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Jon Batiste Doc American Symphony Leads Nominations for 8th Annual Critics Choice Documentary Awards

For eight years, the Critics Choice Association (CCA) has honored some of the year’s finest achievement in documentaries released in theaters, on television, and on major digital plaforms, as part of its Critics Choice Documentary Awards. Today, it announced the nominees for its eighth annual awards event, which will take place on Nov. 12, 2023 at the Edison Ballroom in New York City, sponsored by National Geographic Documentary Films for the fourth year in a row.

Actor and standup comedian Wyatt Cenac will serve as host once again with the ceremony to be live-streamed through the CCA’s Facebook, YouTube and X (formerly Twitter) accounts at 7:00 PM ET on Sunday, November 12.  The eighth annual awards ceremony is produced by Bob Bain of Bob Bain Productions and Joey Berlin of Berlin Entertainment.

The Jon Batiste documentary, American Symphony, directed by Matthew Heineman, which Netflix picked up for distribution through its first look deal with Barack Obama and Michelle Obama’s production company Higher Ground, received six nominations, the most of any other documentary. The movie premiered at the Telluride Film Festival but has yet to get a release date.

20 Days in MariupolKokomo City, and Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie received five nominations each. All four of those movies were nominated for Best Documentary.

Documentaries were nominated by select members of the Critics Choice Association with the final voting going out to the full membership.

Documentary filmmaker Ross McElwee will receive the annual Pennebaker Award, named for Critics Choice Lifetime Achievement Award winner D A Pennebaker, who passed away in 2019. The award will be presented by Chris Hegedus, Pennebaker’s producing partner and wife. McElwee has made ten feature-length documentaries as well as a number of shorter films. Sherman’s March has won numerous awards, including Best Documentary at the Sundance Film Festival. Sherman’s March was also chosen for preservation by the Library of Congress National Film Registry in 2000 as a “historically significant American motion picture.” Bright Leaves premiered at the 2003 Cannes Film Festival’s Directors’ Fortnight and was nominated for Best Documentary by both the Directors Guild of America and the Writers Guild of America. McElwee’s In Paraguay premiered at the Venice Film Festival in 2008, and he returned to Venice in 2011 to premiere Photographic Memory.

Christopher Campbell, Vice President of Documentaries of The Critics Choice Association, stated, “We are thrilled with the number of exceptional documentaries released theatrically and on streaming this year and are very excited to introduce an overdue category honoring true crime films and series. This event is about showcasing and celebrating the best in nonfiction, and I want to congratulate all of our nominees and thank them for making us see and think about the world in new ways.”

Carla Renata, Co-President of the Critics Choice Association Documentary Branch added, “We are also thrilled to witness a varied number of nominees spanning subjects represented across all genders (including Transgender Intersex) and genres, further solidifying the Critics Choice Documentary Awards’ commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion within the documentary landscape.”

At the Seventh Annual Critics Choice Documentary Awards, Good Night Oppy took home five trophies in all, including the top award of the evening for Best Documentary Feature. The film’s other victories were Best Director for Ryan White, Best Score for Blake Neely, as well as Best Narration (written by Helen Kearns and Ryan White, performed by Angela Bassett), and Best Science/Nature Documentary.

You can read the full list of nominees below:

Nominees for the 8th Annual Critics Choice Documentary Awards
Presented by National Geographic Documentary Films

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)

BEST 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)

BEST 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)

BEST 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)

BEST SCORE

Jon Batiste – American Symphony (Netflix)
Danny Bensi & Saunder Jurriaans – The Mission (National Geographic)
Nainita Desai – The Deepest Breath (Netflix)
Philip Glass – The Pigeon Tunnel (Apple TV+)
Katya Richardson & Kris Bowers – The Last Repair Shop (Breakwater Studios)
D. Smith – Kokomo City (Magnolia Pictures)

BEST 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+)
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

BEST ARCHIVAL DOCUMENTARY

Being Mary Tyler Moore (HBO | Max)
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)

BEST 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)

BEST BIOGRAPHICAL DOCUMENTARY

Being Mary Tyler Moore (HBO | Max)
The Disappearance of Shere Hite (IFC Films)
Going to Mars: The Nikki Giovanni Project (HBO Documentary Films)
Judy Blume Forever (Amazon Studios)
Pretty Baby: Brooke Shields (Hulu)
Sly (Netflix)
Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie (Apple TV+)

BEST 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 | Max)
Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour (AMC Theatres)
What the Hell Happened to Blood, Sweat & Tears? (Abramorama)

BEST 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)

BEST 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)

BEST SPORTS DOCUMENTARY

Black Ice (Roadside Attractions)
BS High (HBO | Max)
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)

BEST TRUE CRIME DOCUMENTARY

Burden of Proof (HBO | Max)
The Jewel Thief (Hulu)
John Lennon: Murder Without a Trial (Apple TV+)
Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal (Netflix)
Telemarketers (HBO | Max)
The Thief Collector (FilmRise)
Victim/Suspect (Netflix)

BEST 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)

BEST 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 | Max)

BEST 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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