Dolphins, monks, migrants aided by Oscar's long arm

Fri Feb 26, 2010 3:52pm EST
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By Christine Kearney

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Documentary filmmakers are accustomed to preaching to a choir of mostly small-sized audiences who see their issue-driven films.

But nominees for the March 7 Oscars, who don't attract the controversy of a Michael Moore or the pull of Al Gore, say their nonfiction films are still reaching new eyes and a few powerful decision makers months after hitting theaters.

Issues covered in the nonfiction films include the slaughter of dolphins in Japan in "The Cove," video journalists documenting the Myanmar 2007 street protests in "Burma VJ," and child migrants from Central America attempting to cross through Mexico into the United States in "Which Way Home."

"The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers" looks at the 1970s government whistle-blower and "Food Inc." takes on the U.S. food industry and its unhealthy impact on people and animals.

None of them may have the immediate global impact of Gore's environmental documentary "An Inconvenient Truth" or raise the ire of political foes like Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11," but each is having an impact in its own arena. And the filmmakers said they hoped an Oscar win would bring more exposure.

"We are really part of an incredibly powerful growing food movement," Food Inc.'s director Robert Kenner told Reuters about the film's impact since its release. "I wasn't fully aware of how strong and robust this was but the (release of) this film has really made it clear."

"Food Inc.," which criticizes a handful of big corporations and meat companies, was screened for U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, and Congress is considering food safety changes highlighted in the film's tale of a mother whose 2-year-old died from E. Coli infection after he ate a hamburger.

The film made $4 million at the U.S. box offices, but DVD sales soared after Kenner and others appeared on "The Oprah Winfrey Show."   Continued...

<p>Videographer Lincoln O'Barry, producer Ben Stiller, actor Richard O'Barry and producer Fisher Stevens (L to R) attend an advance screening of "The Cove", a film about dolphins and a secret cove in Japan, in New York July 15, 2009. REUTERS/Ray Stubblebine</p>