New Documentary Rules To Affect Academy Awards
In a move designed to reduce the large number of documentaries contending for Oscars at the annual Academy Awards, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has decided that any movie declared to be a “documentary” must substantively reflect reality, a crushing blow certain to affect filmmakers like Michael Moore, Al Gore, and Hanna-Barbera. The new rules will take place for the 2013 awards.
The new requirement is an unusual twist in a long list of recent changes to qualifying standards that apply to the various Oscar categories, including the necessity that a “best picture” be interesting, that the “best animated feature” be animated, and that the “best foreign language film” not be performed by anyone using an English or Australian accent.
Already, at least one film on this year’s Oscar qualifying list for documentaries, the movie “Semper Yo, Don’t Eat Yellow Snow,” about the Marine Corps and a tainted patch of snowpack at Alaska’s Camp Denali, was shown to not substantively reflect reality. Additionally, another dozen films — including “The Mexican Hatdance,” “The Power of Glove” and “Small Faces, Unfinished Spaces” — qualified for this year’s Oscar consideration, but also appear not to have the basic factualness that will be required for next year’s awards.
“This will be a disappointment to a number of filmmakers,” said Thom Weekers, a programmer for the Toledo International Film Festival, on learning of the policy. “I’m hopeful we can get the Academy to come up with a new category which continues the tradition of allowing untruthful and bogus ‘documentaries’ to compete for this prestigious honor.”
The policy comes atop still other changes that will be announced this week, according to Mr. Moore, a one-time member of the Academy’s Board of Insiders and now, a major victim of the revisions. Mr. Moore said for 2013 the Academy will also abandon the current process of allowing members to rate films without having viewed them. The 2007 winner for best documentary, Mr. Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, would now be ineligible on two grounds: not only did the movie manufacture its purported scientific results and conclusions, but it was also only screened by elementary and middle school students (and their teachers), and was never actually viewed by a voting member of the Academy.
The documentary branch has often been a center of controversy, as a large and growing number of patently false documentarians each year press for recognition. Some, like this year’s contenders “Tyson Chicken,” from James Tupak, and “Capitalism: I’m Making This Up” from Mr. Moore, are thought to have suffered in advance of the new rules, perhaps being ignored in favor of other less visibly false movies.
Correction: January 11, 2012
Due to an autocorrect error, an earlier version of this article misstated Mr. Moore’s surname as Mr. Moron.