One of my favorite parts of every Academy Awards season is the AMPAS-approved list of documentary recommendations (i.e., the Best Documentary Feature nominations), which for casual dabblers like me helps triage the 12,000 nonfiction productions released through streamers over the past year, at least 11,900 of which were slapped together with all the ethics and dignity of Tiger King. Sometimes I’m familiar with the subject at hand but appreciate a fresh take. Sometimes they’re an educational experience for me as relative ignoramus. And sometimes, as with the case of Laura Poitras’ All the Beauty and the Bloodshed, I walk unprepared into a world wildly distant from my own, and yet I come out cheering.
(Well, “walk” might be an understatement in this case: my son and I sprinted to catch the penultimate showing of this film at one of our local indie cinemas before it vanished from Indianapolis altogether. Expect it on home video in the near future, but in many locales it may be challenging to fill in its blank on your Oscar scorecard before the ceremony.)