In the Oscar documentary feature race, usually 80-90 films qualify for a shot at landing on the doc short list of 15. And when several films tackle similar themes and subjects, doc branch voters tend to pick one favorite. Take director/producer Michael King’s Oscar-qualified The Rescuers, which I saw at the Ashland Film Festival, which was just acquired by Neil Friedman’s Menemsha Films, which often reps doc award contenders, for North American release in theaters in early 2012.
The film follows charismatic Stephanie Nyombayire, a Rwandan anti-genocide activist who lost 100 members of her family in her country’s genocide in 1994. She travels across 15 countries and three continents with Brit historian Sir Martin Gilbert to interview survivors and descendants of 12 non-Jewish diplomats who sacrificed careers, families, and livelihoods to go against their countries’ policies to save tens of thousands of Jews from the Nazi death camps. Nyombayire uncovers potential solutions for the ongoing genocide in Darfur and elsewhere. The movie celebrates the power of goodness and altruism.
So does the rave-reviewed fest circuit hit which has already hit theaters, Steve James and Alex Kotlowitz’s The Interrupters, which celebrates do-gooder former gang members in gang-ridden Chicago who intervene to stop violent situations as they happen, and save countless lives.
Award campaigners for the two films should try to differentiate them as much as possible.