Did Oscars Punish '2016 Obama's America'? Producer Says Yes, Academy Says No

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences recently opened up first-round Oscar voting to the entire documentary branch and abandoned the previous system of allowing a small committee to determine the short list of eligible films. This radically curtails the influence of the documentary branch governors. Interesting, because last month an accusation of political bias in the documentary branch was lodged against the Academy – specifically, in an April 16th letter from Gerald Molen who produced the controversial right-wing documentary 2016: Obama’s America (as well as the Oscar-winning Schindler’s List). Molen’s missive was sent to Academy President Hawk Koch and documentary branch governors Rob Epstein, Michael Apted, and Michael Moore who is also a member of the AMPAS Board Of Governors. Molen questions why 2016: Obama’s America was ignored for an Academy Award nomination even though it was last year’s second highest grossing political documentary (behind only Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11.) Molen wrote:

“I find myself wondering if it was excluded for ‘other’ reasons…”

“I have tremendous respect for Michael Apted as a creative and talented filmmaker but putting him with Rob Epstein and Michael Moore as the gatekeepers in charge of which films get nominated in the documentary category seems patently absurd…

“While Mr. Moore is a distinguished filmmaker, he holds a strong partisan view representing what Gallup tells us is only 21 percent of the population. Even if he were able to keep his personal philosophy out of the equation, you can certainly understand why the larger American constituency (pegged at 40%) would question the exclusion of a well-made and popular film that fails to reflect his views. Even if only in perception, this assumed bias will serve (in my opinion) only to injure the Academy…

“All up and coming filmmakers deserve to be recognized for their creative sensibilities and should not be punished because the messages of their films fail to fit the dogma of what some believe is politically correct.”

Hawk replied on behalf of the Academy:

We’ve discussed your letter and the concerns you raise. First of all, I want to assure you that 2016: Obama’s America was treated the same as all the other 125 films that were submitted in the Feature Documentary category for the most recent Academy Awards. Your film definitely received consideration and it was not ignored. It merely didn’t get the votes it needed to move onto the short list.

It’s up to each one of the 172 members of the Documentary branch to evaluate the entries and make their own, independent judgments about which ones reflect the strongest achievements of the year. Inevitably, every year there are strong films that do not advance to the short list and a nomination.

While box office success is most assuredly an important measure of a film’s success in our industry, in my opinion it shouldn’t factor into our thinking as individual Academy members when we evaluate films for Oscar consideration.

Under the new documentary nominating Oscar rules, a vote of the full branch produces a short list of 15 films, then a second round of balloting narrows it down to the five nominees.

Related: Anti-Obama Pic #2 Political Documentary: Now Bigger Than 3 Michael Moore Movies

  1. Oh please what is the average age of those 172 members
    it is so annoying who gets into the academy –
    joke

    1. to be a documentary, it should make an attempt to be entirely factual about the issues presented…. 2016 had major themes that were outright lies and easily debunked..

      Loose Change was about as relevant as a documentary as 2016 was….

      1. by your criteria, no documentaries would be eligible. Documentaries are entirely the opinion of the film maker. “Who Killed The Electric Car” “Supersize Me” “The Wild And Wonderful Whites of West Virginia”, anything Michael Moore has ever made… All these are editorials, opinion pieces and nothing more.
        This guy is probably correct in his assumption. I have worked on the Oscars (10 times). I have been in the meetings, and heard people say “don’t hire him, he’s a republican”.
        The Academy has always been a favorites game, and it is foolish to think that they would support someone who’s ideologies go against their own.
        Expecting the AMPAS to nominate anti-left wing documentaries is like expecting the Vatican to Canonize George Takai. He may be a great guy who has helped others, but he goes against their ideals…

      2. I haven’t seen 2016, so I cannot comment on its accuracy. However, if what you say is true and that was the reason the film was not nominated, there is clearly a double standard at play. Moore’s “documentary” Fahrenheit 9/11 was awarded an Academy Award despite being provably misleading and, arguably, not an actual documentary under the rules of that category.

        Yes, I know this could be considered an example of tu quoque but I’m presenting this as an argument in support of bias on the part of the Academy, not as an argument for or against the accuracy of either film. Thus, I think it’s relevant.

        1. Fahrenheit 9/11 wasn’t even nominated for an Oscar. I don’t think it was eligible due to Moore wanting to air it on TV before the 2004 election (which was too early for Oscar).

  2. If a larger American constituency of 40% dwarfs the left’s at 21% according to Gerald Molen, then why isn’t Mitt Romney president? Why didn’t his film have the same impact as Moore’s did?

    1. Did you seriously just ask that?

      93% of African-Americans voted to re-elect Barack Obama. Just so you don’t mistake that for a typo, I’ll repeat: NINETY THREE PERCENT.

      77% of Latinos voted to re-elect Barack Obama. SEVENTY SEVEN PERCENT.

      And as a huge proponent of free stuff that someone is going to have to pay for some day (just not under his watch), most everyone on unemployment and welfare were going to vote for him too.

      And the election was relatively close.

      I’m no fan of Romney, but Obama promised to cut our debt in half and instead ADDED seven trillion, so here I ask you, if Obama were white, would 2016 have been the biggest landslide victory for a President in history?

      93% of African-Americans? 77% of Latinos???

      1. Sorry to have to burst your bubble, but the election was not close, not even relatively. By popular vote, Obama was reelected by a 53% to 47% margin. That is not close by any measure.

        The Electoral College victory was a runaway for Obama.

        And that whole meme that the people on the right love to tout about ‘free stuff’ is a myth. Unemployment compensation isn’t free–employers and employees pay into the fund that covers those oh so generous checks. Welfare is paid for by taxes and welfare benefits are highly limited over the beneficiary’s lifetime.

        Stop parroting right wing talking points and maybe read a newspaper or something.

      2. John Kerry took 88% of the African American vote. Al Gore had 90%. And most of your facts after that are just wrong. If everything your party does offends minorities, yeah, you’re gonna lose that vote. But instead of facing up to your inadequacies, you further drive that vote away by implying that they’re too stupid to vote for your party.

        Nicely done.

    1. Except it was all true. A good deal of what was discussed was in Obama’s autobiography. I’m guessing you never actually saw it. Low information poster.

  3. What a croc. That statement is about as believable as a video causing the Benghazi TERRORIST attack. Anything coming out of Hollywierd these days is biased, yet there to stupid to realize there blatant bias alienates a major portion of the paying public. Academy awards ? What’s that anyway?

    1. 47% is not a majority of the viewing public, if it were, Obama would not be President for a second term. You people have deluded yourselves into thinking America remains a reflection of Norman Rockwell’s artistic imagining of a country that existed only in his mind’s eye. You forget that Americans are content to live their lives while the money grubbing and the power hungry fight over the scraps in DC – until you cross the line that threatens their peace and quiet. You LOST! No amount of ‘re-imagining’ in this laughably pathetic psuedo-documentary will change that reality.

      1. Um… Norman Rockwell was DEFINITELY a Liberal. Look at his paintings about the Civil Rights movement.

    2. “Crock” (Don’t check your shoes for correct spelling.) “They’re too stupid”, not their to stupid.
      You don’t really help your fellow Tea Partiers prove their intelligence and validity as a political party by spamming the comments of our industry news site with your bile. Funny that you’d seek DHD out, since you have such contempt for Hollyweird (I know that one was on purpose, because satire).

    3. And that’s why when something that plays to conservative values like that ATLAS SHRUGGED adaptation it does big IRON MAN 3 business. Oh, wait….

  4. Why do right-wingers always think they are being persecuted when they usually do the persecution. The “documentary” was awful and was never an Oscar contender regardless of the subject matter.

    1. Because your version of reality is crap. The media, and Hollywood are dominated by progressives. Now you have a crooked, progressive president taking full advantage of that. As an example, check out the story that just broke where the IRS ADMITSto persecuting Tea Party organizations for the last several years.

      Does that help you?

  5. Hilarious! What a bunch of whiners! These are the people who say Hollywood is terrible. Yet, here they are, wanting to receive Hollywood’s highest accolade.

    Why? If Hollywood is part of the liberal elite, why would uber conservatives want its blessing?

    I don’t see many liberal/progressives seeking Rush Limbaugh’s endorsement. Everyone knows he’s the king of Right-wing media.

    1. So you are not the least bit concerned that Michael Moore is picking and choosing which documentaries get in? No more Kool-Aid for you, H.

    2. I would be perfectly happy with merely having a new red scare where Hollywood is cleansed of progressives. As to eliminate seditious activities and influence in American culture. McCarthy had it right back in he 40’s.

  6. Plenty of bad films make money. And aren’t nominatted for awards. The fake-journalism documentary this guy produced was one of them. It wasn’t very good at all, no matter it’s point of view. Just shoddy film making.

  7. I want this year the Academy to knock all devils out of the nomination line up. As follow:

    Anything involving politics have no place in the arts. The leaches in the system don’t know their ass from their elbows about acting or the performing arts, but they only use the industry to promote themselves into power, they’re incompetent and cannot deliver results. So be smart and don’t get used by serpents, let’s keep it strictly to the performing arts for artists only. Every industry is their own nitch.
    Further, let’s keep the integrity high and the competition fair, means that absolutely no favor for anyone to fix for any talents to win because they had sex with them, must go back to winning like back in the days of Kathryn Hepburn, when she really was good and was nominated 12 times, no one fixed it for her.
    Also this year all the films that belong to studios or executives that have forced talents to perform sex acts on them in order to get the movie, all those movies will be disqualified based on unethical misconduct on the part of the studios who rape artists, so they don’t deserve to have their films get nominated after they degraded , and exploited their own artists. All of the movies where talents have been hurt , degraded in the process to get work will ALL be disquailified.

    All talents who VOLUNTARILY knew whom to have sex with in order to get an Oscar nominee will not be considered as an artist, but a prostitute. This kind repulsive behavior is damaging for all working actors who have struggled to do good work and get respected for it because they’ve earned it, not because they have learned whom to sleep with to get them into the Oscar race and win. These talents prostitutes should all be thrown out of the industry because they are an embarrassment for the true artists and they bring shame to the whole industry. Clean out all the prostitutes and don’t reward them for sleeping with people to get ahead.
    The Oscar nominations should be for only films that were produced by people who did not abuse or rape the artists in the project.
    The Oscar for best talents belong to only the higest caliber of artistry, in which they win based on delivery of their performance. Such as Anthony Hopkins, Daniel Day Lewis, Al Pacino, Meryl Streep etc. These people are believable when they win because they are true talents.

    Serpents have brought so much sleaziness into the industry and have destroyed the pure creative process for all involved, so let all work together and kill off all the serpens so they can’t further harm artists, the industry, and shame everyone because of their actions.
    Artists have great emotional intelligence and because they have this, they’re always the first to know ” what truth is “, let’s live by our truths only and do things only with integrity.
    Get rid of all the animals prostitutes, perverts, serpents in the industry so they cannot hurt more people.

    1. A “TL;dr” if there ever was one.

      Also: “leeches,” and “Katharine Hepburn.” You’re welcome.

  8. I didn’t think it was that good to be honest, disappointed Bully didn’t get anything though.

  9. Is Mr. Molen’s lack of awareness caused by an astounding degree of narcissism or perhaps something on the autism spectrum?

  10. Could it just be that this film would have not been nominated regardless because it was a bad movie? Yes it did very well,and spoke to there audence very well, but its premius was flaued, and overall theme were obsessed with talking points about 2008 Canadate Obama, not 2012 President Obama running for a second term.

  11. Molen should ask Rupert Murdoch to start the Fox “News” Movie Awards. Then his movie, with a 26% on Rotten Tomatoes can win whatever awards the conspiracy theorists want to create in their paranoid fever dreams.

  12. Its not a documentary. Its a propaganda film, plain and simple. Gerald Molen needs to get over his racism. And yes – trust me – Molen is a %$#@ racist.

  13. Why would those Dinesh D’Souza fans care for the validation of ‘Hollyweird?’ The Academy is not a public institution, it’s not the be all end all and Conservatives are free to start their own awards ceremony for movies like 2016 and Fireproof. Consumers and creators of finer arts tend to be liberal in their thinking has been that way for time immemorial.

  14. You’re film wasn’t nominated? Oh no. I’m so sorry. Do you need a cookie? Maybe a bottle?

  15. I went to Obama2016 with an open mind. I’m a political moderate and hoped the film would tell its story well, even if it was representing a different point of view. It didnt.

    Instead the movie was full of fallacies and logical contradictions. Any honest and learned conservative would take issue with it. It’s the movie equivalent of Donald Trump’s twitter feed.

    I find Michael Moore to be too liberal. But Bowling for Columbine was a great documentary not because of its content but because of the way the content was presented. Obama 2016 had both ridiculous content and a ridiculous telling. To be whining about it not being nominated for an Oscar is like Uwe Boll whining about not being nominated.

  16. Yes, Mr. Molen. We gave all due consideration to your propagandist hatchet job.

  17. “Right Wing Documentary?” Was Farenheight 911 a “Left Wing” Documentary? I find it interesting that I have never seen anyone or anything in your articles ever referred to as “LEFT WING.” You had a two great opportunities to refer to Moore as Left Wing, which he clearly is. You do good work but your political bias seeps through at times. It’s subtle but people like me, who pay attention, see it.

    1. The film’s POV is critical to the story. You have to note that the film took a conservative stance politically in order to explain why the filmmaker felt he was being targeted by Michael Moore. Also, the filmmaker himself is setting himself up as the opposite of Moore, so it’s not like he’s running away exactly from the “conservative” designation.

  18. They makers of the film sound like sore losers. Then again it was a work of fiction and not non-fiction.

    1. No, it wasn’t. I keep hearing that from liberals who never saw it. Prove you aren’t just repeating what you were told to. Explain how you think it was fiction. Be specific.

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