Amir here. With an unusually large number of high profile contenders and a recent overhaul in the branch’s voting system, the documentary category is sure to be one of the exciting races at the Oscars this year. There are a few films firmly in the conversation already, but I recently caught up with a contender that has curiously slipped under the radar despite the talent involved.
Head Games, the newest from Steve James (Hoop Dreams, The Interrupters) is based on a book by former WWE wrestler Chris Nowinski and takes on the issue of concussion in contact sports, a topic that is increasingly discussed among Football and Hockey enthusiasts in particular. James goes back to a more traditional structure in setting up his film with many talking head interviews and archival footage, but the end result is unexpectedly moving. Given the prevalence of these injuries in athletes, from kids who play Football or Soccer on a regular basis at school to the professionals of NFL and NHL, it’s a film that will be emotionally involving for a lot of people. I choked up a few times.
James’s history with the Oscars is well-known: despite universal critical acclaim, both aforementioned titles were snubbed by the Academy, not to mention his other powerful films. He was nominated in the editing category for Hoop Dreams, but it will be a big moment whenever he finally scores his first nomination for best documentary. On the occasion of the film’s qualifying release, I had the opportunity to chat with him about the film, his passion for sports, the Oscars, and the documentary branch’s new voting system.
INTERVIEW, OSCARS & EBERT AFTER THE JUMP