I saw them all, every Academy Award winning documentary, both features and shorts, from the inception of the category through 1960. Last night was ’59 and ’60.
I don’t feel changed.
But, I am so glad to be in documentary NOW! Now it is exciting, people have voices. Films are made with passion behind them. The early doc winners were about news and they served their purpose. It’s what audiences (and studios!) wanted.
By 1950 you start to see a little change, not only in topic, but feelings behind the films. And by 1959 when father and son team Dr. Bernhard Grzimek and Michael Grzimek made Serengeti Shall Not Die, the ’59 feature documentary winner, they did it with passion in their hearts. And really, for the first time, made an unbiased, powerful piece of art. Work that made a change. The film saved the African plains from building and put the Serengeti into the consciousness of the world.
The Academy will present Oscar’s Docs series II 1961-1978 next Fall. By the time we get to the 1974 winner Hearts and Minds (Peter Davis and Bert Schneider, Producers), we really will have gotten somewhere.
Looking at early documentary winners makes me very reflective and proud to be a part of a documentary community that is truly making a difference, changing how people look at things and challenging not just audiences, but ourselves by pushing the genre and creating more fascinating and thought provoking works.
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