‘Ascension,’ ‘Summer of Soul’ Top Critics Choice Documentary Awards Nominations

·7-min read

Jessica Kingdon’s China-set documentary “Ascension” and Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson’s Sundance-winning chronicle of a New York concert series, “Summer of Soul,” lead all films in nominations for the Critics Choice Documentary Awards, which were announced on Monday by the Critics Choice Association.

The two films received six nominations apiece in the 13 feature-film categories, with both nominated for Best Documentary Feature, Best Director, Best First Documentary Feature and Best Editing. “Ascension” was also nominated for Best Cinematography and Best Score, while “Summer of Soul” received nods for Best Archival Documentary and Best Music Documentary.

Liz Garbus’ “Becoming Cousteau” and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin’s “The Rescue” received five nominations each.

Apart from those four films, nominees in the Best Documentary Feature category also included “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.”

Directing nominations went to Vasharelyi and Chin, Garbus, Kingdon, Thompson, Stanley Nelson and Traci A. Curry (“Attica”), Jonas Poher Rasmussen (“Flee”) and Edgar Wright (“The Sparks Brothers”). The Best First Documentary Feature category included two established narrative directors making their doc debuts, Wright and Todd Haynes (“The Velvet Underground”), along with Thompson, Kingdon, Jessica Beshir (“Faya Dayi”), Rachel Fleit (“Introducing, Selma Blair”) and Kristine Stolakis (“Pray Away”).  

The Critics Choice Association opts not to differentiate between film and television docs, so two-part nonfiction series like Alex Gibney’s “The Crime of the Century” compete against standalone films.

The Critics Choice Documentary Awards were launched in 2016. Of the 25 films nominated for the documentary Oscar in that time, 16 had also received Critics Choice nominations – though with the top CCDA category averaging more than 12 nominees a year, a significant overlap with the five Oscar doc nominees is to be expected. In 2016, “O.J.: Made in America” won the top CCDA award and went on to win the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature, but since then, none of the CCDA winners (“Jane,” “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?,” “Apollo 11” and “Dick Johnson Is Dead”) have even been nominated for Oscars.

The winners will be announced at an in-person gala event at BRIC in Brooklyn on Nov. 14. At that event, documentary director R.J. Cutler will receive the Pennebaker Award, a lifetime achievement award newly renamed for legendary nonfiction director D.A. Pennebaker, who died in 2019. Cutler’s films include “The War Room,” “The September Issue,” “Listen to Me Marlon” and this year’s “Billie Eilish: The World’s a Little Blurry,” which is also nominated in the Best Music Documentary category.

The Critics Choice Association is made up of nearly 500 TV, radio and online critics and entertainment journalists. Critics Choice Documentary Award nominations are made by volunteer committees of CCA members. (Full disclosure: I am a member of the organization but did not serve on a nominating committee.)  

The nominees:

BEST 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)

BEST 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)

BEST 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)

BEST 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

BEST 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)

BEST 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+)

BEST 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)

BEST 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+)

BEST 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)

BEST 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+)

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting