Last weekend critics on both coasts saluted "Amy," British filmmaker Asif Kapadia's chronicle of the tormented life of the fabulously talented, fame-bedeviled singer Amy Winehouse, who died in 2011 at the age of 27. On Saturday, the Boston Online Film Critics gave it their best documentary award, as did the Boston Society of Film Critics and the Los Angeles Film Critics Association on Sunday.
After a shrewd Parliamentary motion, however, the BSFC gave its best foreign language film award to Joshua Oppenheimer's "The Look of Silence," his second of two documentaries about the 1965 Indonesian genocide. "Silence" is almost entirely in Indonesian, with subtitles. "The Look of Silence" also won best feature at the International Documentary Association's award ceremony in Los Angeles on Saturday.
Meanwhile, on Dec. 2, the New York Film Critics Circle chose Frederic Wiseman's "In Jackson Heights," a layered portrait of a neighborhood in the group's own backyard, as best documentary.Unlike "Amy" and "The Look of Silence," the 85-year-old Wiseman's 40th film was not included in the Academy's short list of 15 documentary features that will be considered for an Oscar nomination. As was the case with the other 39.
Adam Roffman, the erstwhile cofounder and former programming director of the superlative Independent Film Festival of Boston, has since turned his talents to making films of his own. For his debut short documentary, "Spearhunter," he and co-director Luke Poling and an all-Boston crew headed to deepest Alabama to look into the life and legacy of local legend Gene Morris. He claims to be "the greatest spear hunter in the world" and has founded a museum to commemorate his feats. Roffman's film has appeared in more than 30 festivals since it debuted at South by Southwest last March, winning the best short documentary awards at Newburyport and Knoxville. Wryly absurd but not condescending, it shows much the same bemused and sympathetic outlook on bizarre Americana as such early Errol Morris films as "Vernon, Florida" (1981). It can now be seen online at vimeo.com/148002589/.
For more about "Spearhunter" go to www.spearhuntermovie.com.
Ukraine has more problems than just Vladimir Putin. Economic and political instability have driven a generation of kids to the streets, where they find violence, exploitation, and addiction. Stepping in where official agencies have failed, the eponymous pastor of Steve Hoover's documentary "Crocodile Gennadiy" takes these lost children into his rehab center in the war torn city of Mariupol. A tragic and well-crafted descent into the shambles of the post-Soviet era, the film screens on Monday at 7 p.m. at the Brattle Theatre with the director present for a Q&A. It's the last program for this season of the DocYard; the next season kicks off in early February.
For more information go to www.brattlefilm.org.
The sometimes jaw-dropping unfunniness of the winners of the New Yorker's "Cartoon Caption Contest" demonstrates the talent and genius needed in practicing this art form. As seen in Leah Wolshock's HBO documentary "Very Semi-Serious: A Partially Thorough Portrait of New Yorker Cartoonists," a look into the magazine's inner workings, in particular the role of cartoon editor Bob Mankoff, who has maintained the wit and cultural acuteness of these single panel masterpieces of the absurd and hilarious. He is the latest in a line that goes back 90 years. It may be a tough job gauging what people find funny, but it's probably not as demoralizing as going over those contest submissions. Also interviewed are madcap captioners Roz Chast and Mort Gerberg. "Very Semi-Serious" can be seen on HBO on Monday at 9 p.m.
For more information go to www.hbo.com/documentaries.
Peter Keough can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.