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Oscars: Films About the Natural World Aim for Best Documentary Feature



The nature doc is a staple of nonfiction storytelling in film, and the genre has produced a number of Oscar-winning documentary features — as recently as 2021’s winner. My Octopus Teacher. This year, three nature docs made it to the shortlist ahead of the Academy Award nominations announcement on Jan. 24, and all aim to make it in the final five films that will earn a nom for doc feature.

HBO’s All That Breathes is set in New Delhi, India, with director Shaunak Sen’s film focusing on two brothers — Nadeem and Saud — who have devoted their lives to protecting the black kite, a bird of prey essential to their native ecosystem. Known as the “kite brothers,” the film’s subjects show the tough work of environmental activism through their ingenious efforts to create an avian hospital. All That Breathes premiered at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival, where it won the grand jury prize in world cinema documentary competition, and later won the Golden Eye prize at the Cannes Film Festival and the Gotham Award for best documentary. In recent weeks, the film has picked up additional honors including four International Documentary Association awards, an American Society of Cinematographers nomination, a nomination for the Golden Frog at Camerimage, two Critics Choice Documentary Award noms (for best cinematography and best science/nature documentary ) and a Directors Guild Award nomination for Sen. It was also named by the National Board of Review as one of 2022’s top five documentaries.

NatGeo/Neon’s Fire of Love, directed by Sara Dosa, follows the passionate marriage between French volcanologists Katia and Maurice Krafft, whose prolific and vital footage of volcanic eruptions not only provided new understanding of volcanoes, but also changed the way filmmakers capture the wonders of nature in cinema. Dosa’s film looks at the “love triangle” between the scientists and their shared love — which led to their deaths during the 1991 volcanic eruption of Japan’s Mount Unzen. Dosa’s film is a frontrunner in the documentary race, having also earned seven Cinema Eye Award nominations (winning four prizes), seven Critics Choice Documentary Awards noms and both a DGA and PGA nom.

In NatGeo’s The Territory, directed by Alex Pritz, a group of Brazilian farmers lays claim to a protected area of ​​the Amazon rainforest, inspiring a young Indigenous man and his mentor to fight to save the forest and the Uru-eu-wau-wau people who live within it. . Pritz’s film offers unprecedented access to the Indigenous people living within the Amazon, whose lives are frequently threatened by deforestation and development. The film tied Fire of Love at the Cinema Eye Awards with seven noms, taking two prizes including outstanding debut for Pritz. After debuting at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival, The Territory won the world cinema documentary audience award and the special jury award. It has also picked up nominations from the PGA, the Gotham Awards and an MPSE Golden Reel nomination for best sound editing.

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