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Polar Bears & Albert Schweitzer: Oscar-Winning Documentaries

Polar Bears White Wilderness Oscar winning documentary
Polar bears star in White Wilderness.

Oscar-winning documentaries ‘White Wilderness’ & ‘Albert Schweitzer’ + ‘Ama Girls’ Academy screening

New 35mm prints of the Academy Award-winning documentaries Albert Schweitzer, Ama Girls, and White Wilderness will be screened as part of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ series “Oscar’s Docs: The First Twenty Years of Academy Award®-Winning Documentaries” on Monday, November 28, 2005, at 7:30 p.m., at the Academy’s Linwood Dunn Theater in Hollywood.

‘Albert Schweitzer’: Controversial Renaissance man

According to the Academy’s press release, Albert Schweitzer, the 1957 Best Documentary Feature Oscar winner about the German-born theologian, philosopher, musician, and physician, “was the result of a six-year collaboration between filmmakers Jerome Hill and Erica Anderson and Schweitzer himself.”

In Albert Schweitzer’s view, Jesus (like many others of his time and place) believed the end of the world would take place in his own lifetime and saw himself as a world savior. In his 1906 book The Quest of the Historical Jesus / Geschichte der Leben-Jesu-Forschung, Schweitzer affirmed that “the Jesus of Nazareth who came forward publicly as the Messiah, who preached the ethic of the kingdom of God, who founded the kingdom of heaven upon earth and died to give his work its final consecration never existed.”

Albert Schweitzer is narrated by two-time Oscar winner Fredric March (Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, The Best Years of Our Lives) and future two-time Best Supporting Actor Oscar nominee Burgess Meredith (The Day of the Locust, Rocky). Note: No Oscar was awarded for Best Documentary Short Subject in 1957.

Disney’s ‘Ama Girls’ and ‘White Wilderness’

Released by the Walt Disney Studios in 1958, the documentaries Ama Girls and White Wilderness won, respectively, the Best Documentary Short Subject and the Best Documentary Feature Oscars. Produced by Ben Sharpsteen and written by Dwight Hauser, Ama Girls depicts the lives of the women of a Japanese fishing village; written and directed by James Algar, White Wilderness offers a portrait of the wildlife of the Arctic: polar bears, lemmings, seals, and others – which, the way things are going, will not be around for very much longer. Note: Ama Girls seems to lack a director’s credit.

“Oscar’s Docs'” final installment will be held on Monday, December 5, 2005. That evening’s screening will feature Glass / Glas (1959), Serengeti Shall Not Die / Serengeti darf nicht sterben (1959), Giuseppina (1960), and The Horse with the Flying Tail (1960). The Academy’s Linwood Dunn Theater is located at 1313 Vine Street in Hollywood. For more information call the Academy at (310) 247-3000, ext. 111.

White Wilderness polar bear image: © A.M.P.A.S.

More Oscar documentaries

The Academy Award-winning documentaries of 1959 and 1960 will be screened on Monday, December 5, at 7:30 p.m., in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Linwood Dunn Theater in Hollywood. That is the final installment of the series “Oscar’s Docs: The First Twenty Years of Academy Award-Winning Documentaries.”

Bert Haanstra’s 1959 Oscar winner for Documentary Short Subject, Glas / Glass, portrays the process of glassblowing (accompanied by a jazzy score). The Documentary Feature winner of that year, Serengeti darf nicht sterben / Serengeti Shall Not Die, directed by Bernhard Grzimek, depicts the plight of the Serengeti National Park in northern Tanzania. Grzimek’s documentary has been credited for helping raise worldwide awareness for the preservation of the environment, though considering how difficult things have been at the Serengeti – where elephants were nearly exterminated, and an estimated 40,000 animals are slaughtered by poachers per year – much more needs to be done.

Directed by James Hill (A Study in Terror, Born Free) and sponsored by British Petroleum, Giuseppina was the Documentary Short winner of 1960. Set in an Italian village, the film depicts a day in the life of the daughter of a gas station owner. No, not an Exxon gas station. The Documentary Feature winner, the Disney-made The Horse with the Flying Tail, tells the story of show jumper Nautical. It was directed by Larry Lansburgh.

Both feature documentaries will be shown in new 35mm prints. The shorts will shown in 16mm IB prints.

“Oscar’s Docs” will resume in September 2006, featuring Academy Award-winning documentaries from 1961–1976.

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1 comment

ge -

I’ve been trying to find a copy of Glas but haven’t yet it’s a really good documentary on glass blowing from what i’ve read it has good reviews but since its from 58 or 59 it’s a bit hard to find a copy.


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