Skip to main content

1997 Academy Award Nominees

By IDA Editorial Staff

A man stands in front of a crowd from Leon Gast's  'When We Were Kings.'

Best Documentary Feature

Produced, written and directed by Susan W. Dryfoos
Edited by Angelo Corrao
Creative Consultant: Daniel Mayer Selznick
A Castle Hills Productions, Inc. release of a Times History Production
87 min.

A look at the 93 year-old caricaturist's astonishing career through interviews with the celebrities who have been his subjects, insights from his late wife Dolly Haas and his daughter Nina, vintage home movies and archival footage, along with commentary from Hirschfeld himself. The film documents Hirschfeld's life, from his childhood, early career and influences, through his creative process and enduring impact upon both the world of show business and the world of art. The artist emerges as a brilliant, delightfully quirky and compassionate observer of humanity.

SUSAN W. DRYFOOS is an award-winning filmmaker and author. Since 1983, she has served as the Director of Times History Productions, which preserves and collects historical data and produces oral histories and film documentaries related to The New York Times. Among her film subjects are colum­nist James (Scotty) Reston, fashion reporting in The Times, and Iphigene Ochs Sulzberger of The New York Times family.

Produced by Jonathan Demme, Edward Saxon and Jo Menell
Directed by Jo Menell and Angus Gibson
Photography by Dewald Aukema and Peter Tischhauser
Original Music by Cedric Gradus Samson, with Hugh Masekela Edited by Andy Keir
An Island Pictures Release of a Clinica Estetico Production
120 min.

This film traces the life of Nelson Mandela from his childhood in the Xhosa tribe through the solitude and sacrifices of his early activism, revolutionary leadership and political imprisonment, to his ultimate victory as leader of a new racially united South Africa. The soundtrack is a unique blend of compositions by South African musical artists. Behind-the-scenes campaign activity are captured and linked to scenes of euphoric masses of South African citizens voting for the first time, culminating with the inauguration of Mandela's government.

JO MENELL, a native South African, worked for British Television making documentaries, 1960-70, and was banned from making films in his native country until 1990. Since moving to the U.S., his work has included Nothing to Lose, The Life and Times of Bob Marley and Haiti: Dreams of Democracy.

ANGUS GIBSON is one of South Africa's premier documentary filmmakers, founding member of Free Film Makers, a cooperative established to share filmmaking skills and to create relevant, non-racial South African cinema. His work includes Singing the Changes, South Africa: 7Up, Nowhere to Play: Conversation with Sowetan Golfers and the six-part Soweto: A History.

Produced by Anne Bell
Directed by Anne Bell and Deborah Dickson
Cinematography by Don Lenzer
A Seahorse Films, Inc. Production
118 min.

She came to the New York City Ballet as a teenager from Ohio and captured the heart and soul of the great George Balanchine, inspiring the seminal ballets of her era and setting off a star-crossed love triangle as fevered and bizarre as anything in The Red Shoes. As the greatest ballerina of her time looks back on her amazing career in this intimate portrait, the on-stage triumphs and backstage turmoil come to vivid life. Interviews with Jacques d'Amboise, Arthur Mitchell, Maurice Bejart, Edward Villella and Farrell's husband, Paul Mejia.

ANNE BELL is an award-winning independent filmmaker who lives in New York City. Suzanne Farrell is the third in trilogy of dance films made in collaboration with Deborah Dickson (Reflections of a Dancer: Alexandra Danilova and Dancing for Mr. B: Six Balanchine Ballerinas).

DEBORAH DICKSON is an American independent filmmaker based in New York. Her Frances Steloff: Memoirs of a Bookseller was nominated for a 1987 Academy Award®. In addition to her work with Anne Bell, her films include collaborations with Susan Froemke and Maysles Films.


Produced, directed and edited by Rick Goldsmith
Written by Sharon Wood and Rick Goldsmith
Cinematography by Stephen Lighill, Will Parrinello, Witt Monts and Vic Losick
Original Music by Jon Herbst Narrated by Susan Sarandon
A film by Goldsmith Productions
111 min.

The century-long saga of George Seldes—defiant foreign correspondent and pioneer press critic—is a piercing examination of censorship and suppression in America's media. Approaching his centenary, Seldes is engaging, witty and still impassioned about ideas and ideals, recalling his encounters with Pershing, Lenin and Mussolini, the tobacco indus­try, J. Edgar Hoover and the "lords of the press." In the film, his writings are read by actor Ed Asner, and commentary is provided from interviews with Ralph Nader, Victor Navasky, Ben Bagdikian, Daniel Ellsberg, Nat Hentoff, Jeff Cohen and others.

RICK GOLDSMITH's first venture into filmmaking came in the early 1970s as a budding architect at the Rhode Island School of Design. In 1979, he began working in the San Francisco Bay Area film and video community with Rob Nilsson and John Korty. Prior to Tell the Truth and Run, he directed and edited Anatomy of a Mural (1982); he also provided direction for the bilingual dramatic/choral stage production Step by Step/Paso a Paso (1982). His film on George Seldes was seven years in the making.

Produced by David Sonenberg, Leon Gast and Taylor Hackford
Directed by Leon Gast
Cinematography by Maryse Alberti, Paul Goldsmith, Kevin Keating, Albert Maysles, Roderick Young
Edited by Leon Gast, Taylor Hackford, Jeffrey Levy-White and Keith Robinson
A Gramercy Pictures Release of a DAS Films Presentation
90 min.

A dramatic account of the famed "Rumble in the Jungle"—the history-making 1975 bout between George Foreman and Muhammad Ali, held in Zaire and broadcast around the world. One of the most influential events of an eventful decade, it caused black Americans to see their own genera­tional crossroads reflected in the contrasting images of the two men who had returned to Africa to fight. With George Foreman, Don King, James Brown, B.B. King, Spike Lee, Norman Mailer and George Plimpton.

DAVID SONENBERG is an attorney and the founder of DAS Communications Ltd., a full service management service company for artists in the entertainment industry. With PolyGram Music, he formed DAS Records, whose first release will be the conceptual soundtrack for When We Were Kings.

LEON GAST is a New York-based filmmaker whose work includes Hell's Angels Forever, The Dead, Salsa and Our Latin Thing. He co-produced and edited the NBC telefilm Mike Tyson Fallen Champion.

Best Short Subject

Produced, directed and written by Jessica Yu
Director of Photography: Shana Hagan
Music Composed by Sandra Tsing Loh
Edited by Jessica Yu
Sponsored by the International Documentary Association Distributed by Fanlight Productions
35 min.

Breathing Lessons explores the unique world of Mark O'Brien, the poet-journalist who has lived for four decades paralyzed in an iron lung. Incorporating the vivid imagery of O'Brien's poetry and his candid, wry and often profound reflections on work, sex, death and God, this provocative documentary asks: What is a life worth living? By presenting O'Brien's life from his point of view, the film provides an intimate window into the reality of a life of severe disability, as well as an illuminating portrait of a remarkable artist.

JESSICA YU is a filmmaker and writer based in Los Angeles. Her films include Sour Death Balls, The Conductor, HomeBase: A Chinatown Called Heinlenville and Men of Reenaction. She served as associate producer on Rose Kennedy: A Life to Remember and Maya Lin. A graduate of Yale University, she recently served on the Board of Directors for IDA and as an organizing committee member for the first International Documentary Congress. Breathing Lessons received the 1996 IDA Achievement Award for Best Short Documentary.

Produced and directed by Jeffrey Marvin and Bayley Silleck
Executive Producer for the National Air and Space Museum: Gwendolyn K. Crider
Written by Bayley Silleck
Directors of Photography: Ernest McNabb, Noel Archambault, Timothy Housel
Music composed and conducted by David Michael Frank
Edited by Miroslav Janek
Narrated by Morgan Freeman Distributed by the IMAX Corporation
36 min.

In the worlds that lie beyond the range of our senses, what do "large" and "small" really mean? And what is our true place in the vast continuum of time and space we call the Universe? Utilizing state-of-the-art computer visualizations, special digital effects and live-action sequences shot in Greece, Italy, Holland, Hawaii and Utah, Cosmic Voyage transports audiences from the distant quasars and galaxy clusters down to the strange realm of quarks, the smallest known constituents of matter, and from the Big Bang to the rise of civilization and modern technology on earth.

JEFFREY MARVIN served for four years as senior producer for Omnibus/Robert Abel Associates, before founding his own independent production company. He co-produced Concerto for the Earth, for the 1992 World's Fair in Seville, Spain.

BAYLEY SILLECK had worked for Embassy Pictures, M-G-M and Francis Thompson, Inc., before founding his own production company. His IMAX films include Energy! Energy! and On the Wing. He wrote, directed and co-produced Concerto for the Earth.

Produced, written, directed and read by Perry Wolff
Edited by Andrew Morreale from Great Projects Film Company, Inc.
Executive Producers: Daniel B. Polin and Kenneth Mandel
40 min.

An Essay on Matisse details the changes in style and subject matter throughout the artist's prolific career—from portraits to still lifes to the abstract; refinements in color and shape stimulated by his travels; concern with the future of his beloved France, as well as with mankind; and his discovery of paper cutouts after debilitating surgery confined him to a wheelchair. Rare historical footage shows the great master at work with brush in hand: "What I dream of is an art of balance and serenity... an art which could be a calming influence on the mind."

PERRY WOLFF is the recipient of 14 Peabody Awards, 15 Emmy Awards and numerous Writers Guild, DuPont and Polk Awards. In nearly four decades with CBS-TV, he produced, wrote and served as executive producer for, among others, A Tour of the White House with Jacqueline Kennedy, Voices from the Russian Underground and The Selling of the Pentagon. Among his other works are Gauguin in Tahiti, Pablo Picasso: Once in a Lifetime, The Vanishing Family: Crisis in Black America and Images of Jesus.

Produced by Susanne Simpson Directed by Ben Burtt
Special Visual Effects by Industrial Light & Magic Music by Christopher Stone
Narrated by John Lithgow
A Production of NOVA WGBH Boston Executive Producer: Paula S. Apsell Distributed by IMAX Corporation
40 min.

A look at the "how " of special visual effects, which have been deceiving and delighting audiences for as long as movies have existed: from turn-of-the-century efforts of filmmaker Georges Melies to the dazzling effects of Star Wars, Independence Day and Jumanji; from the northern California studio of Industrial Light & Magic to the mixture of live action and special effects by Rhythm & Hues. Finally, R2D2 and 3CPO escort us through the Lucasfilm archive for one final, spectacular experience in the magical world of special effects.

SUSANNE SIMPSON is Executive Producer of NOVA Large Format Films, at WGBH Boston. She was senior producer for To the Limit and Stormchasers. As an independent documentary filmmaker, her Eight Minutes to Midnight: A Portrait of Dr. Helen Caldicott received an Oscar® nomination in 1981.

BEN BURTI provided direction for Blue Planet and Destiny in Space for IMAX. He received 4 Academy Awards® for his sound effects work on Star Wars, E.T.: The Extraterrestrial, Raiders of the Lost Ark and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. He recently completed writing and directing Young Indiana Jones and The Attack of the Hawkman for The Family Channel.

Produced by Nick Redman and Paul Seydor
Written, directed and edited by Paul Seydor
Music by Jerry Fielding
Narrated by Nick Redman
A Warner Bros. release of a Taurus Entertainment presentation
34 min.

The Wild Bunch: An Album in Montage is a short documentary film on the making of Sam Peckinpah's classic 1969 film. Extraordinary black-and-white archival footage­—taken behind-the-scenes on location in the high desert country near Torreon, Mexico—shows Peckinpah directing the actors and his crew members, as he sets up shots and stages sequences. The B&W footage is silent; interviews and commentary by Peckinpah, his associates and colleagues, his actors and his friends and family make up the soundtrack. Actor Ed Harris reads the voice of Peckinpah.

NICK REDMAN, a native Londoner, lives and works in Los Angeles; he has produced more than 150 film soundtrack albums, and has written, produced and music-supervised many documentaries.

PAUL SEYDOR wrote Peckinpah: The Western Films. He has taught at the University of Iowa, where he received the Ph.D. in American Civilization, and the University of Southern California. His film editing work includes White Men Can't Jump and Turner and Hooch.