screenplay award and the film has been named one of last year's top five documentaries by the National Board of Review.
With backing from non-profit documentary company Shine Global, Andrea Nix Fine and Sean Fine went to war-torn northern Uganda to make their first feature: the story of three school children from a remote refugee camp who are preparing to enter a music competition.
'We saw the potential to tell a very different kind of story,' says Andrea Nix Fine, 'one that would not just see these kids as victims but show their amazing resilience, dignity and talent.' At the same time, she adds, 'We wanted to tell the story in a very cinematic way.'
Launched at last year's Sundance, and winner of the festival's documentary directing prize, the film opened theatrically in the US late last year through ThinkFilm and comes out in April on DVD.
BEST ANIMATED SHORT FILM
EVEN PIGEONS GO TO HEAVEN (MEME LES PIGEONS VONT AU PARADIS)
Produced by Paris-based special effects company BUF, this tale of a priest who tries to sell an old man a machine that he promises will transport him to heaven is directed by Samuel Tourneux and produced by Simon Vanesse. Its awards include the prix du public at the San Sebastian horror and fantasy festival and the animation prize and Grand Prix for shorts at Rennes. Premium Films is handling international distribution.
I MET THE WALRUS
In 1969, 14-year-old Jerry Levitan sneaked into John Lennon's hotel room and recorded an interview. This Canadian short, produced by Levitan and directed by Josh Raskin, adds drawn animation by James Braithwaite and digital illustration by Alex Kurina to the original recording. The film's prizes include best animated short at 2007's AFI Fest and best animation at the Middle East International and Manhattan Short Film festivals.
The second Canadian nominee in this category is a stop-motion project from Montreal-based film-makers Chris Lavis and Maciek Szczerbowski. Produced by the National Film Board of Canada, the film follows a character on a night train journey that becomes a desperate metaphysical adventure.
Prizes for the film have included the Canal Plus and Petit Rail d'Or awards for best short film in Cannes 2007's International Critics' Week and best narrative short animation at the Ottawa International Animation Festival.
MY LOVE (MOYA LYUBOV)
Russian writer-director-animator Alexander Petrov gets his fourth animated short Oscar nomination for this tale of a 19th-century teenage Russian in search of love. Petrov uses the same technique - hand painting images on glass sheets that are then photographed - as he did on his 1999 animated short Oscar winner The Old Man And The Sea.
Among other prizes, My Love, produced by Dago-Film Studio for Channel One Russia and Dentsu Tec, won the audience and special international jury prizes at the 2006 Hiroshima International Animation Festival and the Grand Jury Prize at the 2007 Melbourne International Animation Festival.
PETER & THE WOLF
Bafta-winning director Suzie Templeton (Dog) made this model animation version of the story of a young boy, his animal friends and a hungry wolf with Prokofiev's classic music as the soundtrack. Hugh Welchman and Alan Dewhurst produced for the UK's BreakThru Films and Poland's Se-ma-for Studios. Distributed by BreakThru, the film has been screened in concert halls around the world, often with orchestral accompaniment, and is being distributed in international TV and video markets. The film won the audience and Grand Prix short film awards at the 2007 Annecy International Animated Film Festival and was nominated last year for a Bafta.
BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT
Winner of the short film-making special jury prize at Sundance last year and the best documentary and audience awards at Palm Springs Shortfest, Freeheld centres on New Jersey detective lieutenant Laurel Hester who, facing death from cancer, spends the final year of her life fighting a policy that will not allow her to transfer her pension to her domestic partner, Stacie Andree.
New York-based writer-director Cynthia Wade (who previously made HBO's Shelter Dogs) says the film tells 'a triumphal story that reminds all of us that giant changes occur when ordinary individuals take small, unyielding steps against prejudice'. Wade and Vanessa Roth produced the project for Lieutenant Films.
THE CROWN (LA CORUNA)
Amanda Micheli and Isabel Vega share producing, directing and cinematography credits on this look at a beauty pageant that takes place each year in a women's prison in Bogota, Colombia. Four prisoners are profiled as they prepare for the contest, an unusual manifestation of a national obsession with beauty pageants.
Produced by Runaway Films and Vega Films for HBO Documentary Films, The Crown received an honourable mention in the short film-making award category at Sundance this year.
The title character in director-editor Tim Sternberg's film is 55-year-old Salim Muhammad who, using a hand-cranked 1897 projector, shows scraps of films to his neighbours in the slums of Kolkata, India.
Sternberg made the film with producer-cameraman Francisco Bello, whose New York-based Ropa Vieja Films company produced with Paradox Smoke. Salim Baba premiered at the 2007 Tribeca Film Festival and has since screened at Sundance, the Palm Springs shorts festival and Telluride, among others.
Director-producer-cinematographer James Longley was nominated for the documentary feature Oscar in 2006 for Iraq In Fragments and his new short tells one of the stories originally shot for the earlier film. It is the story of Sari, a 10-year-old boy dying of Aids, and his mother, who must deal with a health care system that has fallen into chaos under the American occupation.
Longley says that when he was in Iraq he was 'looking for personal stories to document that would also shed light on the larger picture of life'. The tale of Sari and his mother was 'one of the most compelling that I filmed,' he says.
Having had its world premiere at the 2006 Toronto festival, the short, a Daylight Factory production for Cinema Guild, has gone on to appear in the Sydney, Istanbul and Silverdocs festivals and to win the San Francisco festival's Golden Gate Award.
BEST LIVE-ACTION SHORT FILM
AT NIGHT (OM NATTEN)
Christian E Christiansen wrote and directed this Danish short about three spirited young women hospitalised with cancer over Christmas. With relationship as well as health problems, the girls find solace in each other's company. Louise Vesth produced for Zentropa Entertainment, which financed the film with New Danish Screen. Trust Film Sales is handling international rights.
In this modern fairy tale from Belgium, a man who must learn to dance the tango in two weeks asks an office colleague for help. Guido Thys directed from a screenplay by Geert Verbanck, and Anja Daelemans and Dries Phlypo produced for Another Dimension of an Idea. Distributed by Premium Films, the short last year won the Bafta/LA award for excellence at Aspen Shortsfest, the audience prize at the Clermont-Ferrand Short Film Festival, and the best foreign-language film award at the LA Shorts Fest.
THE MOZART OF PICKPOCKETS
Writer-director Philippe Pollet-Villard's French comedy is the story of two unlucky Parisian thieves who take in a deaf-mute Romanian boy. Produced by Antoine Rein for Kare Productions and distributed by Premium Films, the short has won prizes at the 2006 European Short Film Festival, last year's Cannes and the 2007 Clermont-Ferrand Short Film Festival. It has also been nominated for this year's best short Cesar.
THE SUBSTITUTE (IL SUPPLENTE)
Produced by Frame by Frame Italia for Sky Cinema Italia, this satirical comedy from writer-director Andrea Jublin and producer Davide Luchetti focuses on a substitute teacher who uses humour to challenge as well as educate a class of teenagers. Represented internationally by Paris-based Premium Films, it won the best comedy award at Aspen Shortsfest 2007.
THE TONTO WOMAN
This Western-based on an Elmore Leonard short story was directed by Daniel Barber for UK commercials production company Knucklehead. Matthew Brown produced and Ben Davis (Layer Cake) was DoP. Francesco Quinn, son of the late Anthony Quinn, stars as a cattle rustler who meets a woman living in isolation after being held prisoner for 11 years by Mojave Indians. The film's prizes include the best in fest award at the LA Shorts Fest and the best film over 30 minutes at Palm Springs.