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This year Filmmaker partnered with the IFP to create a new award to be given out in a few weeks at this year’s Gotham Awards. Titled Best Film Not Playing at a Theater Near You, the award is designed to highlight worthy films that have fallen beneath the theatrical radar.

We asked 18 festival programmers to each nominate two films from their festival. From this list, our editors — myself, Matt Ross, Peter Bowen, Mary Glucksman and Ray Pride — narrowed it down to five nominees and, eventually one winner. It was an interesting exercise. The films nominated by the programmers weren’t some of the ones that I was expecting, and, after watching all the films, our nominees (which were voted with a pretty remarkable degree of unanimity) weren’t, for the most part, the ones I would have expected from glancing at the list we started out with.

As for the typical festival cry — “The docs were better!” — it was interesting that three of our five nominated films are docs and the two that aren’t have heavy non-fiction elements.

Here are the nominees and we’ll have more on them and the winner upcoming on this blog and in the magazine.

Al Otro Lado (To the Other Side) is Natalia Almada’s documentary about an aspiring corrido composer from the drug capital of Mexico who faces two choices to better his life: to traffic drugs or to cross the border illegally into the United States. The film received its world premiere at the New York International Latino Film Festival in 2005. It will be broadcast on POV in late 2006. The whole committee was struck by the lyrical storytelling style experimental filmmaker Almada brought to this hybrid music-social issue doc.

I Am a Sex Addict is an autobiographical re-enactment of director Caveh Zahedi’s struggle with sex addition. The film received its world premiere at the 2005 Rotterdam Film Festival. Wildly original, disarmingly persona, and very, very smart, Zahedi’s film turns what could have been a conventional “addiction and recovery” movie and turns it into an essay on truth in relationships and storytelling.

In a Nutshell: A Portrait Of Elizabeth Tashjian is Don Bernier’s documentary about the goings-on of the Nut Museum and its curator, Elizabeth Yegsa Tashjian (aka, The Nut Lady). The film received its world premiere at the Slamdance Film Festival in 2005. It’s fair to say that we were all collectively charmed by the subject of this doc and impressed with the film’s low-key intelligence. Starting small with its look at the quirky Tashjian and her “Nut Museum,” the film slowly becomes an elegy for a lost post-War generation, an essay about societal attitudes towards the aging, and a celebration of individuality and the power of artmaking.

Police Beat (pictured) is Robinson Devor’s unconventional crime film about an African immigrant turned Seattle bike cop who is preoccupied by his turbulent love life as he investigates a series of bizarre crimes (taken from actual Seattle police reports). The film premiered at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival. The film will be broadcast on the Sundance Channel in 2006. At Filmmaker we’re big fans of this film, which plays out like a strange cross between Alain Resnais and Rick Linklater set in an otherworldly Seattle.

Sir! No Sir! is David Zeiger’s documentary chronicling the real front lines of dissension toward the War. The film premiered at the 2005 Los Angeles Film Festival. Zeiger’s doc is a fascinating look back at the G.I. Viet Nam war protest movement. It’s terribly relevant to the present moment as Zeiger reclaims a bit of history from the “Swift Boat Veterans” and others on the Right and shows the full range of political speech that ricocheted through our society during the late ’60s and early ’70s.

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