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Recent and Historical Docs to be Featured in Academy Screening Series

By Tamara Krinsky

From Marilyn Agrelo’s 'Mad Hot Ballroom.'

New to documentaries? After this summer's slate of high profile doc releases like Rize, Mad Hot Ballroom and Murderball, many cineastes are finding a new passion for nonfiction filmmaking. If you want to delve deeper into the genre, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has your fix with two film series beginning this autumn.

The weekly film series "Oscar's Docs: The First 20 Years of Oscar-winning Documentaries" will showcase the projects which received Academy Awards in the documentary short and feature categories from 1941-1960. Two years of short and feature winners will be featured in each Monday evening screening from September 12 - December 5, 2005. In addition to the films, the series will feature two evenings of panel discussions, one on World War II documentaries and another on nature documentaries.

According to Randy Haberkamp, the academy's director of educational programs and special projects, the idea for the series was born about three years ago during the 75th anniversary of the Academy Awards. At that time, the academy began a weekly series that featured all 75 Best Picture winners played in order. "It was so popular that other branches suggested we screen winners in the other categories. The documentary branch, being new, was especially aggressive," says Haberkamp. "In addition to the opportunity to screen all the films, it was also a chance to make sure they were being taken care of and to make sure we have great copies of them. It's been a very proactive series."

All the screenings will feature actual prints of the winning films. The academy already had several in their collections, while others were donated or tracked down. In addition, the academy has commissioned program notes by various experts in the field, which will be handed out at each screening. "For people who come to every screening and gather the notes, they'll have their own mini-libraries by the end," says Haberkamp. "This will be probably the first time a lot of this information has been gathered in one place. It's been a gathering effort for the library, the archives and the programming departments, so it's been a great thing for the academy in all of its branches."

A series pass to all screenings and the two seminars will be available for $30 for the general public and $25 for Academy members and students with valid ID. For more information on the series, look under "Events and Screenings" at


Tamara Krinsky is associate editor of Documentary.