Senna director Asif Kapadia has hit out at the Academy Awards’ snub of Steve James’s acclaimed Chicago-set doc The Interrupters (pictured), echoing the sentiments of hundreds of Twitter users by describing the omission of the film from the 15-strong best doc feature shortlist as “madness.”
The Academy unveiled its shortlist for the Best Documentary Feature category on Friday, surprising many – as is often the case each year – by snubbing several acclaimed docs, including Werner Herzog’s London Film Festival-winning Into the Abyss and Errol Morris’s highly praised Tabloid.
By far the biggest shock however, was the snub of James’s highly lauded film The Interrupters, which to date has won the special jury prize at Sheffield Doc/Fest, the grand jury prize for documentary at the Miami International Film Festival, and holds a 99% “fresh” rating on review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes.
The decision comes after the Academy infamously snubbed James’s 1994 masterpiece Hoop Dreams, prompting a controversy so large at the time that it eventually caused the organization’s documentary branch to revise its rules for voting on the category.
Kapadia, who himself may have reason to feel aggrieved given that his Sundance-winning doc wasn’t recognized, Tweeted to Interrupters prodco Kartemquin shortly after the shortlist was announced: “interrupters was my fav film of the year, madness you’re not shortlisted.”
Elsewhere, noted film critic Roger Ebert called the decision a “shocker,” while Sheffield Doc/Fest festival director Heather Croall suggested adopting a hashtag making the rounds, “#OccupyShortlists,” to express opinions on the snub.
Across many media sites meanwhile (Reuters, Time Out, HitFix, Movieline), news of The Interrupters‘ snub outshone the actual shortlist of nominees, while several prominent commissioning editors at IDFA in Amsterdam told realscreen the omission was a “scandal.”
In addition, one director whose doc is on the Oscar shortlist – who will not be named lest it should prejudice their films’ chances – described the snub as “disgraceful.”
But amid that chatter, it is worth noting that the lack of more obvious films from this year’s shortlist has majorly paved the way for some smaller, lesser-known docs to come to the fore.
Among them, Under Fire: Journalists In Combat, Battle For Brooklyn, Jane’s Journey and The Loving Story have all been recognized by Oscar, giving the films some always-welcome and much-needed publicity and media attention.
As for the five nominees, to be named in January, it could be presumed that Buck, Project Nim, Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory, Pina and Hell and Back Again are the most likely to make the cut. However, given the Academy’s willingness to omit The Interrupters and Senna, it is now difficult to make predictions with any real kind of confidence.