Eight of the 15 films advancing in the Documentary Feature category for the 91st Academy Awards are directed by women. Oscar voting ended January 14 and official nominees are announced January 22. Despite a lack of female recognition in the feature film categories by the Director’s Guild of America, women who make documentaries have a long history of being nominated by both the Academy and the DGA.
Three of the films on the Oscar shortlist are also nominated for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Documentary by the DGA (Free Solo, RBG and Hale County This Morning, This Evening).
FF2 Media capsule reviews of the exceptional documentaries from female filmmakers are listed below. Click the titles to read our full reviews, and find out where you can still see these films before the Academy Awards air February 24.
Communion: Written and directed by Anna Zamecka, Komunia (Communion) is an award-winning Polish documentary revealing a critical time in the life of Ola Kaczanowski, a 14-year-old girl, who feels responsible for her dysfunctional family. (4.5/5)
Dark Money: Director Kimberly Reed’s political thriller documentary pulls back the curtain on corrupt American politics, examining the illegal coordination between big-money corporations and elected government officials. By following investigative journalist John Adams through the state of Montana, Dark Money exposes the real-life consequences of political fraud and its threat to democracy. (4.5/5)
Free Solo: Alex Honnold dares to be the first person to ever free solo climb Yosemite’s 3,000ft high El Capitan Wall. We follow him as he meticulously plans each move while juggling injury, relationship tensions, and the insane feat of climbing without any ropes to save him from a life-ending fall. Directors Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin have beautifully documented Honnold’s inspiring journey to complete an unbelievable stunt. (4/5)
Hale County This Morning, This Evening: A delicate portrait of a way of life shot in director RaMell Ross’s hometown, Hale County, Alabama. This film contains the beauty and the darkness of passing time. (4/5)
On Her Shoulders: From director Alexandria Bombach, On Her Shoulders is a powerful look into the day to day life of Nobel Peace Prize winner Nadia Murad, an activist who fights for her people by sharing her deeply personal and traumatic story. (4.5/5)
RBG: Directed by Julie Cohen and Betsy West, specialty box office winner RBG recounts both the professional and personal aspects of legendary Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s lifelong legal fight for equal rights and justice in an inspirational and heartwarming documentary that will have you laughing, crying, and ready to re-tackle the world. (5/5)
Shirkers: Written and directed by Sandi Tan, Shirkers is a wonderfully stitched-together documentary both recounting and discovering what happened to her film made in Singapore in the early 90s that was stolen by her mentor, Georges Cardona. (4.5/5)
© Georgiana E. Presecky (1/16/19) FF2 Media
Photos Courtesy of RYOT Films and National Geographic Films
Featured Image: Survivor Nadia Murad is at the center of On Her Shoulders.
Bottom Image: Alex Honnold free-solo climbs the 3,200ft El Capita in Free Solo.