By the time December rolls around, a frontrunner has typically emerged in the Oscar race for Best Documentary Feature. Not this year. The contest remains wide open, more so than in any year in recent memory.
For that reason alone, it’s essential to hear from the leading filmmakers in the mix. And that’s where Deadline’s Contenders Film: Documentary event comes in. Out essential guide featuring an awards-worthy slate of outstanding nonfiction films kicks off Saturday at 9 a.m. PT featuring panels from nine of the year’s most buzzy titles.
Among the all-star talent on hand is Oscar winner Davis Guggenheim, director of Apple Original Films’ Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie, about the beloved Hollywood icon. Guggenheim’s film recently won five prizes at the Critics’ Choice Documentary Awards, including Best Feature and Best Director.
Also hailing from Apple Original Films is Underrated, the documentary about NBA champion and dead-eye 3-point shooter Stephen Curry, directed by Peter Nicks. Both Still and Underrated, in their way, tell stories of undersized guys with outsized accomplishments — Fox, who was picked on as a kid for his diminutive stature, and Curry, the 6’2” point guard who was told he was too small to make it in the pros.
We will head down Silver Dollar Road with Oscar-nominated director Raoul Peck, exploring his film from Amazon MGM Studios about a compelling African American family engaged in a struggle to keep hold of land that’s been part of their identity for over a century. It’s a story of resilience and resistance from an idyllic stretch of coastal Carolina.
National Geographic Documentary Films, a perennial Academy Award contender, advances two Oscar favorites: Bobi Wine: The People’s President and The Mission. The latter film, directed by Amanda McBaine and Jesse Moss, tells the shocking story of a young American missionary killed as he attempted to bring Christianity to a largely uncontacted Indigenous people living on a remote island.
Bobi Wine centers on the titular charismatic pop star-turned-politician, who dared to run for president of Uganda in a direct challenge to his country’s ruthless dictator. Co-director Christopher Sharp, along with Wine and his wife Barbie Kyagulanyi, join Contenders to discuss their film, which is nominated for four awards at the upcoming Cinema Eye Honors in New York.
Oscar-nominated Chilean filmmaker Maite Alberdi will take part in a panel on The Eternal Memory, from MTV Documentary Films. Her feature, winner of the top prize for international documentary at the Sundance Film Festival, tells the poignant love story of Augusto Góngora and Paulina Urrutia, leaders of Chile’s arts community, whose bond only deepened as Augusto faced Alzheimer’s disease.
Going to Mars: The Nikki Giovanni Project, from HBO Documentary Films, won the Grand Jury Prize for U.S. Documentary at Sundance. Renowned filmmakers Michèle Stephenson and Joe Brewster will talk about their innovative exploration of the work and thought of poet Nikki Giovanni, a dynamic advocate for Black pride, the Black Arts Movement, and civil and human rights since the 1970s.
Music underpins two of the award-winning films on the Contenders: Documentary program. Pianoforte, from Telemark and Greenwich Entertainment, takes us inside the world’s most prestigious piano competition, the International Chopin Piano Competition, held every five years in Warsaw. Polish director Jakub Piątek’s documentary has won prizes at film festivals around the world, including the prestigious Visions du Réel in Nyon, Switzerland.
They Shot the Piano Player, from Sony Pictures Classics, uses dazzling animation — and the voice of actor Jeff Goldblum — to investigate the fate of an extraordinary Brazilian musician, Francisco Tenório Júnior, who disappeared in 1976 while on a visit to Argentina for a gig. Directors Fernando Trueba and Javier Mariscal will tell us about a story filled with intrigue, emotion and incredible music, narrated by Goldblum, who himself is a gifted jazz pianist.
Follow along with today’s panel coverage on Deadline and our social channels using the hashtag #DeadlineContenders, and stay tuned for when we launch the streaming site Tuesday featuring all the panel videos.
Below is today’s panel lineup.
Contenders Film: Documentary
9 am – Livestream begins/opening remarks
APPLE ORIGINAL FILMS
Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie
Davis Guggenheim (Director/Producer)
Stephen Curry: Underrated
Peter Nicks (Director/Producer)
NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC DOCUMENTARY FILMS
Jesse Moss (Writer/Director/Producer)
Amanda McBaine (Writer/Director/Producer)
Bobi Wine: The People’s President
Bobi Wine (Subject)
Barbie Kyagulanyi (Subject)
Christopher Sharp (Co-Director/Producer)
AMAZON MGM STUDIOS
Silver Dollar Road
Raoul Peck (Writer/Director/Producer)
SONY PICTURES CLASSICS
They Shot The Piano Player
Fernando Trueba (Writer/Co-Director)
Javier Mariscal (Co-Director)
HBO DOCUMENTARY FILMS
Going to Mars: The Nikki Giovanni Project
Joe Brewster (Writer/Director/Producer)
Michele Stephenson (Writer/Director/Producer)
Tommy Oliver (Producer)
TELEMARK and GREENWICH ENTERTAINMENT
Jakub Piątek (Director)
PARAMOUNT+ & MTV DOCUMENTARY FILMS
The Eternal Memory
Maite Alberdi (Writer/Director/Producer)