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'Charm City' documentary makes Oscars short list

“Charm City,” a compassionate and guardedly hopeful look at relations between Baltimore’s black community and police force in the wake of the death of Freddie Gray, is among 15 films that could be nominated for the Best Documentary Feature Oscar at February’s Academy Awards.

Marilyn Ness’ film, which had its local debut at May’s 20th Maryland Film Festival and went into wider release in October, was shot over three years, beginning just a few months before Freddie Gray’s April 2015 death while in city police custody. Much of the film, which eschews narration in favor of an occasional title card, centers on East Baltimore’s Rose Street Community Center, where former correctional officer Clayton Guyton, known to everyone as Mr. C, holds court.

The film also spends time with Councilman Brandon Scott, whose frustrations with entrenched positions on both sides are on display, and with police officers Monique Brown, Eric Winston and John Gregorio, whose efforts to bring a human touch to their work on the streets seem doomed from the get-go.

The short list for Documentary Feature also includes “Communion,” “Crime + Punishment,” “Dark Money,” “The Distant Barking of Dogs,” “Free Solo,” “Hale County This Morning, This Evening,” “Minding the Cap,” “Of Fathers and Sons,” “On Her Shoulders,” “RBG,” “Shirkers,” “The Silence of Others,” “Three Identical Strangers” and “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” Those 15 candidates were culled from a list of 166 eligible films.

Nominations for the 91st Academy Awards will be announced on Jan. 22. The Oscars ceremony is set for Feb. 24 at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood.

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