A Doc in the House

For most viewers, the Academy Awards mean two things: celebrity fashion and suspense over a handful of categories, like Best Actor or Best Actress. But in between the red-carpet arrivals and the announcement of the year's best big-budget blockbuster, heaps of gold-plated little men must be distributed to more obscure nominees. So during the gala next March, you can either change the channel when the Best Documentary hopefuls are announced or sit up and make your own proclamation: "I helped that film qualify for an Oscar."

That's because the Academy requires a nominated documentary to be shown in four cities in addition to Los Angeles and New York. To help filmmakers meet this requirement, the International Documentary Association launched DocuWeek, a quad-city showcase that concludes in Boulder this year.

"People just love the films," says DocuWeek's Colorado organizer, Sofia van Surksum, noting that without this opportunity, curious viewers probably wouldn't be exposed to any of these works except for the one winning the top award.

Between Friday, November 18, and Monday, November 21, movie lovers can choose from nine feature-length and three short documentaries screening at the Landmark Crossroads Cinema. The Academy has already selected two shorts, God Sleeps in Rwanda and Positively Naked, as finalists in the Oscar race. Van Surksum says Rwanda is "absolutely amazing," a work that follows five Rwandan women who rebuilt their lives and redefined women's roles following the genocide of the '90s. Naked deals with a different social problem: HIV and AIDS. Photographer Spencer Tunick used 85 HIV-positive people in one of his nude installations, and the film shares their stories of survival and stigma.

Other possibilities among the features include Frozen Angels, a study of society's quest for the perfect baby; The Real Dirt on Farmer Brown, which explores a Midwestern farmer's successful attempt to transform his farm in the midst of a failing economy and hostile community; and 39 Pounds of Love, which tells the saga of 34-year-old Ami, an Israeli animator with a rare form of muscular dystrophy.

Lend an eye -- and when Oscar night rolls around, you can shower your friends with your vast knowledge of the finalists. Take that, Roger Ebert.