Women Honored at the Critics Choice Documentary Awards — Jennifer Merin reports

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ccda200Jane (as in Goodall) was awarded the top honor of Best Documentary and filmmaker Ceyda Torun’s Kedi won the award for Best First Documentary at the second annual Critics’ Choice Documentary Awards gala, held on November 2 at BRIC in Brooklyn, New York. Continue reading…

In Jane, documentarian Brett Morgan pays tribute to the legendary Goodall, now age 83, using previously unseen archival footage to illustrate the early days of her illustrious career as primologist, enthnologist, anthropologist, environmentalist and UN Ambassador of Peace.

Jane was one of 16 films nominated for Best Documentary. The others included femme-helmed Beware the Slenderman (directed by Irene Taylor Brodsky) Faces Places (co-directed by Agnes Varda and JR), Kedi (directed by Ceyla Torun), and One of Us (directed by Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady).

Ceyda Torun’s Kedi garnered the award for Best First Documentary, and was nominated for Most Innovative Documentary. Kedi is all about Istanbul’s remarkable population cats with distinctive and very compelling personalities. The people who interact with the felines are present, too, of course. But the cats are the stars of the show, and they were cited and honored at the Critics Choice Documentary Awards as among the most compelling living subjects in this year’s crop of documentary films.

The cats from Kedi were not at the awards ceremony, but several women who were honored in the Compelling Living Subject category were in the house. Dolores Huerta, the unstoppable civil rights activist, is the subject of director Peter Bratt’s Dolores, which was nominated for Best Political Documentary. Also present was Etty, the young woman whose struggle to free herself from restraints imposed by the insular Brooklyn Hassidic community is chronicled in One of Us. Compelling Living Subject Gigi Lazzarato, the Canadian transgender model and spokeswoman whose story is told in This is Everything: Gigi Gorgeous, was not present, but the film’s director, Barbara Kopple was there to present the CCDA Impact Award to Joe Berlinger. All received enthusiastic ovations.

The Critics Choice Documentary Awards nominating committees recognized additional female-directed films with nominations in various categories. Step, directed by Amanda Lipitz, and Whose Streets?, directed by Sabaah Folayan (and Damon Davis) were nominated for Best First Documentary. Most Innovative Documentary nominees included Casting JonBenet, directed by Kitty Green, and Karl Marx City, directed by Petra Epperlein (and Michael Tucker). Nominated for Best Political Documentary were The Reagan Show, directed by Sierra Pettengill (and Pacho Velez), and An Inconvenient Truth: Truth to Power, directed by Bonni Cohen (and Jon Shenk), as well as 11/8/16, the nationwide election day documentary that was filmed by a consortium of 18 filmmakers, seven of whom are women. Nominees for Best Sports Documentary included Speed Sisters, directed by Amber Fares, and Take Every Wave: The Life of Laird Hamilton, directed by Rory Kennedy, as well as Trophy, directed by Christina Clusiau (and Shaul Schwarz). In the Best Music Documentary category, Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked The World, directed by Catherine Bainbridge (and Alfonso Maiorana), was nominated.

The Critics Choice Documentary Awards represent an important initiative in recognizing heightened audience interest in documentary films released theatrically and/or online. BFCA/BTJA is the first and thus far only critics group to respond to the trend and shift in audience behavior. In his awards ceremony welcoming speech, BFCA/BTJAPresident Joey Berlin said, “We are so happy to be able to celebrate the supremely talented, leading voices in this golden age of documentary filmmaking and nonfiction television, supporting many of the most
underappreciated artists in our business.” That, of course, includes the many women who are struggling for equal opportunity and recognition in filmmaking and all aspects of the movie business.


The Critics Choice Documentary Award winners were determined by voting among BFCA/BTJA members who’d seen all of the nominees. BFCA/BTJA also presents the Critics Choice Awards for narrative films that are released during that year and television programming.

Roughly 25 percent of BFCA members are women and approximately 33 percent of BTJA members are women — with some membership overlap between the affiliated organizations. One of the eight members of BFCA/BTJA Board of Directors is a woman.

AWFJ members who are also members of BFCA/BTJA include Anne Brodie, Susan Granger, Jennifer Merin, Nell Minow, Katherine Monk, Rebecca Murray, Perri Nemiroff, Katey Rich, Lisa Rosman, Shelli Sonstein, Sara Voorhees, Susan Wloszczyna, Jeanne Wolf and Doeothy Woodend.

(In full disclosure) Jennifer Merin is chair of the Critics Choice Documentary Awards Theatrical Releases Nominating Committee.


The Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA) is the largest film critics organization in the United States and Canada, representing more than 300 television, radio and online critics. The Broadcast Television Journalists Association (BTJA) is a partner organization to the BFCA and includes TV, radio and Internet journalists who cover television on a regular basis. For more information, visit: www.CriticsChoice.com


Best​ ​Documentary​ ​-​ ​Jane
Best​ ​Director​ ​(TIE)​ ​ – Evgeny Afineevsky (Cries from Syria) and Frederick Wiseman (Ex Libris: The New York Public Library)
Best​ ​First​ ​Documentary​ ​-​ Kedi
Best​ ​Political​ ​Documentary​ ​-​ Abacus: Small Enough to Jail
Best​ ​Sports​ ​Documentary​ ​-​ ​Icarus
Best​ ​Music​ ​Documentary​ ​-​ Clive Davis: The Soundtrack of Our Lives
Best​ ​Song​ ​in​ ​a​ ​Documentary​ ​-​ “Jump” (Step) – written by Raphael Saadiq, Taura Stinson and Laura Karpman, performed by Cynthia Erivo
Best​ ​Documentary​ ​Series​ ​ ​-​ The Vietnam War
Best​ ​Ongoing​ ​Documentary​ ​Series​ ​-​ American Masters
Most​ ​Innovative​ ​Documentary​ ​(TIE)​ ​-​ Dawson City: Frozen Time and Last Men in Aleppo

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Jennifer Merin

Jennifer Merin is the Film Critic for Womens eNews and contributes the CINEMA CITIZEN blog for and is managing editor for Women on Film, the online magazine of the Alliance of Women Film Journalists, of which she is President. She has served as a regular critic and film-related interviewer for The New York Press and About.com. She has written about entertainment for USA Today, The L.A. Times, US Magazine, Ms. Magazine, Endless Vacation Magazine, Daily News, New York Post, SoHo News and other publications. After receiving her MFA from Tisch School of the Arts (Grad Acting), Jennifer performed at the O'Neill Theater Center's Playwrights Conference, Long Wharf Theater, American Place Theatre and LaMamma, where she worked with renown Japanese director, Shuji Terayama. She subsequently joined Terayama's theater company in Tokyo, where she also acted in films. Her journalism career began when she was asked to write about Terayama for The Drama Review. She became a regular contributor to the Christian Science Monitor after writing an article about Marketta Kimbrell's Theater For The Forgotten, with which she was performing at the time. She was an O'Neill Theater Center National Critics' Institute Fellow, and then became the institute's Coordinator. While teaching at the Universities of Wisconsin and Rhode Island, she wrote "A Directory of Festivals of Theater, Dance and Folklore Around the World," published by the International Theater Institute. Denmark's Odin Teatret's director, Eugenio Barba, wrote his manifesto in the form of a letter to "Dear Jennifer Merin," which has been published around the world, in languages as diverse as Farsi and Romanian. Jennifer's culturally-oriented travel column began in the LA Times in 1984, then moved to The Associated Press, LA Times Syndicate, Tribune Media, Creators Syndicate and (currently) Arcamax Publishing. She's been news writer/editor for ABC Radio Networks, on-air reporter for NBC, CBS Radio and, currently, for Westwood One's America In the Morning. She is a member of the Critics Choice Association in the Film, Documentary and TV branches and a voting member of the Black Reel Awards. For her AWFJ archive, type "Jennifer Merin" in the Search Box (upper right corner of screen).