Posted on Friday, April 7th, 2017 by Ben Pearson
One of the biggest film-related arguments of the past year was whether or not Ezra Edelman’s superlative documentary O.J.: Made in America should have been eligible for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. There were passionate advocates on both sides, and the nearly eight-hour doc ended up winning the Oscar. But it seems like that argument may only happen once, because the Academy has just adopted a new rule that means multi-part documentaries can’t win Oscars in the future.
The Hollywood Reporter brings word about the new rule change, which states “multi-part or limited series are not eligible for awards consideration.” Moving forward, producers will no longer be allowed to put multi-part documentaries in theaters to earn Oscar consideration.
There is a slight catch:
There does, however, appear to be one way a doc like O.J. could make the cut. O.J. played numerous festivals where it was regarded as a film in the run-up to its Academy-qualifying run, and if producers of a multi-part project followed that route, they could still argue to the branch’s exec committee that their film deserved consideration.
O.J.: Made in America premiered at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival as a film, airing in its entirety with one intermission taking place during the screening. After making a few other stops on the festival circuit, the documentary had a limited theatrical run in both New York and Los Angeles before eventually making its way to television, airing in five parts across ABC and ESPN.
Supporters said that the cohesive subject matter and the fact that it premiered as a film (as opposed to just being dropped into theaters for a qualifying run later) were enough for it to be considered a movie, but detractors claimed that since most people saw it broken up in parts on television, it should be considered a TV show or limited series.
New rules be damned: I still consider O.J.: Made in America a movie, and it was one of my favorite films of 2016. It’s a staggering piece of work that earns its length by providing essential context and setting up the state of the country leading up to O.J. Simpson’s murder trial, and I truly think everyone should watch it (even if you’re O.J.’ed out after watching FX’s American Crime Story: The People vs. O.J. Simpson).
There was apparently such an outcry about the film vs. TV distinction in the documentary community that the Academy needed to step in to try to prevent this from happening again. I can understand where they’re coming from; film fans should never want discussion about a movie to get buried under a larger controversy. (See also: coverage of Moonlight‘s historic Best Picture win being partially overshadowed by the bungled announcement during the ceremony.)
But it sounds like instead of putting this issue to bed once and for all, this new rule leaves a little leeway for future docs to possibly squeeze through. So it’s probably only a matter of time before this argument rears its head once again. What do you think? Is O.J.: Made in America a movie? Should future projects like it be eligible for Oscars?Cool Posts From Around the Web: