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‘Ascension’ and ‘Summer of Soul’ Lead Critics Choice Documentary Nominations

The two films notched six nominations apiece, while R.J. Cutler will receive the Critics Choice Association's esteemed Pennebaker Award.

Summer of Soul

“Summer of Soul”

YouTube/screenshot

The Critics Choice Association (CCA) has announced the nominees for the sixth annual Critics Choice Documentary Awards (CCDA). This year’s winners will be revealed at a gala on Sunday, November 14, 2021, in Brooklyn, NY. The awards honor the best achievements in nonfiction released in theaters, on TV, or on major digital platforms.

Both films by first-time documentarians, “Ascension” and “Summer of Soul” lead this year’s nominations with six each. “Ascension,” a look at the Chinese dream across social classes, is also up for Documentary Feature, Director (Jessica Kingdon), First Feature, Cinematography, Editing, and Score. Meanwhile, “Summer of Soul” is up for Documentary Feature, Best Director (Ahmir “Questlove’ Thompson), First Documentary, Editing, Archival Documentary, and Music Documentary.

“Becoming Cousteau” and “The Rescue” also picked up five nominations each.

Last year, “Dick Johnson Is Dead” took home the CCA’s top award for Best Documentary as well as the Best Director award for Kirsten Johnson.

In addition to the 14 award categories and one honor listed below, the prestigious Pennebaker Award will be presented to esteemed documentarian R.J. Cutler (“Billie Eilish: The World’s a Little Blurry”). This award is named for Critics Choice Lifetime Achievement Award winner D A Pennebaker, who passed away in 2019.

The nominees for the Sixth Annual Critics Choice Documentary Awards Presented by National Geographic Documentary Films are:

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
“Ascension” (MTV Documentary Films)
“Attica” (Showtime)
“Becoming Cousteau” (Picturehouse/National Geographic Documentary Films)
“The Crime of the Century” (HBO Documentary Films)
“A Crime on the Bayou” (Augusta Films/Shout! Studios)
“Flee” (Neon)
“Introducing, Selma Blair” (Discovery+)
“The Lost Leonardo” (Sony Pictures Classics)
“My Name is Pauli Murray” (Amazon Studios)
“Procession” (Netflix)
“The Rescue” (National Geographic Documentary Films)
“Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised)” (Searchlight Pictures/Hulu)

BEST DIRECTOR
Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin – “The Rescue” (National Geographic Documentary Films)
Liz Garbus – “Becoming Cousteau” (Picturehouse/National Geographic Documentary Films)
Jessica Kingdon – “Ascension” (MTV Documentary Films)
Stanley Nelson and Traci A. Curry – “Attica” (Showtime)
Jonas Poher Rasmussen – “Flee” (Neon)
Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson – “Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised)”
(Searchlight Pictures/Hulu)
Edgar Wright – “The Sparks Brothers” (Focus Features)

BEST FIRST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
Jessica Beshir – “Faya Dayi” (Janus Films)
Rachel Fleit – “Introducing, Selma Blair” (Discovery+)
Todd Haynes – “The Velvet Underground” (Apple TV+)
Jessica Kingdon – “Ascension” (MTV Documentary Films)
Kristine Stolakis – “Pray Away” (Netflix)
Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson – “Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised)”
(Searchlight Pictures/Hulu)
Edgar Wright – “The Sparks Brothers” (Focus Features)

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
Jessica Beshir – “Faya Dayi” (Janus Films)
Jonathan Griffith, Brett Lowell and Austin Siadak – “The Alpinist” (Roadside Attractions)
David Katznelson, Ian Seabrook and Picha Srisansanee – “The Rescue”
(National Geographic Documentary Films)
Jessica Kingdon and Nathan Truesdell – “Ascension” (MTV Documentary Films)
Nelson Hume and Alan Jacobsen – “The Loneliest Whale: The Search for 52” (Bleecker Street Media)
Emiliano Villanueva – “A Cop Movie” (Netflix)
Pete West – “Puff: Wonders of the Reef” (Netflix)

BEST EDITING
Francisco Bello, Matthew Heineman, Gabriel Rhodes and David Zieff – “The First Wave”
(National Geographic Documentary Films)
Jeff Consiglio – “LFG” (HBO Max and CNN Films)
Bob Eisenhardt – “The Rescue” (National Geographic Documentary Films)
Affonso Gonçalves and Adam Kurnitz – “The Velvet Underground” (Apple TV+)
Jessica Kingdon – “Ascension” (MTV Documentary Films)
Joshua L. Pearson – “Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised)”
(Searchlight Pictures/Hulu)
Julian Quantrill – “The Real Charlie Chaplin” (Showtime)

BEST NARRATION
“9/11: Inside the President’s War Room”(Apple TV+)
Jeff Daniels, Narrator

“Becoming Cousteau” (Picturehouse/National Geographic Documentary Films)
Vincent Cassel, Narrator
Mark Monroe and Pax Wassermann, Writers

“The Crime of the Century” (HBO Documentary Films)
Alex Gibney, Narrator
Alex Gibney, Writer

“The Neutral Ground” (PBS)
CJ Hunt, Narrator
CJ Hunt, Writer

“The Real Charlie Chaplin” (Showtime)
Pearl Mackie, Narrator
Oliver Kindeberg, Peter Middleton and James Spinney, Writers

“Val” (Amazon Studios)
Jack Kilmer, Narrator
Val Kilmer, Writer

“The Year Earth Changed” (Apple TV+)
David Attenborough, Narrator

BEST SCORE
Jongnic Bontemps – “My Name is Pauli Murray” (Amazon Studios)
Dan Deacon – “Ascension” (MTV Documentary Films)
Alex Lasarenko and David Little – “The Loneliest Whale: The Search for 52” (Bleecker Street Media)
Cyrus Melchor – “LFG” (HBO/CNN)
Daniel Pemberton – “The Rescue” (National Geographic Documentary Films)
Rachel Portman – “Julia” (Sony Pictures Classics)
Dirac Sea – “Final Account” (Focus Features)

BEST ARCHIVAL DOCUMENTARY
“Becoming Cousteau” (Picturehouse/National Geographic Documentary Films)
“The Real Charlie Chaplin” (Showtime)
“The Real Right Stuff” (Disney+)
“Street Gang: How We Got to Sesame Street” (HBO Documentary Films)
“Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised)” (Searchlight Pictures/Hulu)
“Val” (Amazon Studios)
“The Velvet Underground” (Apple TV+)

BEST HISTORICAL OR BIOGRAPHICAL DOCUMENTARY
“Attica” (Showtime)
“A Crime on the Bayou” (Augusta Films/Shout! Studios)
“Fauci” (Magnolia Pictures/National Geographic Documentary Films)
“Final Account” (Focus Features)
“Julia” (Sony Pictures Classics)
“My Name is Pauli Murray” (Amazon Studios)
“No Ordinary Man” (Oscilloscope)
“Val” (Amazon Studios)

BEST MUSIC DOCUMENTARY
“Billie Eilish: The World’s A Little Blurry” (Apple TV+)
“Bitchin’: The Sound and Fury of Rick James” (Showtime)
“Listening to Kenny G” (HBO Documentary Films)
“The Sparks Brothers” (Focus Features)
“Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised)” (Searchlight Pictures/Hulu)
“Tina” (HBO Documentary Films)
“The Velvet Underground” (Apple TV+)

BEST POLITICAL DOCUMENTARY
“The Crime of the Century” (HBO Documentary Films)
“Enemies of the State” (IFC Films)
“Four Hours at the Capitol” (HBO Documentary Films)
“Influence” (StoryScope, EyeSteelFilm)
“Mayor Pete” (Amazon Studios)
“Missing in Brooks County” (Giant Pictures)
“Nasrin” (Hulu)
“Not Going Quietly” (Greenwich Entertainment)

BEST SCIENCE/NATURE DOCUMENTARY
“Becoming Cousteau” (Picturehouse/National Geographic Documentary Films)
“Fauci” (National Geographic Documentary Films)
“The First Wave” (National Geographic Documentary Films)
“The Loneliest Whale: The Search for 52” (Bleecker Street Media)
“Playing with Sharks” (National Geographic Documentary Films)
“Puff: Wonders of the Reef” (Netflix)
“The Year Earth Changed” (Apple TV+)

BEST SPORTS DOCUMENTARY
“The Alpinist” (Roadside Attractions)
“Changing the Game” (Hulu)
“The Day Sports Stood Still” (HBO)
“Kevin Garnett: Anything Is Possible” (Showtime)
“LFG” (HBO Max/CNN Films)
“Tiger” (HBO)

BEST SHORT DOCUMENTARY
“Audible” (Netflix)
“Borat’s American Lockdown” (Amazon Studios)
“Camp Confidential: America’s Secret Nazis” (Netflix)
“Day of Rage: How Trump Supporters Took the U.S. Capitol” (The New York Times)
“The Doll” (Jumping Ibex)
“The Last Cruise” (HBO Documentary Films)
“The Queen of Basketball” (The New York Times)
“Snowy” (TIME Studios)

MOST COMPELLING LIVING SUBJECTS OF A DOCUMENTARY (HONOR)
Ady Barkan – “Not Going Quietly” (Greenwich Entertainment)
Selma Blair – “Introducing, Selma Blair” (Discovery+)
Pete Buttigieg – “Mayor Pete” (Amazon Studios)
Anthony Fauci – “Fauci” (Magnolia Pictures/National Geographic Documentary Films)
Ben Fong-Torres – “Like a Rolling Stone: The Life and Times of Ben Fong-Torres” (StudioLA.TV)
Val Kilmer – “Val” (Amazon Studios)
Ron and Russell Mael – “The Sparks Brothers” (Focus Features)
Rita Moreno – “Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For It” (Roadside Attractions)
Valerie Taylor – “Playing With Sharks: The Valerie Taylor Story” (Disney+)

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