Netflix has another Oscar hopeful in its quiver.
The streaming-video service has acquired worldwide rights to “E-Team,” a documentary about four Human Rights Watch workers who are the first-responders on the scene investigating abuse allegations in Syria and Libya, one of five docus Netflix has recently picked up.
“E-Team” is directed by two notable documentary filmmakers, Katy Chevigny (“Deadline,” “Election Day”) and Ross Kauffman (Academy Award winner for “Born into Brothels”). The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, where it won the cinematography award in the docu category.
The documentary is expected to debut on Netflix in the fall of 2014. The streamer also will show “E-Team” in theaters in select U.S. cities, in order to qualify for Academy Awards consideration.
The filmmakers went into Sundance without a distribution deal. “I was frightened to go to Sundance without a deal,” Kauffman told Variety in an exclusive interview. “You never know how a movie is going to play.” But literally minutes after the premiere at the fest ended, Netflix called “E-Team” producer Marilyn Ness to propose a distribution pact, according to Kauffman.
In cutting the deal with Netflix, Chevigny said, “Really our goal was to reach as wide an audience as possible. To be honest, this is the best-case scenario for us, because of (Netflix’s) reach. A lot of documentaries fall into virtual obscurity.”
Popular on Variety
SEE ALSO: Variety’s Review of ‘E-Team’
Netflix’s high awards hopes for “E-Team” come after other efforts to snare an Oscar. Late last year it acquired rights to “The Square,” about political unrest in Egypt, that was nominated for an Oscar but didn’t win. Shortly before the Academy Awards, Netflix cut a distribution deal for “The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life,” about pianist and Holocaust survivor Alice Herz-Sommer, which won the Oscar for documentary short.
In the last several months, Netflix has upped its focus on documentaries, and it has secured deals for four others that will come to the service this year.
“The Battered Bastards of Baseball,” about Hollywood thesp Bing Russell’s creation in 1973 of the only independent baseball team in America at the time, the Portland Mavericks, is set to premiere on Netflix on July 11. “Mission Blue,” which follows oceanographer and environmentalist Sylvia Earle’s campaign to save the world’s oceans from threats like climate change, overfishing and toxic waste, is slated to hit Netflix on August 15.
In addition, Netflix has exclusive streaming rights to “Print The Legend,” a documentary about the nascent American 3D printing industry that premiered at this year’s SXSW. And on May 29, Netflix will begin exclusively streaming docu “Brave Miss World,” about Israeli woman Linor Abargil, who was held captive, stabbed and raped just before winning the 1998 Miss World crown.
“E-Team” is a Big Mouth and Red Light Films production, in association with Impact Partners. It was financed mainly through grants from charitable foundations, along with individual investors; Chevigny declined to disclose the film’s budget. Kauffman said they specifically did not seek funding from Human Rights Watch: “We wanted this to be totally independent.” The team spent about two and a half years shooting the film, and another year in post-production.
Separately, on Friday Netflix announced it is raising prices for new streaming members in the U.S. and abroad. In the States, the monthly fee will increase $1 per month, to $8.99, while rates for current subscribers will not change for two years.
Watch a video of Chevigny and Kauffman discussing “E-Team”: