Stanley Nelson’s ‘Attica’ Wins First-Ever Oscar Nod From Showtime Documentary Films

Showtime Documentary Films received the first Oscar nomination in its history, with the feature documentary Penthouse by Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Stanley Nelson (Freedom Riders, The Murder of Emmett Till) and co-director Traci A. Curry in final contention for Best Documentary Feature at the March 27 ceremony.

Attic chronicles the 1971 five-day prison rebellion at Attica Correctional Facility in upstate New York, which claimed the lives of 29 inmates and 10 hostages – the most violent day murder that Americans have inflicted on themselves since the Civil War. Penthouse can be viewed for free through the end of February’s Black History Month on Sho.com and YouTube, as well as multiple streaming and on-demand platforms.

In addition to the Oscar nomination, Attica has already received nominations from the Directors Guild of America, the Critics Choice Association and the NAACP, and was chosen for the National Board of Review’s Top Five Documentaries of 2021. Through original interviews with former detainees, family members of hostages and other witnesses, Penthouse takes us back to a moment in history that has resonated for decades, using hundreds of hours of footage and never-before-seen archival tapes from inside the prison. The film captures the personalities, politics, emotions and tragedy that stand as a wake-up call – then and now – about the need for prison reform and the responsibilities of justice.

“Thank you to the Academy and congratulations to my fellow Best Documentary Feature nominees. I’m so thrilled that Attica, a movie I’ve wanted to make for decades, received this level of recognition and I’m so grateful to the wonderful team at SHOWTIME for believing in the power of this story,” Nelson said. “It’s a huge honor to be nominated along with my fantastic collaborator Traci A. Curry. Together, we have strived to create a balanced and accurate account of this tragic moment in history. The story of the Attica uprising continues to resonate 50 years later in discussions around impactful prison and criminal justice reform. We are so grateful that the people who lived through these events wanted to open up to us the way they did and I hope we have done their stories justice.

Nominated for the first time at the Oscars, Nelson is a three-time winner of a Primetime Emmy: two for his work in freedom riders (Exceptional Merit in Nonfiction Filmmaking and Outstanding Writing for Nonfiction Programming), as well as a nod to Best Direction for American Experience: The Murder of Emmett Till. Nelson has also won two News and Documentary Emmy Awards and a Peabody Award. In 2016, the News and Documentary Emmys and the International Documentary Association honored Nelson with their Career Achievement Awards. Throughout his long film career, Nelson has shed new light on familiar and underexplored aspects of America’s past, combining gripping narratives with rich and deeply researched historical detail.

“We couldn’t be more thrilled to have Stanley earn his long-awaited first Oscar nomination,” said Vinnie Malhotra, Executive Vice President, Nonfiction Programming, Showtime Networks Inc. appropriate to an already wonderful legacy he left to the documentary world.The fact that this coincides with the first Oscar nomination for SHOWTIME Documentary Films is just another cause for celebration.

Penthouse is produced by Nelson’s Firelight Films and Topic Studios for Showtime Documentary Films. Marcia Smith and Jihan Robinson are executive producers.

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