Jon Batiste Doc ‘American Symphony’ Leads Critics Choice Documentary Awards Nominations

Matthew Heineman’s film picked up six nominations, one more than “20 Days in Mariupol,” “Kokomo City” and “Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie”

American Symphony Jon Batiste
"American Symphony" (Netflix)

Matthew Heineman’s “American Symphony” leads all films with six nominations for the 8th annual Critics Choice Documentary Awards, the Critics Choice Association announced on Monday.

The film, a Netflix doc that follows musician Jon Batiste and his wife, writer Suleika Jaouad, as Batiste prepares a composition for Carnegie Hall and Jaouad battles the return of her cancer, was nominated in the Best Documentary Feature, Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Editing, Best Score and Best Music Documentary categories. Mstyslav Chernov’s “20 Days in Mariupol,” D. Smith’s “Kokomo City” and Davis Guggenhein’s “Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie” received five nominations each.  

Apart from “American Symphony,” “20 Days in Mariupol,” “Kokomo City” and “Still,” films nominated in the Best Documentary Feature category were “Beyond Utopia,” “The Deepest Breath,” “The Eternal Memory,” “Judy Blume Forever,” “The Mission” and “Stamped From the Beginning.”

All of those films received nominations in multiple categories, as did “Occupied City,” “The Secrets of the Elephants,” “The League” and “The Disappearance of Shere Hite.” Except for two categories devoted to documentary series, the Critics Choice Documentary Awards do not differentiate between theatrical and television documentaries, leading to a mixture of the two in some categories.

The new hit “Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour” also made the list, landing a nomination in the Best Music Documentary category. The film was released as CCDA voting was ending and was not screened in advance for members of the nominating committee – but according to the CCA, voters saw the film in theaters after its Thursday opening and decided that it warranted a rare nomination for a concert film.

Netflix led all companies with 20 nominations for 10 different films or television programs, followed by National Geographic with 15, Magnolia and PBS with nine and HBO with eight.

Winners will be announced at a ceremony at the Edison Ballroom in New York City on Nov. 12. Comedian Wyatt Cenac will host, and the event will be live-streamed on Facebook, YouTube and X.

The Critics Choice Documentary Awards began as a separate, standalone show in 2016. Since then, the winner has matched the Oscar winner for Best Documentary Feature only twice, with “O.J. Made in America” in 2016 and “Summer of Soul” in 2022. The CCDA nominations tend to go for higher-profile films over the international and indie films that are often singled out by the Academy’s Documentary Branch; last year, for instance, the 10 CCDA nominees only included two eventual Oscar nominees, “Navalny” and “Fire of Love,” missing “All That Breathes,” “All the Beauty and the Bloodshed” and “A House Made of Splinters.”

On average, the CCDA nominees include three Oscar nominees and between five and eight Oscar shortlisted films.

Nomination voting is done by volunteer committees from the Critics Choice Association membership, an organization of more than 580 broadcast, radio and online critics and entertainment journalists. (Full disclosure: I am a member of the group but did not participate in the nomination round of voting for the Critics Choice Documentary Awards.)

The full list of nominees:

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
“American Symphony” (Netflix)
“Beyond Utopia” (Roadside Attractions)
“The Deepest Breath” (Netflix)
“The Eternal Memory” (MTV Documentary Films)
“Judy Blume Forever” (Amazon Studios)
“Kokomo City” (Magnolia Pictures)
“The Mission” (National Geographic)
“Stamped from the Beginning” (Netflix)
“Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie” (Apple TV+)
“20 Days in Mariupol” (PBS)

BEST DIRECTOR
Maite Alberdi – “The Eternal Memory” (MTV Documentary Films)
Madeleine Gavin – “Beyond Utopia” (Roadside Attractions)
Davis Guggenheim – “Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie” (Apple TV+)
Matthew Heineman – “American Symphony: (Netflix)
Amanda McBaine, Jesse Moss – “The Mission” (National Geographic)
Steve McQueen – “Occupied City” (A24)

BEST FIRST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE 
“Bad Press,” Rebecca Landsberry-Baker and Joe Peeler (Oklafilm)
“Bobi Wine: The People’s President,” Moses Bwayo and Christopher Sharp (National Geographic)
“Kokomo City,” D. Smith (Magnolia Pictures)
“Orlando, My Political Biography,” Paul B. Preciado (Sideshow)
“Smoke Sauna Sisterhood,” Anna Hints (Greenwich Entertainment)
“The Thief Collector,” Allison Otto (FilmRise)
“20 Days in Mariupol,” Mstyslav Chernov (PBS)
“26.2 to Life,” Christine Yoo (Film Halau)

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
Tim Cragg – “The Deepest Breath” (Netflix)
Tony Hardmon, Matthew Heineman, Thorsten Thielow – “American Symphony” (Netflix)
Lennert Hillege – “Occupied City” (A24)
Franz Lustig – “Anselm” (Sideshow)
D. Smith – “Kokomo City” (Magnolia Pictures)
Toby Strong, James Boon, Bob Poole, Neil Fairlie, Wim Vorster, Joshua Tarr, Pete Allibone, Neil Harvey, Andreas Knausenberger – “Secrets of the Elephants” (National Geographic)

BEST EDITING
Sammy Dane, Jim Hession, Matthew Heineman, Fernando Villegas – “American Symphony” (Netflix)
Madeleine Gavin – “Beyond Utopia” (Roadside Attractions)
Michael Harte – “Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie” (Apple TV+)
Michelle Mizner – “20 Days in Mariupol” (PBS)
D. Smith – “Kokomo City” (Magnolia Pictures)
Aaron Wickenden – “The Mission” (National Geographic)

BEST SCORE
Jon Batiste – “American Symphony” (Netflix)
Danny Bensi & Saunder Jurriaans – “The Mission” (National Geographic)
Nainita Desai – “The Deepest Breath” (Netflix)
Philip Glass – “The Pigeon Tunnel” (Apple TV+)
Katya Richardson & Kris Bowers – “The Last Repair Shop” (Breakwater Studios)
D. Smith – “Kokomo City” (Magnolia Pictures)

BEST NARRATION

“The Disappearance of Shere Hite” (IFC Films)
   Written by Nicole Newnham
   Performed by Dakota Johnson

“John Lennon: Murder Without a Trial” (Apple TV+)
   Written by TBD
   Performed by Kiefer Sutherland

“Secrets of the Elephants” (National Geographic)
   Written by Martin Williams
   Performed by Natalie Portman

“Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie” (Apple TV+)
   Written and Performed by Michael J. Fox

“20 Days in Mariupol” (PBS)
   Written and Performed by Mstyslav Chernov

“32 Sounds” (Abramorama)
   Written and Performed by Sam Green

BEST ARCHIVAL DOCUMENTARY
“Being Mary Tyler Moore” (HBO)
“The Disappearance of Shere Hite” (IFC Films)
“It Ain’t Over” (Sony Pictures Classics)
“JFK: One Day in America” (National Geographic)
“The Lady Bird Diaries” (Hulu)
“The League” (Magnolia Pictures)

BEST HISTORICAL DOCUMENTARY
“The 1619 Project” (Hulu/Onyx Collective)
“JFK: One Day in America” (National Geographic)
“The Lady Bird Diaries” (Hulu)
“Lakota Nation vs. United States” (IFC Films)
“The League” (Magnolia Pictures)
“Occupied City” (A24)
“Stamped from the Beginning” (Netflix)

BEST BIOGRAPHICAL DOCUMENTARY
“Being Mary Tyler Moore” (HBO)
“The Disappearance of Shere Hite” (IFC Films)
“Going to Mars: The Nikki Giovanni Project” (HBO)
“Judy Blume Forever” (Amazon Studios)
“Pretty Baby: Brooke Shields” (Hulu)
“Sly” (Netflix)
“Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie” (Apple TV+)

BEST MUSIC DOCUMENTARY
“American Symphony” (Netflix)
“Carlos” (Sony Pictures Classics)
“Ladies First: A Story of Women in Hip-Hop” (Netflix)
“Little Richard: I Am Everything” (Magnolia Pictures, CNN Films)
“Love to Love You, Donna Summer” (HBO)
“Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour” (AMC Theatres)
“What the Hell Happened to Blood, Sweat & Tears?” (Abramorama)

BEST POLITICAL DOCUMENTARY
“Beyond Utopia” (Roadside Attractions)
“Bobi Wine: The People’s President” (National Geographic)
“Deadlocked: How America Shaped the Supreme Court” (Showtime)
“Every Body” (Focus Features)
“Lakota Nation vs. United States” (IFC Films)
“Silver Dollar Road” (Amazon MGM Studios)
“20 Days in Mariupol” (PBS)

BEST SCIENCE/NATURE DOCUMENTARY
“Between Earth & Sky” (PBS)
“Life on Our Planet (Netflix)
“Path of the Panther” (National Geographic)
“Poisoned: The Dirty Truth About Your Food” (Netflix)
“Secrets of the Elephants” (National Geographic)
“32 Sounds” (Abramorama)
“Wild Beauty: Mustang Spirit of the West” (Gravitas Ventures)

BEST SPORTS DOCUMENTARY
“Black Ice” (Roadside Attractions)
“BS High” (HBO)
“The Deepest Breath” (Netflix)
“It Ain’t Over” (Sony Pictures Classics)
“The League” (Magnolia Pictures)
“Reggie” (Amazon Studios)
“Stephen Curry: Underrated” (Apple TV+)
“Welcome to Wrexham” (FX)

BEST TRUE CRIME DOCUMENTARY
“Burden of Proof” (HBO)
“The Jewel Thief” (Hulu)
“John Lennon: Murder Without a Trial” (Apple TV+)
“Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal” (Netflix)
“Telemarketers” (HBO)
“The Thief Collector” (FilmRise)
“Victim/Suspect” (Netflix)

BEST SHORT DOCUMENTARY
“The ABCs of Book Banning” (MTV Documentary Films)
“The Barber of Little Rock” (Story Syndicate)
“Between Earth & Sky” (PBS)
“Keys to the City” (New Yorker)
“The Last Repair Shop” (Breakwater Studios)
“Last Song from Kabul” (MTV Documentary Films)

BEST LIMITED DOCUMENTARY SERIES
“Big Vape: The Rise and Fall of Juul” (Netflix)
“Deadlocked: How America Shaped the Supreme Court” (Showtime)
“JFK: One Day in America” (National Geographic)
“John Lennon: Murder Without a Trial” (Apple TV+)
“Secrets of the Elephants” (National Geographic)
“Shiny Happy People” (Amazon Studios)
“The 1619 Project” (Hulu/Onyx Collective)
“Telemarketers” (HBO)

BEST ONGOING DOCUMENTARY SERIES
“Frontline” (PBS)
“Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal” (Netflix)
“POV” (PBS)
“30 for 30” (ESPN)
“Trafficked with Mariana van Zeller” (National Geographic)
“Welcome to Wrexham” (FX)

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