The shortlist for the Academy Awards which take place on March 7th has been announced. A handful of documentaries that made the list showcase that there is a rise in popularity of eco-themed documentaries. On the Oscar shortlist for best documentaries are fifteen films. Five of those documentaries would be considered eco-themed because they deal with such topics as animal welfare, environmental issues, and the battle for clean water.
So, which eco-documentaries made the list?
“Project Nim” is a documentary that showcases human monkey business in its most grizzly state. Nim Chimpsky has a life that is filled with one heartbreak after another. His life starts in a cage after being brutally taken from his mother. He is then given to a young psychology student from Columbia University for behavioral testing. Chimpsky is raised like a human and taught sign language. He is then sent for medical research testing before being “saved” by an animal activist who brings him to an animal sanctuary where he becomes lonely because no one is around to sign with him. The film is based around the story of a real chimpanzee who lived this experience in the 1970s. It is definitely a film worthy of being on the Oscar shortlist.
“If we’re the most intellectual creature that’s ever walked on the planet, how come we’re destroying that planet?” asks Dr. Jane Goodall. In the eco-themed documentary “Jane’s Journey” the audience is walked through a chronicle of Goodalls life from her work with chimpanzees, which she gave up over 25 years ago to work for wildlife conservation. She has devoted the same energy she had as a primatologist to saving our endangered planet.
“Battle for Brooklyn”
Corporate greed is showcased in the eco-themed “Battle for Brooklyn” documentary about a seven-year long fight between a small neighborhood in Brooklyn and one of the largest real estate developers in the country. The story is about one man and his fight to save his home and his community. It is a fight that seeks to save a neighborhood from destruction and exploitation from those who would seek to make residents homeless and build a basketball arena where their homes used to be.
“Semper Fi: Always Faithful”
Master Sgt. Jerry Ensminger was a devoted marine for nearly twenty-five years. Then he lost his nine-year old daughter to a rare type of leukemia and many others started falling ill. For years the Marine attempted to figure out how his daughter died of a rare type of leukemia. The answer he found would shock him and lead him on a fight against the “Corps” he was “always faithful” too. He discovered one of the largest toxic water cover-ups in U.S. history and it was covered-up by none other than the Marine Corps he had loyally served. “Semper Fi: Always Faithful” leads the audience on one mans quest for justice for the victims of North Carolina’s Camp Lejeune.
“If a Tree Falls: The Story of the Earth Liberation Front”
When does environmental activism become eco-terrorism? “If a Tree Falls” explores the answer in this documentary that focuses on one of the Earth Liberation Front’s members, Daniel McGowan, after he is arrested for his activities with the organization. “I’m not suggesting that the path of destruction is the right path,” McGowan says in the film. “When you’re screaming at the top of your lungs and no one hears you, what are you supposed to do?”
Each eco-themed documentary made the Academy Awards Oscar shortlist for very different reasons yet each are worthy of bringing home the Oscar on March 7. Official nominees will be announced in January. Fingers crossed some of these films make the cut!