Annal: 2004 Academy Award® for Best Documentary Feature

Results of the Academy Award® in the year 2004.

Film:The Fog of War

The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara

Errol Morris

The Fog of War, the movie that finally won Errol Morris the best documentary Oscar, is a spellbinder. Morris interviews Robert McNamara, Secretary of Defense in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, and finds a uniquely unsettling viewpoint on much of 20th-century American history. Employing a ton of archival material, including LBJ’s fascinating taped conversations from the Oval Office, Morris probes the reasons behind the U.S. commitment to the Vietnam War—and finds a depressingly inconsistent policy. McNamara himself emerges as—well, not exactly…

Film:Balseros (Cuban Rafters)

Balseros

Carlos Bosch, Josep Maria Domènech

An Academy Award nominee for Best Documentary Feature, Balseros is the heartrending yet triumphant account of seven Cuban refugees—and their families—who risked their lives to venture towards America’s shores on homemade rafts. The Village Voice raves that Balseros is an “engrossing documentary” with an “extraordinary sense of recording stories as they unfold!” While Presidents Clinton and Fidel Castro argued over the closing of Cuba’s coast in the chaotic summer of 1994, nearly 50,000 “balseros” (a slang term for Cuban rafters) set out towards Florida, navigating the shark-infested waters on vessels made of wood, nails, and tar. The television reporting team of Carles Bosch and Josep M. Domènech began filming this remarkable story over those landmark 15 days. Then, as most of the rafters were picked up by the U.S. Coast Guard, Bosch and Domènech continued to follow their lively cast of characters, some of whom were detained for more than a year at the Guantanamo naval base before finally being allowed onto American soil.

Film:Capturing the Friedmans

Capturing the Friedmans

Andrew Jarecki

Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the 2003 Sundance Film Festival, and with over $3 million at the box office to date, Capturing The Friedmans is nothing short of the most riveting, provocative, and hotly debated films of the year. Despite their predilection for hamming it up in front of home-movie cameras, the Friedmans were a normal middle-class family living in the affluent New York suburb of Great Neck. One Thanksgiving, as the family gathers at home for a quiet holiday dinner, their front door explodes, splintered by a police battering ram. Officers rush into the house, accusing Arnold Friedman and his youngest son Jesse of hundreds of shocking crimes. The film follows their story from the public’s perspective and through unique real footage of the family in crisis, shot inside the Friedman house. As the police investigate, and the community reacts, the fabric of the family begins to disintegrate, revealing provocative questions about truth, justice, family, and—ultimately—truth.

Film:My Architect: A Son's Journey

My Architect: A Son's Journey

Nathaniel Kahn

A riveting tale of love, art, betrayal and forgiveness—in which the illegitimate son of a legendary architect undertakes a worldwide exploration to discover and understand his father’s and the personal choices he made.

Louis I. Kahn is considered by many historians to have been the most important architect of the second half of the twentieth century. While Kahn’s artistic legacy was a search for truth and clarity, his personal life was secretive and chaotic. His mysterious death in a train station men’s room left behind three families—one with his wife and two with women with whom he had long-term affairs. The child of one of these extra-marital relationships, Kahn’s only son Nathaniel, sets out on a journey to reconcile the life and work of this mysterious man.

Revealing the haunting beauty of his father’s monumental creations and taking us to the rarified heights of the world’s celebrated architects and deep within his own divided family, Nathaniel’s personal journey becomes a universal investigation of identity, a celebration of art and ultimately, of life itself.

Film:The Weather Underground

The Weather Underground: The Explosive Story of America's Most Notorious Revolutionaries

Bill Siegel, Sam Green

The key players in the radical movement known as the Weather Underground are skillfully brought to life in this Oscar-nominated documentary. The Weathermen were born of sixties protest, but took their scheme to overthrow the U.S. government to especially violent extremes. Never a well-populated movement, the Underground petered out as its leaders aged during the seventies; by decade’s end, weary of hiding, most of them had turned themselves over to the authorities. That journey, by which a fire-breathing revolutionary such as Bernadine Dohrn became a (still…

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