Man on Wire wins best documentary Oscar; Smile Pinki wins for best documentary short

Man on Wire just won the Oscar for best documentary feature during the 81st annual Academy Awards. The film, which is now on DVD, follows Philippe Petit’s successful and incredible 1974 walk on a high wire between the World Trade Center buildings in New York. It’s a stunning feat but also a great documentary, especially because director James Marsh turns original footage and interviews into a really dramatic narrative.

Petit balanced an Oscar (head down) on his chin after delivering what he first said was the shortest Oscar speech ever–“Yes”–although he kept talking after that. The film is based on his book To Reach the Clouds: My High Wire Walk Between the Twin Towers.

Also nominated were Werner Herzog’s Encounters at the End of the World (which is on DVD), The Garden, Nerakhoon (The Betrayal), and Trouble the Water.

Bill Maher, whose documentary Religulous was released last year, presented the awards and said of documentarians, “you should go see their movies more.” The documentary awards were preceded by a short documentary about documentaries by Albert Maysles.

The documentary short award went to Megan Mylan’s Smile Pinki, which follows a girl in India who gets surgery for a cleft lip. The other nominees were The Conscience of Nhem En, The Final Inch, and The Witness: From the Balcony of Room 306, which is currently airing on HBO2.