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Members of Canada's doc industry weigh in on new Oscar rules

Thom Powers

philip cheung The Globe and Mail

So what does the Canadian documentary community think of Oscar's new voting rules for best doc?

This weekend, The New York Times broke the news that only documentaries reviewed in their pages or by The Los Angeles Times will be eligible for Oscar nominations.

More important, though, may be a new voting structure for docs up for Oscars: All of the 160-some members of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences who weigh in on documentaries will choose the nominees next year – perhaps finally addressing the grumbling that the films with bigger theatrical releases have been overlooked by the awards.

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Thom Powers, documentary programmer for the Toronto International Film Festival:

"I think the documentary world is quickly going to adjust to these new rules. People who want to qualify their films will figure out ways to adapt, as they always have. There are some statements from the academy saying that they hope these rule changes are going to reduce the number of documentaries that are qualifying. I think that's a vain hope. In fact, I think it's a peculiar hope. I don't know why the academy is interested in reducing the number of quality films that are qualifying for an Oscar. I'm told there are something like 400 fiction films that qualify, so what's the problem with 100 or so non-fiction films?"

Chris McDonald, executive director of Toronto's Hot Docs documentary festival:

"The academy's documentary short lists have raised eyebrows for years. Plenty of great films are overlooked, but that is the nature of a subjective awards process. I'm not sure the L.A. or N.Y. Times review requirement will help in that regard, but it won't hurt Canadian doc-makers more than any other nation. At least they have cleaned up their selection process."

Nick de Pencier, Toronto-based documentary-maker and producer of Manufactured Landscapes:

"Certainly in the last couple of years, there's been a lot of noise around films that have been overlooked.... I think it's great that they're looking at their protocols and selection process and trying to do something. But I don't really have a sense of which way the wind is blowing and whether or not it is in fact going to be better."

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Guy Dixon is a feature writer for The Globe and Mail. More

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