2011–2012 Contemporary Documentaries

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A Survey of Outstanding Recent Work in the Documentary Field

Part One: September 21 to December 7

The 30th annual Contemporary Documentaries series is a showcase for feature-length and short documentaries drawn from the 2010 Academy Award® nominations, including the winners, as well as other important and innovative films considered by the Academy that year.

All films in the series screen at the Linwood Dunn Theater at the Academy's Pickford Center for Motion Picture Study on Wednesdays at 7 p.m., except for the IMAX presentation on December 7. The filmmakers will be present at screenings whenever possible. Admission for all screenings is free.

Event Information

Wednesday evenings through December 7, 2011
Linwood Dunn Theater
  • Wednesday, September 21, at 7 p.m.

    "Inside Job"

    Inside Job

    Directed by Charles Ferguson

    Produced by Ferguson, Audrey Marrs

    The financial practices that laid the groundwork for the global economic crisis are traced to their sources in an examination that lays the blame for the collapse at the doorstep of many who are still in power. Predatory lending, credit default swaps, and financial deregulation are subjected to close scrutiny and criticism in a primer on the situation that affected the lives of millions.  Digital. 108 mins.

    Academy Award winner: Documentary Feature

    "Casino Jack and the United States of Money"

    Casino Jack and the United States of Money

    Directed by Alex Gibney

    Produced by Gibney, Alison Ellwood, Zena Barakat

    This portrait of disgraced Washington super lobbyist Jack Abramoff confirms the adage that truth is indeed stranger than fiction. A tale of international intrigue with Indian casinos, Russian spies, Chinese sweatshops and a mob-style killing in Miami, this is a story of the way money corrupts our political process. 35mm. 122 mins.

  • Wednesday, October 5, at 7 p.m.

    "Sun Come Up"

    Sun Come Up

    Directed by Jennifer Redfearn

    Produced by Redfearn, Tim Metzger

    On the once-idyllic Carteret Islands in the South Pacific, three thousand residents face hunger and relocation as the effects of global warming transform their island paradise. Digital. 38 mins.

    Academy Award nominee: Documentary Short Subject

    Waste Land

    Waste Land

    Directed by Lucy Walker

    Produced by Angus Aynsley, Hank Levine

    At Brazil's Jardim Gramacho, the world's largest landfill, garbage pickers make a living scavenging among the mountains of discarded materials. Brazilian artist Vik Muniz, who uses trash to create his work, travels to the landfill to photograph the people whose livelihood is dependent on the things that others throw away.35mm. 98 mins.

    Academy Award nominee: Documentary Feature

    Director Lucy Walker and editor Pedro Kos participated in a Q&A after the screening.
  • Wednesday, October 19, at 7 p.m.

    "Strangers No More"

    Strangers No More

    Directed and produced by Karen Goodman, Kirk Simon

    Academy Award winner: Documentary Short Subject

    At the Bialik-Rogozin School in Tel Aviv, children from 48 countries, many of them refugees from war and poverty, learn to deal with the diversity of their new environment. Digital. 40 mins. Academy Award winner: Documentary Short Subject

    "Precious Life"

    Precious Life

    Directed by Shlomi Eldar

    Produced by Ehud Bleiberg, Yoav Ze'evi

    A Palestinian infant with a life-threatening immune disorder awaits a bone marrow transplant in an Israeli hospital during the 2008-09 blockade of Gaza. As filmmaker Shlomi Eldar uses his influence to seek financial help for the family, the complexities of life in the volatile area give rise to troubling exchanges between Eldar and the baby's mother. Digital. 90 mins.

  • Wednesday, November 2, at 7 p.m.



    Directed and produced by Tim Hetherington, Sebastian Junger

    Academy Award nominee: Documentary Feature

    The lives of soldiers at war are chronicled in an exploration of the experiences of the 173rd Airborne Brigade in Afghanistan's Korengal Valley. Through conversations with the men over a period of many months, a portrait emerges of the devastating toll that war takes as lives are lost and those who survive struggle to find meaning in their devotion to their comrades. 35mm. 93 mins.

    "The Tillman Story"

    The Tillman Story

    Directed by Amir Bar-Lev

    Produced by John Battsek

    When pro football player Pat Tillman, who had walked away from a lucrative contract to enlist in the army after 9/11, died in Afghanistan, military officials soon turned his story into a useful publicity tool. As the true details of Tillman's death by friendly fire emerged, his outraged family demanded that the army be held accountable for its distortion of the facts surrounding Tillman's life and tragic death. 35mm. 94 mins.

    Director/producer Sebastian Junger and director Amir Bar-Lev participated in a Q&A after the screening.

  • Wednesday, November 9, at 7 p.m.

    "Born Sweet"

    Born Sweet

    Directed and produced by Cynthia Wade

    Fifteen-year-old Vinh, who is suffering from incurable arsenic poisoning, spends his days in his small Cambodian village singing to a karaoke machine. Digital. 28 mins.

    "Enemies of the People"

    Enemies of the People

    Directed and produced by Rob Lemkin, Thet Sambath

    For Cambodian journalist Thet Sambath, the horrors of his country's years under the Khmer Rouge had very personal repercussions as he mourned the deaths of friends and family members. Haunted by his losses, he has spent the intervening years investigating the brutal truths of his country's tragic history. 35mm. 94 mins.

  • Wednesday, November 30, at 7 p.m.

    "The Lottery"

    The Lottery

    Directed by Madeleine Sackler

    Produced by Blake Ashman-Kipervaser, James Lawler, Sackler

    With New York's public school system failing to educate many of its children and the teachers union blocking the termination of members with poor success records, the Harlem Success Academies have become a beacon of hope for many students. The schools have room for only 475 children, however, and the three thousand who apply each year must trust their fate to a lottery. Digital. 80 mins.

    Madeleine Sackler participated in a Q&A after the screening.

    "Waiting for 'Superman'"

    Waiting For Superman

    Directed by Davis Guggenheim

    Produced by Lesley Chilcott

    The decline of the American public school system leaves many children cheated out of the life-changing benefits of a good education. Gifted educators throughout the country, however, are offering possible solutions as they transform their troubled schools and offer hope to students in disadvantaged neighborhoods. 35mm. 111 mins.

  • Wednesday, December 7, at 7 p.m.

    At the California Science Center IMAX Theater: "Hubble 3D"

    Hubble 3D

    Directed and produced by Toni Myers

    Journey through distant galaxies, explore the far reaches of the universe and accompany space-walking astronauts as they repair the Hubble Space Telescope. 70mm. 44 mins.

    Cinematographer James Neihouse participated in a Q&A after the screening.

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