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Five Great Documentaries of 2013
By Zack Mandell
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science presents the Academy Awards, commonly known as the Oscars, each year to honor the best films of the past year. The most recent AMPAS award ceremony took place on Feb. 24, 2013. Film awards are presented in several categories, including Best Documentary. The winner for the 2013 Academy Award for Best Documentary was "Searching for Sugar Man." Other nominees in this category include "5 Broken Cameras," "The Gatekeepers," "How to Survive a Plague," and "The Invisible War."
"Searching for Sugar Man" was directed by Malik Bendjelloul and Simon Chinn. It chronicles the efforts of Craig Bartholomew Strydom and Stephen "Sugar" Segerman to locate Sixto Rodriguez during the late 1990s. Rodriguez was an American musician who became extremely popular in South Africa, although he was never well known in the United States. Segerman and Strydom were two fans of Rodriguez from Cape Town, South Africa, who heard rumors that Rodriguez had died and attempted to determine if they are true. Director Bendjelloul initially used 8 mm film to take stylized shots in the film but later ran out of money for the final shots. He had to film the final stylized shots using his Smartphone and an application that imitates the appearance of 8 mm film.
"5 Broken Cameras" was directed by Emad Burnat and Guy Davidi. This film records a series of protests that occurred in the village of Bil'in, which is located on the Israeli West Bank barrier. Burnat is a Palestinian farmer who began shooting the documentary in 2005, and Israeli filmmaker Guy Davidi joined the project in 2009. "5 Broken Cameras" details the story of Burnat's cameras from their acquisition to their destruction. Burnat bought his first camera to record the birth of his fourth son, Gibreel. The Israelis had begun to bulldoze olive trees in 2005 to build a barrier between Bil'in and Modi'in Illit. The barrier, which would have separated the farmers in Bil'in from 60 percent of their land, sparked protests that became progressively more violent. Burnat began filming the protests, but the Israeli army and protestors eventually broke or shot five of Burnat's cameras.
"The Gatekeepers" was directed by Dror Moreh, Philippa Kowarsky, and Estelle Fialon. It documents the history of the Shin Bet, Israel's internal security service. The story begins with the Six-Day War. The film relies primarily on detailed interviews from six of the former heads of the Shin Bet, but it also uses computer animation and archival footage. Moreh says he realized the significance of the Shin Bet's role in Israel after making a film about Ariel Sharon, former Prime Minister of Israel. Moreh decided to make "The Gatekeepers" when former head of the Shin Bet Ami Ayalon agreed to an interview. Ayalon was also able to obtain the cooperation of the other four former heads of the Shin Bet who were still alive. This documentary includes interviews with Yuval Diskin, the current head of the Shin Bet at the time the film was made. This film is particularly notable for Diskin's discussion of his role in the execution of two terrorists who hijacked a bus.
"How to Survive a Plague" was directed by David France and Howard Gertler and was released in the United States on Sept. 21, 2012. This American documentary covers the early history of the AIDS epidemic, especially the efforts of AIDS activist groups to limit the spread of AIDS. It shows that groups such as the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power and the Treatment Action Group were instrumental in persuading the United States government to respond to the AIDS threat. These groups were also able to pressure the medical establishment into developing effective medication for the treatment of AIDS.
"The Invisible War" was written and directed by Kirby Dick and produced by Tanner King and Amy Ziering. It focuses on the sexual assault of members of United States military organizations. The Department of Defense reported that it received 3,198 report of sexual assault in 2010, although it estimated that number of actual assaults was closer to 19,000. The film also states that 108,121 veterans experienced sexual trauma in 2010 and 68,379 veterans received outpatient treatment for this condition. "The Invisible War" includes interviews with veterans that show the lack of recourse available to these victims. The film also illustrates the lack of reprisal against the perpetrators, who are often able to advance in their careers without hindrance. Some of the footage in this documentary was shot by the interview subjects to show the ways in which the assaults have affected their lives.
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|Five Great Documentaries of 2013