Two Asian American directors received Academy Award nominations Tuesday morning: Bing Liu for “Minding the Gap” and co-directors Jimmy Chin Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi) for “Free Solo.”
Both movies are about young men who devote themselves to a physical activity. In “Free Solo,” Chai and Vasarhelyi follow rock climber Alex Honnold as he plans and attempts to free solo climb El Capitan in June 2017. Free solo climbing or soloing is a climber scaling a mountain alone and without the aid of ropes, harnesses or other safety equipment.
“Minding the Gap” is about three long-time friends who meet at a specific skate park in Rockford, Illinois. The three bond through their skateboarding adventures as teens and grow up and slowly take on adult responsibilities and face unpleasant realities.
“Free Solo” won the Critics’ Choice Documentary Award for Most Compelling Living Subject (Alex Honnold), Best Cinematography (Jimmy Chin, Clair Popkin and Mikey Schaefer), Most Innovative Documentary and Best Sports Documentary) and the Cinema Eye Audience Choice Prize for Chin and Vasarhelyi. It is also nominated for a BAFTA.
“Minding the Gap” is currently streaming on Hulu and will air on PBS (18 February 2019) as part of the POV series. “Minding the Gap” won the Critics’ Choice Documentary Award for Best First Time Director and a Film Independent Spirit Truer Than Fiction Award. It also won a Best Editing Award from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association.
If either Chin and Vasarhelyi or Liu win, they will be the first Asian American male director to receive an Oscar for their documentary. The first Asian American to win in this category was Frieda Lee Mock in 1994 for “Maya Lin: A Strong Clear Vision.