June 21, 2024

Netflix’s “American Symphony,” which follows Grammy and Oscar winner Jon Batiste as he prepares for his performance at Carnegie Hall, leads the 2023 Critics Choice Documentary Award nominations with six, including best documentary feature and directing for Matthew Heineman. PBS’ “20 Days in Mariupol,” Magnolia Pictures’ “Kokomo City” and Apple Original Films’ “Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie” are tied for second with five nominations apiece. Each were also were nominated in the top category.

Other nominees for documentary feature include Roadside Attraction’s “Beyond Utopia,” MTV Documentary Films’ “The Eternal Memory,” Amazon’s “Judy Blume Forever,” National Geographic’s “The Mission” and Netflix’s “The Deepest Breath” and “Stamped from the Beginning.”

Read: Variety’s Awards Circuit for the latest Oscars predictions in all categories.

Now in its eighth year, the Critics Choice Documentary Awards have previously given the top prize to Oscar winners “O.J.: Made in America” (2016) and “Summer of Soul” (2021). Last year’s award went to Ryan White’s “Good Night Oppy,” which was snubbed by the Academy, marking the first time a CCA doc winner failed to make the Academy’s preliminary shortlist.

One notable nomination is megastar Taylor Swift’s “The Eras Tour” in the music documentary category. The re-capturing of the pop star’s sold-out SoFi Stadium show in Los Angeles is coming off a record-breaking opening weekend, grossing the biggest opening for a concert film of all-time with $95 to $97 million, surpassing “Justin Bieber: Never Say Never” (2011). If “Eras Tour” ended up grossing the higher end of that range, it will become largest October opening ever in North America, surpassing “Joker” (2019) at $96 million. Unfortunately, this can’t translate to Oscar attention, as the film isn’t eligible under the Academy’s current rules (and neither is the upcoming Beyoncé one).

Other notable mentions include Steve McQueen in best director for his four-hour and 22-minute “Occupied City,” and Natalie Portman in best narration for the National Geographic doc “Secrets of the Elephants.”

Documentary filmmaker Ross McElwee
Boston Globe via Getty Images

Acclaimed documentarian Ross McElwee will be honored with The Pennebaker Award (formerly known as the Critics Choice Lifetime Achievement Award), named after D.A. Pennebaker, a former recipient of the Lifetime Achievement prize, who passed away in 2019. McLewee, 76, has made 10 feature-length films over his career, most of which were shot throughout the American South. Among his most notable are “Sherman’s March” (1986), which won best documentary at the Sundance Film Festival and was chosen for preservation by the Library of Congress National Film Registry in 2000 as a “historically significant American motion picture.” Others include “Bright Leaves,” which nabbed noms from the Directors and Writers Guild of America. McLewee is currently a professor at Harvard University and is working on a documentary about the cable television remake of “Sherman’s March.”

Penneker’s producing partner and wife, Chris Hegedus, will present the award to McElwee.

Actor and standup comedian Wyatt Cenac, best known for the HBO late-night comedy docuseries “Wyatt Cenac’s Problem Areas,” will return as host for the second consecutive year. The ceremony will be livestreamed via Facebook, YouTube and X (formerly known as Twitter) from the Edison Ballroom in New York City on Nov. 12.

View the full list of nominations below.

Best Documentary Feature

“20 Days in Mariupol” (PBS)

“American Symphony” (Netflix)

“Beyond Utopia” (Roadside Attractions)

“The Deepest Breath” (Netflix)

“The Eternal Memory” (MTV Documentary Films)

“Judy Blume Forever” (Amazon Studios)

“Kokomo City” (Magnolia Pictures)

“The Mission” (National Geographic)

“Stamped from the Beginning” (Netflix)

“Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie” (Apple TV+)

Best Director

Maite Alberdi – “The Eternal Memory” (MTV Documentary Films)

Madeleine Gavin – “Beyond Utopia” (Roadside Attractions)

Davis Guggenheim – “Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie” (Apple TV+)

Matthew Heineman – “American Symphony” (Netflix)

Amanda McBaine, Jesse Moss – “The Mission” (National Geographic)

Steve McQueen – “Occupied City” (A24)

First Documentary Feature
“20 Days in Mariupol” (PBS)

“26.2 to Life” (Film Halau)

“Bad Press” (Oklafilm)

“Bobi Wine: The People’s President” (National Geographic)

“Kokomo City” (Magnolia Pictures)

“Orlando, My Political Biography” (Sideshow)

“Smoke Sauna Sisterhood” (Greenwich Entertainment)

“The Thief Collector” (FilmRise)

Cinematography

Tim Cragg – “The Deepest Breath” (Netflix)

Tony Hardmon, Matthew Heineman, Thorsten Thielow – “American Symphony” (Netflix)

Lennert Hillege – “Occupied City” (A24)

Franz Lustig – “Anselm” (Sideshow)

D. Smith – “Kokomo City” (Magnolia Pictures)

Toby Strong, James Boon, Bob Poole, Neil Fairlie, Wim Vorster, Joshua Tarr, Pete Allibone, Neil Harvey,

Andreas Knausenberger – “Secrets of the Elephants” (National Geographic)

Editing

Sammy Dane, Jim Hession, Matthew Heineman, Fernando Villegas – “American Symphony” (Netflix)

Madeleine Gavin – “Beyond Utopia” (Roadside Attractions)

Michael Harte – “Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie” (Apple TV+)

Michelle Mizner – “20 Days in Mariupol” (PBS)

D. Smith – “Kokomo City” (Magnolia Pictures)

Aaron Wickenden – “The Mission” (National Geographic)

Score

Jon Batiste – “American Symphony” (Netflix)

Danny Bensi & Saunder Jurriaans – “The Mission” (National Geographic)

Nainita Desai – “The Deepest Breath” (Netflix)

Philip Glass, Paul Leonard-Morgan – “The Pigeon Tunnel” (Apple TV+)

Katya Richardson & Kris Bowers – “The Last Repair Shop” (Breakwater Studios)

D. Smith – “Kokomo City” (Magnolia Pictures)

Narration

“20 Days in Mariupol” (PBS) – Written and Performed by Mstyslav Chernov

“32 Sounds” (Abramorama) – Written and Performed by Sam Green

“The Disappearance of Shere Hite” (IFC Films) – Written by Nicole Newnham, Performed by Dakota Johnson

“John Lennon: Murder Without a Trial” (Apple TV+) — Written by TBD, Performed by Kiefer Sutherland

“Secrets of the Elephants” (National Geographic) – Written by Martin Williams, Performed by Natalie Portman

“Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie” (Apple TV+) – Written and Performed by Michael J. Fox

Archival Documentary

“Being Mary Tyler Moore” (HBO)

“The Disappearance of Shere Hite” (IFC Films)

“It Ain’t Over” (Sony Pictures Classics)

“JFK: One Day in America” (National Geographic)

“The Lady Bird Diaries” (Hulu)

“The League” (Magnolia Pictures)

Historical Documentary

“The 1619 Project” (Hulu/Onyx Collective)

“JFK: One Day in America” (National Geographic)

“The Lady Bird Diaries” (Hulu)

“Lakota Nation vs. United States” (IFC Films)

“The League” (Magnolia Pictures)

“Occupied City” (A24)

“Stamped from the Beginning” (Netflix)

Biographical Documentary

“Being Mary Tyler Moore” (HBO)

“The Disappearance of Shere Hite” (IFC Films)

“Going to Mars: The Nikki Giovanni Project” (HBO)

“Judy Blume Forever” (Amazon Studios)

“Pretty Baby: Brooke Shields” (Hulu)

“Sly” (Netflix)

“Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie” (Apple TV+)

Music Documentary

“American Symphony” (Netflix)

“Carlos” (Sony Pictures Classics)

“Ladies First: A Story of Women in Hip-Hop” (Netflix)

“Little Richard: I Am Everything” (Magnolia Pictures/CNN Films)

“Love to Love You, Donna Summer” (HBO)

“Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour” (AMC Theatres)

“What the Hell Happened to Blood, Sweat & Tears?” (Abramorama)

Political Documentary

“20 Days in Mariupol” (PBS)

“Beyond Utopia” (Roadside Attractions)

“Bobi Wine: The People’s President” (National Geographic)

“Deadlocked: How America Shaped the Supreme Court” (Showtime)

“Every Body” (Focus Features)

“Lakota Nation vs. United States” (IFC Films)

“Silver Dollar Road” (Amazon MGM Studios)

Science/Nature Documentary

“32 Sounds” (Abramorama)

“Between Earth & Sky” (PBS)

“Life on Our Planet” (Netflix)

“Path of the Panther” (National Geographic)

“Poisoned: The Dirty Truth About Your Food” (Netflix)

“Secrets of the Elephants” (National Geographic)

“Wild Beauty: Mustang Spirit of the West” (Gravitas Ventures)

Sport Documentary SPORTS DOCUMENTARY

“Black Ice” (Roadside Attractions)

“BS High” (HBO)

“The Deepest Breath” (Netflix)

“It Ain’t Over” (Sony Pictures Classics)

“The League” (Magnolia Pictures)

“Reggie” (Amazon Studios)

“Stephen Curry: Underrated” (Apple TV+)

“Welcome to Wrexham” (FX)

True Crime Documentary

“Burden of Proof” (HBO)

“The Jewel Thief” (Hulu)

“John Lennon: Murder Without a Trial” (Apple TV+)

“Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal” (Netflix)

“Telemarketers” (HBO)

“The Thief Collector” (FilmRise)

“Victim/Suspect” (Netflix)

Short Documentary

“The ABCs of Book Banning” (MTV Documentary Films)

“The Barber of Little Rock” (Story Syndicate)

“Between Earth & Sky” (PBS)

“Keys to the City” (New Yorker)

“The Last Repair Shop” (Breakwater Studios)

“Last Song From Kabul” (MTV Documentary Films)

Limited Documentary Series

“The 1619 Project” (Hulu/Onyx Collective)

“Big Vape: The Rise and Fall of Juul” (Netflix)

“Deadlocked: How America Shaped the Supreme Court” (Showtime)

“JFK: One Day in America” (National Geographic)

“John Lennon: Murder Without a Trial” (Apple TV+)

“Secrets of the Elephants” (National Geographic)

“Shiny Happy People” (Amazon Studios)

“Telemarketers” (HBO)

Ongoing Documentary Series

“30 for 30” (ESPN)

“Frontline” (PBS)

“Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal” (Netflix)

“POV” (PBS)

“Trafficked with Mariana van Zeller” (National Geographic)

“Welcome to Wrexham” (FX)

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