Monday, September 24, 2018

'Abacus,' 'Edith and Eddie,' 'Heroin(e),' and 'Last Men in Aleppo' — Oscar nominees at the 2018 News and Documentary Emmy Awards

Last March, I predicted that "both 'Jane' and 'Abacus' will be eligible for News and Documentary Emmy Awards this fall, where they will be favored in their categories."  I was right about "Jane," which earned seven nominations two awards at the Creative Arts Emmy Awards.  Now it's time to observe that I was right about "Abacus" earning a nomination for Outstanding Business and Economic Documentary at the News and Documentary Emmy Awards.  Joining it are three other Oscar nominees for Best Documentary Feature or Best Documentary Short Subject, "Edith and Eddie," "Heroin(e)," and "Last Men in Aleppo," all of which I have written about before.  Along with "Icarus" and "Strong Island," that means that four of the five nominees for Best Documentary Feature and two of the five nominees for Best Documentary Short Subject have also been nominated for an Emmy.  Both the films and their fellow nominees should be impressed.

I begin my review of the nominees with what I wrote about "Abacus" late last year.
"Abacus: Small Enough to Jail," has won four awards from the shows and programs I am using, including Best Political Documentary from the Critics' Choice Documentary Awards.  The Guardian review explains why it belongs here.
Veteran documentary-maker Steve James (Hoop Dreams) is back with an engrossing story: the extraordinary fiasco of the Abacus bank prosecution. It is a tale of hypocrisy, judicial bullying and racism. Abacus was a small neighbourhood bank serving New York’s Chinese community, which discovered a crooked employee falsifying mortgage documents, duly reported the matter to the authorities, but then found itself prosecuted by a district attorney who had sniffed a post-2008 PR opportunity to collar some real live bankers.
"Model minority" or not, Asian-Americans experience systemic racism, too.
Watch Abacus: Small Enough to Jail - Trailer for a preview.

From acclaimed director Steve James (Hoop Dreams, The Interrupters, Life Itself), Academy Award® Nominee Abacus: Small Enough to Jail tells the incredible saga of the Chinese immigrant Sung family, owners of Abacus Federal Savings of Chinatown, New York. Accused of mortgage fraud by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., Abacus becomes the only U.S. bank to face criminal charges in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. The indictment and subsequent trial forces the Sung family to defend themselves – and their bank's legacy in the Chinatown community – over the course of a five-year legal battle.
Competing against "Abacus" for Outstanding Business and Economic Documentary are "Farewell Ferris Wheel" and "Vegas Baby" from "America Reframed" on World, "The Bad Kids" from "Independent Lens" on PBS and "Saving Capitalism" on Netflix.  Of all of them, I think "Saving Capitalism" is the strongest competition for "Abacus," as it won Best Political Documentary at the Coffee Party Entertainment Awards for movies.  Looks like my fellow directors and volunteers at Coffee Party USA were on to something when they voted for Robert Reich's film, giving it its first nomination and award.

Follow over the jump for the rest of the double nominees.

The two Oscar nominees for Documentary Short Subject, "Edith and Eddie" and "Heroin(e)," are competing against each other at the News and Documentary Emmy Awards for Outstanding Short Documentary.  Joining them are "Mosul" from "Frontline" on PBS, "Long Shot" on Netflix, and "The New York Times Op-Docs: I Have a Message for You."  I'll be a good environmentalist and recycle what I wrote about both "Edith and Eddie" and "Heroin(e)" from Politics and diversity among Oscar nominated short subjects.
Moving down the list from Indiewire, which is arranged by the critic's grade, is "Heroin(e)," a film about the opioid crisis in West Virginia.  The critic at Indiewire found it to be the most imaginatively named of the nominees and appreciated its focus on women who are trying to help the addicts, a judge, a fire chief, and a volunteer at a religious charity.
Finally, "Edith+Eddie" examines the life and love of the oldest interracial couple in America.  Despite the billing, it is more the broken elder care system and about how adult children use legal guardianships to control the assests of their elderly parents than about race.  It was also the lowest rated of the nominated short documentaries by the critic at Indiewire.
Here are their trailers, beginning with Edith+Eddie.

2018 Academy Award® nominee - Best Documentary Short. Edith and Eddie, ages 96 and 95, are America's oldest interracial newlyweds. Their love story is disrupted by a family feud that threatens to tear the couple apart.
Now, Heroin(e) | Official Trailer [HD] | Netflix.

In the face of the opioid epidemic in a West Virginia town, three women are giving their community a fighting chance.
This is not the only nominee about the opioid crisis.  "Heroin's Children" from Al Jazeera International USA is competing in three categories, Outstanding Science, Medical and Environmental Report, Best Story in a Newsmagazine, and Outstanding Editing: News, while "Investigating the Opioid Epidemic: The Whistleblower and Too Big to Prosecute" from "60 Minutes and the Washington Post" on CBS is competing against it for Best Story in a Newsmagazine.  I'll do my best to look at both before the awards on October 1st.

The last Oscar nominee to earn an nomination at the News and Documentary Emmy nomination is "Last Men in Aleppo," which is competing for Outstanding Current Affairs Documentary.  Once again, I'll be a good environmentalist and recycle an excerpt from Variety.
Unsurprisingly awarded the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance, Fayyad’s film should have no trouble parlaying its Park City heat into extensive further festival play and acclaim, as well as offers from top documentary-specific distributors. Multi-platform release strategies are likely, aiming to engage audiences wary of venturing to theaters for such a heart-sinking chronicle. That said, the cinema is where “Last Men in Aleppo” firmly belongs. Together with co-director and editor Steen Johannessen, Fayyad brings a rigorous sense of craft and shock-and-awe scale to the film’s impressions of destruction, without impeding its anxious, on-the-hoof spontaneity. Any viewers coming to this after seeing “The White Helmets,” Netflix’s commendable, Oscar-nominated short on the SCD, needn’t fear seeing the same film again at greater length: This is a less cleanly packaged project, patient and nuanced in developing its individual human subjects and emotional stakes.

If anything, the Netflix film could serve as a useful primer for “Last Men in Aleppo,” which assumes a fair bit of knowledge on the audience’s part regarding who the White Helmets are and the circumstances that require them.
Joining "Last Men in Aleppo" as nominees for Outstanding Current Affairs Documentary are "Beware the Slenderman" and "Cries From Syria" from HBO, "National Bird" from "Independent Lens" on PBS, and fellow "POV" on PBS candidate "Almost Sunrise."  "Cries from Syria" also earned nominations for Outstanding Writing, Outstanding Research, and Outstanding Music & Sound, so it has a better chance of winning a statuette than "Last Men in Aleppo."  Both films are also among numerous nominees about the Syrian Civil War, which I promise to list later.  Right now, I have to go to work, so instead I'll leave my readers with Last Men in Aleppo | POV | PBS, its official TV preview.

After five years of war in Syria, the remaining citizens of Aleppo are getting ready for a siege. Through the eyes of volunteer rescue workers called the White Helmets, Last Men in Aleppo allows viewers to experience the daily life, death, and struggle in the streets, where they are fighting for sanity in a city where war has become the norm. Winner, 2017 Sundance World Cinema Grand Jury Prize for Documentary.
Stay tuned for more News and Documentary Emmy nominees.

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