Netflix’s First Oscar Winner Explains His Jump to National Geographic Documentary Films

IndieWire | 9/20/2019 | Staff
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Netflix’s Oscar season clout exploded in early 2019, when the streaming platform scored its first Best Picture nomination for “Roma,” but the company actually won its first Oscar two years earlier. When “The White Helmets,” Orlando von Einsiedel’s harrowing portrait of bomb relief activists in Syria, won Best Documentary Short Subject, it marked a turning point for the company. For the filmmaker, however, it was a different story.

“The win was immensely flattering, but I don’t know if it led to loads of offers,” Einsiedel said in a recent interview. Instead, the 39-year-old British filmmaker found that he gained far more currency when his 2015 feature “Virunga,” about the plight of Congolese park rangers fending off poachers, scored a Best Documentary nomination (it was Netflix’s second, after “The Square,” Jehane Noujaim’s doc about the pro-democracy movement in Egypt). “I went from a very unknown filmmaker to a little better known,” he said. “That was a big shift.”

Snowboarder - Niche - Issue - Documentaries - Einsiedel

A former snowboarder who found his niche in riveting social issue documentaries, Einsiedel is no longer on the margins of his field, but the kinds of stories he tells mandate a never-ending hustle. That’s part of the reason why his latest project, a series of short documentaries commissioned by the Nobel Prize, forced him to find a new home for his work at National Geographic Films.

“A lot of people saw ‘White Helmets’ and said, ‘Well, Netflix buys shorts, that’s great, let’s sell to Netflix,” he said. “So now they’ve got like 10 or 15 short films on their slate.”

Contrast - Einsiedel - Work - Found - Films

By contrast, Einsiedel’s new work, “Lost and Found,” marks one of only two short films in National Geographic’s fall slate, its first foray into the format. As with his previous efforts, “Lost and Found” involves an activist driven to fight back against a daunting humanitarian crisis. The...
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