‘Ascension’, ‘Summer Of Soul’, Nat Geo’s ‘The Rescue’ And ‘Becoming Cousteau’ Lead Critics Choice Documentary Awards Nominations

Notably leading the pack of nominees revealed Monday for the sixth annual Critics Choice Documentary Awards are a pair of films from directors making their debut as documentarians. Ascension’s Jessica Kingdon and Summer of Soul (…Or, When The Revolution Could Not Be Televised)’s Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson pulled off the impressive feat, with both films receiving six nods apiece. On their tails however are a pair of docus from Nat Geo with five nods each: The Rescue. whose directors Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi took the Oscar for their previous effort Free Solo; and Becoming Cousteau, whose director Liz Garbus is also a docu veteran with two Oscar nominations and two Emmys to her credit.

All will compete in the Best Documentary Feature and Best Director categories, with Thompson and Kingdon also facing off for Best First Documentary Feature along with such indie film giants as Todd Haynes and Edgar Wright. The latter pair are making their debuts in the docu film world with The Velvet Underground and The Sparks Brothers, respectively.

Among other Best Docu nominees are Attica, The Crime of the Century, A Crime on the Bayou, Flee, Introducing Selma Blair, The Lost Leonardo, My Name Is Pauli Murray and Procession. 

“This has been and continues to be a fantastic year for documentary storytelling. And the number of first-time feature documentarians in the mix of nominees, alongside proven veterans, shows that nonfiction cinema continues to have a very bright future,” said Christopher Campbell, president of the Critics Choice Documentary branch. “Our world, from its most amazing wonders to its greatest challenges, is being reflected back on the screen so immediately and creatively by today’s filmmakers, and it’s a tremendous honor for us to recognize all of their achievements.”

Winners will be revealed at a gala event Sunday November 14 at BRIC in Brooklyn, NY. National Geographic Documentary Films is the Presenting Sponsor. Catalyst Sponsors are HBO Max, Hulu, Netflix and Showtime Documentary Films.

In addition to the 14 award categories and one honor listed below, The Pennebaker Award for lifetime achievement will be presented this year to R.J. Cutler. The award is named for Critics Choice Lifetime Achievement Award winner D.A. Pennebaker, who died in 2019, and will be presented to Cutler by Pennebaker’s producing partner and wife Chris Hedgus. Cutler is the award-winning producer-director whose work includes some of the most acclaimed documentaries of the last 30 years. His most recent film, the Apple Original Film cinema verité documentary Billie Eilish: The World’s A Little Blurry, is nominated for Best Music Documentary.

Here is a full list of the nominees revealed today:

DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

Ascension (MTV Documentary Films)

Attica (Showtime)

Becoming Cousteau (Picturehouse/National Geographic Documentary Films)

The Crime of the Century (HBO Documentary Films)

A Crime on the Bayou (Augusta Films/Shout! Studios)

Flee (Neon)

Introducing, Selma Blair (Discovery+)

The Lost Leonardo (Sony Pictures Classics)

My Name is Pauli Murray (Amazon Studios)

Procession (Netflix)

The Rescue (National Geographic Documentary Films)

Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised) (Searchlight Pictures/Hulu)

DIRECTOR

Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin
The Rescue (National Geographic Documentary Films)

Liz Garbus
Becoming Cousteau (Picturehouse/National Geographic Documentary Films)

Jessica Kingdon
Ascension (MTV Documentary Films)

Stanley Nelson and Traci A. Curry
Attica (Showtime)

Jonas Poher Rasmussen
Flee (Neon)

Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson
Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised) (Searchlight Pictures/Hulu)

Edgar Wright
The Sparks Brothers (Focus Features)

FIRST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

Jessica Beshir
Faya Dayi (Janus Films)

Rachel Fleit
Introducing, Selma Blair (Discovery+)

Todd Haynes
The Velvet Underground (Apple TV+)

Jessica Kingdon
Ascension (MTV Documentary Films)

Kristine Stolakis
Pray Away (Netflix)

Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson
Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised) (Searchlight Pictures/Hulu)

Edgar Wright
The Sparks Brothers (Focus Features)

CINEMATOGRAPHY

Jessica Beshir
Faya Dayi (Janus Films)

Jonathan Griffith, Brett Lowell and Austin Siadak
The Alpinist (Roadside Attractions)

David Katznelson, Ian Seabrook and Picha Srisansanee
The Rescue (National Geographic Documentary Films)

Jessica Kingdon and Nathan Truesdell
Ascension (MTV Documentary Films)

Nelson Hume and Alan Jacobsen
The Loneliest Whale: The Search for 52 (Bleecker Street Media)

Emiliano Villanueva
A Cop Movie (Netflix)

Pete West
Puff: Wonders of the Reef (Netflix)

BEST EDITING

Francisco Bello, Matthew Heineman, Gabriel Rhodes and David Zieff
The First Wave (National Geographic Documentary Films)

Jeff Consiglio
LFG (HBO Max and CNN Films)

Bob Eisenhardt
The Rescue (National Geographic Documentary Films)

Affonso Gonçalves and Adam Kurnitz
The Velvet Underground (Apple TV+)

Jessica Kingdon
Ascension (MTV Documentary Films)

Joshua L. Pearson
Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised) (Searchlight Pictures/Hulu)

Julian Quantrill
The Real Charlie Chaplin (Showtime)

BEST NARRATION

9/11: Inside the President’s War Room (Apple TV+)
Jeff Daniels, Narrator

Becoming Cousteau (Picturehouse/National Geographic Documentary Films)
Vincent Cassel, Narrator
Mark Monroe and Pax Wassermann, Writers

The Crime of the Century (HBO Documentary Films)
Alex Gibney, Narrator
Alex Gibney, Writer

The Neutral Ground (PBS)
CJ Hunt, Narrator
CJ Hunt, Writer

The Real Charlie Chaplin (Showtime)
Pearl Mackie, Narrator
Oliver Kindeberg, Peter Middleton and James Spinney, Writers

Val (Amazon Studios)
Jack Kilmer, Narrator
Val Kilmer, Writer

The Year Earth Changed (Apple TV+)
David Attenborough, Narrator

SCORE

Jongnic Bontemps
My Name is Pauli Murray (Amazon Studios)

Dan Deacon
Ascension (MTV Documentary Films)

Alex Lasarenko and David Little
The Loneliest Whale: The Search for 52 (Bleecker Street Media)

Cyrus Melchor
LFG (HBO/CNN)

Daniel Pemberton
The Rescue (National Geographic Documentary Films)

Rachel Portman
Julia (Sony Pictures Classics)

Dirac Sea
Final Account (Focus Features)

ARCHIVAL DOCUMENTARY

Becoming Cousteau (Picturehouse/National Geographic Documentary Films)

The Real Charlie Chaplin (Showtime)

The Real Right Stuff (Disney+)

Street Gang: How We Got to Sesame Street (HBO Documentary Films)

Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised) (Searchlight Pictures/Hulu)

Val (Amazon Studios)

The Velvet Underground (Apple TV+)

HISTORICAL OR BIOGRAPHICAL DOCUMENTARY

Attica (Showtime)

A Crime on the Bayou (Augusta Films/Shout! Studios)

Fauci (Magnolia Pictures/National Geographic Documentary Films)

Final Account (Focus Features)

Julia (Sony Pictures Classics)

My Name is Pauli Murray (Amazon Studios)

No Ordinary Man (Oscilloscope)

Val (Amazon Studios)

MUSIC DOCUMENTARY

Billie Eilish: The World’s A Little Blurry (Apple TV+)

Bitchin’: The Sound and Fury of Rick James (Showtime)

Listening to Kenny G (HBO Documentary Films)

The Sparks Brothers (Focus Features)

Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised) (Searchlight Pictures/Hulu)

Tina (HBO Documentary Films)

The Velvet Underground (Apple TV+)

BEST POLITICAL DOCUMENTARY

The Crime of the Century (HBO Documentary Films)

Enemies of the State (IFC Films)

Four Hours at the Capitol (HBO Documentary Films)

Influence (StoryScope, EyeSteelFilm)

Mayor Pete (Amazon Studios)

Missing in Brooks County (Giant Pictures)

Nasrin (Hulu)

Not Going Quietly (Greenwich Entertainment)

BEST SCIENCE/NATURE DOCUMENTARY

Becoming Cousteau (Picturehouse/National Geographic Documentary Films)

Fauci (National Geographic Documentary Films)

The First Wave (National Geographic Documentary Films)

The Loneliest Whale: The Search for 52 (Bleecker Street Media)

Playing with Sharks (National Geographic Documentary Films)

Puff: Wonders of the Reef (Netflix)

The Year Earth Changed (Apple TV+)

SPORTS DOCUMENTARY

The Alpinist (Roadside Attractions)

Changing the Game (Hulu)

The Day Sports Stood Still (HBO)

Kevin Garnett: Anything is Possible (Showtime)

LFG (HBO Max/CNN Films)

Tiger (HBO)

SHORT DOCUMENTARY

Audible (Netflix)

Borat’s American Lockdown (Amazon Studios)

Camp Confidential: America’s Secret Nazis (Netflix)

Day of Rage: How Trump Supporters Took the U.S. Capitol (The New York Times)

The Doll (Jumping Ibex)

The Last Cruise (HBO Documentary Films)

The Queen of Basketball (The New York Times)

Snowy (TIME Studios)

MOST COMPELLING LIVING SUBJECTS OF A DOCUMENTARY (HONOR)

Ady Barkan – Not Going Quietly (Greenwich Entertainment)

Selma Blair – Introducing, Selma Blair (Discovery+)

Pete Buttigieg – Mayor Pete (Amazon Studios)

Anthony Fauci – Fauci (Magnolia Pictures/National Geographic Documentary Films)

Ben Fong-Torres – Like a Rolling Stone: The Life and Times of Ben Fong-Torres (StudioLA.TV)

Val Kilmer – Val (Amazon Studios)

Ron and Russell Mael – The Sparks Brothers (Focus Features)

Rita Moreno – Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For It (Roadside Attractions)

Valerie Taylor – Playing With Sharks: The Valerie Taylor Story (Disney+)

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