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NYC Filmmakers Dominate Oscar Doc Nominees

Sunday, February 26, 2012

If history is any guide, the winners of the Best Short and Feature Documentary categories at Sunday night's Academy Awards will likely be New Yorkers.

Since 2005, half of the winning directors and 10 of the 14 winning producers have called New York City home, according to an analysis by Jonathan Bowles at the Center for an Urban Future.

"There's a number of reasons for why New York has this strength," Bowles said. "Partly New York has this incredible community of documentary filmmakers, people want to live near each other. But also part of it is, there are a lot of funders here."

The nominees in the Documentary Feature category from New York this year include Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory by Bruce Sinofsky, which is about three young men who were wrongfully convicted in a murder case; Hell and Back Again, which is directed by Danfung Dennis and is about a Marine wounded in Afghanistan; and If A Tree Falls by Marshall Curry and Sam Cullman, about Daniel McGowan, a former leader of the radical environmentalist group Earth Liberation Front.

Two of the five nominees in the Documentary Shorts category are also New Yorkers.

Despite the prestige associated with winning an Academy Award, the economic impact for the city is likely not great: documentaries seldom employ actors, caterers or set-builders. And while the directors may call New York home, many of them leave the city to make their films.

WNYC's Brian Lehrer interviewed the filmmakers behind this year's five nominated Documentary Feature films. Click here to listen.

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