January 24, 2024

Obamas' Documentary Shut Out at Oscar Awards

Despite industry expectations and Michelle Obama's campaigning efforts, the Netflix documentary "American Symphony," produced by Barack and Michelle Obama, failed to secure an Oscar nomination in the documentary feature category.

Released in November, the film was widely considered a frontrunner and a safe bet for a nomination in the 94th annual Academy Award nominations announced on Tuesday. Michelle Obama had actively supported the documentary, participating in a special Netflix screening last month.

Directed by Matthew Heineman, known for documentaries such as "Cartel Land" and "Retrograde," "American Symphony" follows singer-songwriter Jon Batiste as he navigates the process of composing an orchestral symphony while dealing with his wife's recurrent cancer diagnosis.

Despite its widely expected nomination snub, the documentary did receive acknowledgment in the form of a nomination for the original song "It Never Went Away" by Jon Batiste and Dan Wilson.

The omission of "American Symphony" from the documentary feature category was one of the biggest surprises during the Oscar nominations, with the nominating committee opting for lesser-known titles in the category.

"Even with presidential (and First Lady) support guiding Matthew Heineman’s film about Jon Batiste’s magically musical life and career, the Barack- and Michelle Obama-produced American Symphony failed to land among the Academy’s Best Documentary Feature nominees," Entertainment Weekly reported.

It added that the snub was " an omission that’s all the more curious after the film’s tune 'It Never Went Away' (by Batiste and Dan Wilson) earned a nomination elsewhere in Best Original Song."

The film adds to the list of acclaimed documentaries, produced by the Obamas through their Netflix deal, that have not received the expected recognition from the Academy.

It's noteworthy that the Obamas' previous documentary, "American Factory," secured an Oscar for documentary feature in 2020.

This time, the Academy overlooked their documentary, along with another favorite, Apple's "Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie," focusing on the enduring battle of the beloved "Back to the Future" star with Parkinson's Disease.

The absence of these anticipated documentaries marks a surprising turn in this year's Oscar nominations.

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