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Why the 2020 Documentary Oscar Race Could Be a Bloodbath

Screen Talk, episode 147: The year is halfway over and there's a lot more to come, but the non-fiction field is already packed.

"One Child Nation" director Nanfu Wang

“One Child Nation” director Nanfu Wang

Yuanchen Liu

The summertime is a bit early for Oscar prognostication, at least when it comes to many major categories. But the documentary race is an exception: With major contenders launching at the top of the year out of Sundance, and several documentaries currently doing strong business in theaters, the non-fiction competition is already quite fierce, and the fall festivals could unleash a whole lot more. From “Apollo 11” to “One Child Nation” (above), this year’s contenders tackle a range of subjects with ambitious approaches. But one new documentary released this week, Martin Scorsese’s “Rolling Thunder Revue,” may or may not join the fray since its definition as a documentary is suspect. Will documentary voters care? And how might they respond to films like “Diego Maradona,” from director Asif Kapadia, who already won once before?

In this week’s Screen Talk, Eric Kohn and Anne Thompson discuss Scorsese’s film as well as the many other non-fiction contenders to get a handle on a dense race that could very well become a bloodbath in the months ahead. They also revisit Amazon’s release strategy for “Late Night” as the film continues to enter new markets and explore the studio’s revised plans for “The Report.” Finally, they debate another new release, Jim Jarmusch’s “The Dead Don’t Die.”

Stay tuned for next week’s installment, which will include first impressions on “Midsommar” and “Toy Story 4.”

Listen to the full episode below.


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