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Documentary JANUARY 10, 2021 | SPECIAL ISSUE


HULU 8:03am - 8:23am

I Am Greta

Nathan Grossman (Director/Cinematographer)

AMAZON 8:23am – 8:45am


Garrett Bradley (Director)

All In: The Fight for Democracy

Liz Garbus (Director/Producer) Lisa Cortés (Director/Producer)

My Psychedelic Love Story

Errol Morris (Director)


R.J. Cutler (Director)

Kingdom of Silence

Rick Rowley (Director) Mohamed Soltan (Subject and Founder of The Freedom Initiative)

SHOWTIME 8:45am – 9:29am


FOCUS FEATURES 9:42am - 10:01am

The Way I See It

Laura Dern (Producer) Jayme Lemons (Producer) Dawn Porter (Director/Producer)

SONY PICTURES CLASSICS 10:01am – 10:24am

The Truffle Hunters

Michael Dweck (Director/Producer/Cinematographer) Gregory Kershaw (Director/Producer/Cinematographer)

The Human Factor

Dror Moreh (Director)

Dick Johnson Is Dead

Kirsten Johnson (Director)

Athlete A

Bonni Cohen (Co-Director) Jon Shenk (Co-Director)

Crip Camp

Judy Heumann (Subject/Disability Activist) Jim LeBrecht (Co-Director) Nicole Newnham (Co-Director)

The Social Dilemma

Jeff Orlowski (Director)

NETFLIX 10:24am – 11:09am





Victor Kossakovsky (Director)

The Painter and the Thief

Barbora “Barbar” Kysilkova (Subject) Benjamin Ree (Director)

Totally Under Control

Alex Gibney (Director) Ophelia Harutyunyan (Director) Suzanne Hillinger (Director)


Gianfranco Rosi (Director)

HBO MAX 12:22pm – 12:42pm

On the Record

Kirby Dick (Co-Director/Writer/Producer) Drew Dixon (Subject) Amy Ziering (Co-Director/Writer/Producer)

MTV DOCUMENTARY FILMS 12:42pm – 1:03pm

76 Days

Hao Wu (Director)

A Life Too Short

Safyah Usmani (Director)

NEON 11:41am – 12:22pm



The Dissident

Bryan Fogel (Director/Producer/Writer) Jake Swantko (Producer/Cinematographer)


Rebuilding Paradise

Ron Howard (Director/Producer) Michelle John (Film Subject) Xan Parker (Producer)

APPLE TV+ 1:53pm – 2:13pm

Boys State

Amanda McBaine (Director/Producer) Jesse Moss (Director/Producer)




Deadline’s newest addition to its Contenders juggernaut celebrates all things nonfiction, as the Doc race heats up BY M AT T H E W C A R E Y


Documentary Films, a riveting look

Judy Heumann, a key subject of the

pushed the release of a slew of

at patients and medical staff in

film and a leading disability rights

narrative films into 2021, reducing

the locked-down city of Wuhan,

activist, joins our conversation on

the number of Best Picture

China. Gibney wasted no time either,

that film.

contenders this Oscar season. But

combining forces with two fellow

it’s a completely different story

filmmakers to document the Trump

in the 1970s. A new activist on the

with documentary.

administration’s failed response in

world scene, climate change warrior

Neon’s Totally Under Control.

Greta Thunberg is the focus of

Streaming platforms and other players didn’t hold back their

This past year also brought

Heumann began her activism

Hulu’s I Am Greta. And the threat

nonfiction slate, and with the

a reckoning with systemic racial

from global warming also factors in

Academy relaxing qualification

injustice after the killing of George

Ron Howard’s Rebuilding Paradise,

rules, the record for films in

Floyd in Minneapolis. America’s

for National Geographic, a film

contention for Best Documentary

legacy of intransigent racism forms

about the California town wiped out

is about to be shattered.

the backdrop of two films from

by voracious wildfires in 2018, and in

Amazon Studios—All In: The Fight

Sony Pictures Classics’ The Truffle

time to launch Deadline’s first

for Democracy, and Garrett Bradley’s

Hunters. Even the pursuit of truffles

ever Contenders Documentary

Time. The latter title takes a granular

in Italy’s Piedmont region, it seems,

event, a virtual showcase of

view of the racial dimension to

is endangered by climate change.

top nonfiction films this awards

mass incarceration, examining the

season, featuring conversations

experience of a Black woman who

film in recent years has been

with a raft of Oscar-winning and

spent years trying to win the release

driven largely by the emergence of

Oscar-nominated filmmakers

of her imprisoned husband.

streaming platforms. Along with

That makes this the perfect

including Alex Gibney, Liz Garbus,

All In, featuring Democratic

The explosion of documentary

films from Netflix, Hulu and Amazon,

Ron Howard, Bryan Fogel, Errol

party superstar Stacey Abrams,

Contenders Documentary highlights

Morris, Gianfranco Rosi, Amy

shows how the former Georgia

award-winning documentaries from

Ziering, and Kirby Dick.

gubernatorial candidate has

Apple TV+ and HBO Max.

The Contenders Documentary

fought to counteract the country’s

And that’s just a taste of what’s

program reflects how filmmakers

long history of voter suppression

in store in our inaugural event,

confronted some of the world’s

targeting communities of color.

hosted by Deadline’s Joe Utichi.

most dire problems, like COVID-

It’s another civil rights

With awards voters facing a choice

19. Hao Wu jumped into action

movement, one that empowered

between so many nonfiction

when the novel coronavirus

people with disabilities, that gets

films this season, Contenders

erupted, making the vérité

long overdue attention in the

Documentary is your indispensable

documentary 76 Days for MTV

Netflix documentary Crip Camp.

guide to extraordinary work. Enjoy!

Meet the moderators

The Deadline staffers who’ll be guiding you through this year’s Contenders Documentary YOU R E MCE E JOE UTICHI


Joe oversees Deadline’s print magazine for the Oscar and Emmy seasons, as well as its special “Disruptors” edition for the Cannes Film Festival. He has been with Deadline since 2012 and serves as emcee for Deadline’s Contenders events. Prior to joining, his work regularly appeared in his native UK, for outlets including The Sunday Times and The Guardian. He has also worked extensively in film and television, producing EPK and production notes and serving as a unit publicist. He is a member of BAFTA and has sat on multiple juries for the BAFTA Film Awards. YOU R MODE RATORS MIKE FLEMING CO-EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, FILM

Mike joined Deadline in 2010 after working at Variety for 20 years as a reporter, writer and columnist. He was not only nationally recognized as Variety’s premiere film reporter but also for his “Dish” and “The Buzz” columns. Mike is known for his industry relationships and his ability to break news wherever it happens, including on the ground at festivals like Sundance, Cannes and Toronto. He also is an author: Doubleday published his book about The Three Stooges, From Amalgamated Morons to American Icons, which ABC turned into a telepic executive produced by Mel Gibson. One of Mike’s early jobs in journalism was editor of the well-known Media Industry Newsletter (MIN). He then joined New York Newsday as a columnist, reviewer and entertainment writer. During his career, he has written for numerous magazines including Playboy, Details, TV Guide and Esquire.Backstage, Hollywood.com and Maxim. PETE HAMMOND


Pete, widely considered to be one of the preeminent awards analysts for both film and television, has for the past seven years been Deadline’s Awards

Columnist covering the Oscar and Emmy seasons. He is also Deadline’s Chief Film Critic, having previously reviewed films for MovieLine, Boxoffice magazine, Backstage, Hollywood.com and Maxim. In addition to writing, Pete is also host of the year-round KCET Cinema Series, where he screens a selection of films prior to their theatrical release and interviews filmmakers. He previously held producing positions at Entertainment Tonight, Extra, Access Hollywood, The Arsenio Hall Show, The Martin Short Show and AMC Network and is the recipient of five Emmy nominations for writing. ANTONIA BLYTH



Matt contributes to the coverage and editing of all AwardsLine magazines, focusing on artist interviews revolving around awards season and its big nights including the Oscars, Emmys and Golden Globes. Matt also manages the Production Value video series, which spotlights the premier craft talent working in film and TV. He is on Deadline’s festival studio team at Sundance, Tribeca and Toronto and previously worked at UTA, and at 8thDay Pictures. AMANDA N’DUKA REPORTER

Antonia has contributed to Deadline and AwardsLine’s print magazines since 2014. A native Brit based in LA, prior to joining she covered West Coast entertainment for ELLE.com, and her work has been featured in The Guardian, UK Marie Claire and InStyle. She has written a New York Times bestselling non-fiction book and regularly appears on French television network TF1 as an entertainment expert.

Amanda started as an intern with Deadline in 2014 and two years later became the site’s first homegrown full-time staffer. Since then, she’s contributed to breaking news in film and television, and covered events from the Oscars to the Emmys, Golden Globes, Comic-Con, SXSW, the ATX Television Festival and more. With Dino-Ray Ramos, she co-hosts Deadline’s New Hollywood podcast, which champions people of color, women, members of the LGBTQ community and other underrepresented voices.



The newest addition to the Deadline team, Matthew Carey specializes in coverage of the nonfiction film landscape. Matthew is a writer and producer whose work has appeared on CNN, CNN International and CNN en Español. He has written extensively about documentary film for CNN and CNN.com, Documentary magazine, NBCNews.com and TheWrap.

Dominic covers litigious Hollywood’s major lawsuits and weighs in on the current Golden Age of television with his video reviews and more. Before joining Deadline in 2012, he wrote for the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Times, and the Toronto Globe and Mail. A frequent guest on NPR, Fox News Channel, CNN, MSNBC and CBS, he also has been a documentary director, TV producer and a newspaper editor.





Anthony covers box office, breaking film news, awards-season features and festival news. His first job in the industry was at Savoy Pictures in New York where he worked in film distribution. In 1999, he was hired by Variety and moved to Los Angeles, and remained in the newsroom covering numerous parts of the industry, including box office, for about a decade. Prior to arriving at Deadline in the fall of 2011, Anthony covered the box office beat for Indiewire’s Thompson on Hollywood. He also co-produced Matt Walsh’s film A Better You.




Dino-Ray joined Deadline in 2017 and writes about industry inclusion and diversity, genre film & TV, and pop culture. He covers events, including the Oscars, Emmys, Comic-Con and the TCA press tour. Additionally, he co-hosts the New Hollywood Podcast with Deadline’s Amanda N’Duka, which champions underrepresented voices. Dino-Ray has worked as film and TV reporter for the Oakland Tribune and San Francisco Chronicle, and was chief film critic at the Tracking Board.




I Am Greta Debuting in Venice, this documentary centers on Greta Thunberg, the 15-year-old Swedish student, who became an internationally recognized climate activist. Starting out as a change leader in 2018 by leading a school strike for the climate, Thunberg would go on to ignite a global movement, addressing the United Nations Climate Change Conference that same year. Premiering on Hulu in November, Nathan Grossman’s doc follows Thunberg from her first days of school striking, spotlighting her remarkable efforts to get people engaged with the harsh reality of the world’s environmental problems. AMAZON STUDIOS

Time This acclaimed documentary from director Garrett Bradley centers on Fox Rich, an entrepreneur, abolitionist and mother of six, who fought tirelessly, for more than 20 years, to get her husband Rob released from prison. Sentenced to 60 years for a bank robbery he commit-

ted in a moment of financial desperation, Rob’s story spotlights flaws in an American justice system that disproportionately penalizes people of color and the poor. Anchored in 100 hours of home videos recorded by Fox, the doc won Sundance’s U.S. Documentary Directing Award, making Bradley the first African-American woman to be recognized with the prize. All In: The Fight for Democracy Directors Liz Garbus and Lisa Cortés examine the history of voter suppression in the U.S. in this timely doc. While spotlighting a threat to democracy that still exists today, they also pay tribute to those fighting against it, including Georgia politician and lawyer Stacey Abrams. At the heart of the film is the story of Abrams’ 2018 run for governor. A producer on the doc, Abrams would have become the first African-American female governor in the country’s history, had she won. Ultimately, though, she lost by a razor-thin margin, refusing to concede the election, given evidence that it was rigged.

My Psychedelic Love Story From Oscar winner Errol Morris, this documentary examines a wild two months in the life of Timothy Leary—the controversial advocate of psychedelic drugs, who became a target of the U.S. government. Told from the perspective of his famed lover, Joanna Harcourt-Smith, the film recalls the period in which the pair went on the lam, after Leary’s escape from a California prison. Examining the countercultural icon’s eventual decision to cooperate with authorities, and his paramour’s role in the saga, the pic made its debut at AFI Fest in October, just a week after the passing of Harcourt-Smith. Belushi Premiering on Showtime in November, this celebrated feature was nominated for three Critics’ Choice Documentary Awards, including Best Historical/Biographical Documentary, Best Archival Documentary and Best Documentary. Written, directed and produced by Emmy winner R.J. Cutler, it takes a look at the brief and momentous life of original SNL cast member John Belushi, the comedian, actor and singer who left an enduring mark on Hollywood, before his tragic death of a drug overdose at the age of 33. Fleshing out the story of the screen icon are previously unheard audiotapes, recorded just before Belushi’s death, on March 5, 1982. Kingdom of Silence Directed by 2014 Oscar nomi-











nee Rick Rowley (Dirty Wars), this documentary spotlights the life and work of Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi Arabian dissident and Washington Post journalist, who was assassinated in Istanbul in October of 2018, by agents of his own government. Examining Khashoggi’s relationship to Saudi rulers, jihadists and likeminded journalists around the world, the doc cuts to the core of the man Time magazine referred to as a “Guardian of the Truth.” Produced by Alex Gibney’s Jigsaw Productions, the pic debuted on Showtime on October 2nd, as a tribute to Khashoggi on the second anniversary of his death.

Presidents Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama, the photojournalist’s work uniquely contextualizes the politics of two distinct eras, offering a singular perspective on where America once was, and where it stands today. Produced by Oscar winner Laura Dern and Jayme Lemons, the doc is bolstered by the work of composers Marco Beltrami, Brandon Roberts and Buck Sanders, who have been recognized with the Critics’ Choice Documentary Award for Best Score.

tastes, who will pay a pretty penny, to those few with the know-how to track it down. Offering a never-before-seen look at the ritual of the hunt, and those involved, the captivating doc is executive produced by Luca Guadagnino.


The Way I See It The life of former Chief Official White House Photographer Pete Souza comes into focus in this documentary, directed and produced by Dawn Porter. Serving under the administrations of


The Truffle Hunters A group of men in their 70s and 80s head deep into the forests of Northern Italy, in search of a rare, white fungus, in this critically acclaimed feature, from Gregory Kershaw and Michael Dweck. Strong smelling and incredibly elusive, the white Alba truffle is coveted around the world by those with rarefied

The Human Factor With his latest documentary, Oscar-nominated filmmaker Dror Moreh (The Gatekeepers) offers a window into an epic saga—that of the quest for peace in the Middle East, over the last three decades. The film takes as its focus six of America’s most prominent negotiators, showing how peace between Israel and its neighbors was almost achieved, and what got in the way. Set to debut later this month, Moreh’s doc is a timely meditation on leadership that sheds a necessary light on diplomatic mistakes of the past, in hopes that they won’t be repeated.


Dick Johnson Is Dead In her latest outing, Kirsten Johnson (Cameraperson) crafts an unusual love letter to her father, Dick, who suffers from dementia. A playful, darkly humorous examination of his death, enacting various extreme scenarios in which he could meet his end, the film is a kind of imaginative exercise that allows both father and daughter to process their feelings about his mortality. In its Sundance debut, the film claimed the U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Innovation in Nonfiction Storytelling. Subsequently, it would take top honors at the Critics’ Choice Documentary Awards, including Best Director and Best Documentary.

Athlete A Directed by Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk (An Inconvenient Sequel), this harrowing doc follows reporters from the Indianapolis Star as they break the story of the USA Gymnastics scandal, spotlighting the rampant abuses of team doctor Larry Nassar. First working for the team as an athletic trainer in 1986, Nassar was accused in 2015 of sexually assaulting over 260 young women. Examining his gross misconduct and the culture that enabled it, the doc is ultimately a tribute to survivors, like gymnast Maggie Nichols, honoring their resilience, as well as their courage in speaking out. Crip Camp The winner of Sundance’s Audi-




ence Award for Documentary tells the story of Camp Jened, a summer destination in the Catskills for teens with disabilities, which ignited a landmark civil rights movement in the 1970s. Directing the doc with Nicole Newnham is James Lebrecht, a former Jened camper who personally witnessed the site’s impact on countless lives, joining his peers in a decades-long fight for accessibility legislation. Debuting 30 years after the Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law, the critically acclaimed film is executive produced by Barack and Michelle Obama. The Social Dilemma In a year without actual water cooler talk, Jeff Orlowski (Chasing Coral)’s third feature





still managed to find itself at the center of the pop culture conversation. Featuring interviews with former employees at Big Tech companies like Google, Twitter and Facebook, the docudrama explores the dangerous impact that social networks have had on the very society they connect. Spotlighting the impact of social media on mental health, as a utility intended to nurture addiction, the film also examines the impact of Silicon Valley’s creations in the political arena, and the ways in which they exploit users for financial gain. NEON

Gunda Director Victor Kossakovsky (Aquarela)’s latest critically acclaimed effort explores the daily life of Gunda—a mother

pig inhabiting a Norwegian farm, alongside two cows and a onelegged chicken. An intimate and poignant examination of the natural world, the film treats its animals as subjects to be appreciated and understood, outside of the context of their use to humans. Featuring gorgeous black-and-white cinematography from Kosakovskiy and Egil Håskjold Larsen, and immersive sound design by Alexander Dudarev, the documentary is executive produced by Oscar winner Joaquin Phoenix. The Painter and the Thief When Czech artist Barbora Kysilkova moved to Oslo to launch her career, two of her most valuable paintings were stolen, in broad daylight, from a local gallery. Subsequently, she was able to track down the

man who took them, choosing not to berate him, but rather, to befriend him. In Benjamin Ree’s second feature, he casts a light on their unexpected bond, which speaks to the power in empathy and forgiveness. The recipient of Sundance’s World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award for Creative Storytelling was released in May. Totally Under Control Seeing a friend succumb to Covid-19 and another placed on a ventilator led Oscar winner Alex Gibney to make his latest doc. Drawing on testimony from journalists, Washington insiders and infectious disease specialists, the film scrutinizes the Trump administration’s early response to the coronavirus pandemic, also calling into question the politicizing of an unprecedented

able resilience of abuse survivors, the doc premiered on HBO Max in May. MTV DOCUMENTARY FILMS



health crisis. Co-directed by Ophelia Harutyunyan and Suzanne Hillinger, the doc thoughtfully dissects a story of epic scale that is still unfolding in real time, offering up an explanation for the United States’ status as the Covid-19 death toll leader. Notturno In his latest documentary, 2017 Oscar nominee Gianfranco Rosi (Fire at Sea) offers a window into the lives of those trying to survive, amidst chaos in the war-torn Middle East. Filmed over the course of three years, in Syria, Iraq, Kurdistan and Lebanon, the doc’s subjects are a diverse assortment of individuals, who struggle to proceed with their everyday lives, in such close proximity to violence and tragedy. Selected as Italy’s of-


ficial submission in the Oscars’ category of Best International Feature Film, the doc made its debut at the Venice Film Festival last fall. HBO MAX

On the Record Oscar nominees Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering investigate allegations of sexual harassment and assault by hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons in their latest bombshell feature, which debuted at the Sundance Film Festival in January. Featuring interviews with several of Simmons’ 20+ alleged victims, the film’s primary focus is former A&R exec Drew Dixon, the first woman to go public with allegations of rape and career sabotage, in a 2017 New York Times piece. Depicting the enduring struggles, as well as the remark-

76 Days The winner of AFI Fest’s Audience Award for Documentary Feature offers a harrowing look at life on the frontlines of the Covid-19 pandemic. Set in Wuhan—the large Chinese city where the novel coronavirus was first identified—it documents the experience of both Covid patients and medical professionals, sharing with a global audience their daily battles, as well as their resilience. Enlisting Weixi Chen and an anonymous Chinese reporter as co-directors on the project was filmmaker Hao Wu, who started filming shortly after the start of Wuhan’s lockdown, and continued until it lifted in April. A Life Too Short In her latest short, director Safyah Usmani spotlights the too-short life of Fouzia Azeem—the first social media celebrity in Pakistan, who was more widely known by her stage name, Qandeel Baloch. An outspoken model, actress and activist, Azeem rose to fame with a series of online videos, in which she discussed her life as a Pakistani woman, and a number of controversial issues. Continuously pushing up against the boundaries of her conservative society, Azeem’s life ended in tragedy, after she exposed selfies online, in which she appeared with a wellknown Muslim cleric.




The Dissident This acclaimed doc is the second in recent memory centered on the disappearance of Saudi dissident and Washington Post journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, who was last seen obtaining marriage documents in Istanbul, in October of 2018. Joining forces with a community of whistleblowers, Khashoggi’s fiancée, Hatice Cengiz, works tirelessly to expose his murder, as well as the astonishing global cover-up that accompanies it. Directed by Oscar winner Bryan Fogel (Icarus), this investigative piece pays tribute to dissenters across the world, who have repeatedly put their lives on the line, in order to bring injustice to light.



Rebuilding Paradise This documentary centers on the small town of Paradise, one of many in California that was ravaged by the Camp Fire of 2018. Claiming the lives of 85 people, while displacing 50,000 and demolishing around 14,000 homes, the Camp Fire is remembered as the most destructive wildfire in the history of the state. Directing the feature on the disaster and its impact is two-time Oscar winner Ron Howard, who spent over a year filming in the town, spotlighting the trauma and tenacity of residents who committed themselves to moving on in life, after being hit with an unthinkable tragedy.


Boys State A thousand teenagers come together in Austin, Texas for a conference known as Boys State, in the latest documentary from Jesse Moss and Amanda McBaine. Allowing high school juniors to explore the inner workings of the American government, the leadership and citizenship program reveals both the political consciousness, and the deep level of division present amongst the youth of the nation. Winning Best Political Documentary at the Critics’ Choice Documentary Awards, and Sundance’s Grand Jury Prize for Documentary, the film debuted in August, via Apple TV+ and A24.

Profile for Deadline Hollywood

Deadline Hollywood - Contenders Documentary - 01/10/21  

Deadline Hollywood - Contenders Documentary - 01/10/21