One of the signature attributes of the late great critic Roger Ebert was his extraordinary generosity to rising talent, often from unexpected quarters, from documentary filmmakers Errol Morris and Michael Moore to Ava DuVernay, whose debut film “I Will Follow” and Sundance director-prize-winning entry “Middle of Nowhere” he championed.
Ebert also started the ball rolling on Steve James’ “Hoop Dreams” at Sundance. James directed documentary “Life Itself” without realizing at the beginning that it would chronicle Ebert’s moving last days. He also included an interview with DuVernay, who is also in the Oscar conversation this year with her third feature, the Martin Luther King drama “Selma.”
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“Life Itself” is currently leading the documentary awards pack along with main rival “Citizenfour.” “Life Itself” has been named Best Documentary by the National Board of Review, New York Film Critics Online, Boston Online Film Critics Association and the Washington DC Area Film Critics Association. It was the LA Film Critics’ runner-up to “Citizenfour,” was nominated for Best Documentary by the Gotham Independent Film Awards and the PGA Awards, and is among the 15 shortlisted films vying for the Best Documentary Oscar.