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Oscars bittersweet for some documentary nominees

Friday, February 28, 2014
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Morgan Neville, right, director and co-producer of the Oscar-nominated documentary film "20 Feet from Stardom," and fellow co-producer Caitrin Rogers pose together at a reception featuring the Oscar nominees in the Documentary Feature and Documentary Short Subject categories on Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014, in Beverly Hills, Calif. The Oscars will be held on Sunday at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)
Morgan Neville, right, director and co-producer of the Oscar-nominated documentary film "20 Feet from Stardom," and fellow co-producer Caitrin Rogers pose together at a reception featuring the Oscar nominees in the Documentary Feature and Documentary Short Subject categories on Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014, in Beverly Hills, Calif. The Oscars will be held on Sunday at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

DERRIK J. LANG, AP Entertainment Writer

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — While the Academy Awards are a celebration for most nominees, they're a reminder for some filmmakers of those they've recently lost.

During a Wednesday-night event honoring this year's documentary nominees, "The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life" filmmakers reminisced about Alice Herz-Sommer, the optimistic 110-year-old musician and Holocaust survivor who served as the star of their Oscar-nominated short documentary.

Herz-Sommer, a piano player who was believed to be the oldest-known survivor of the Holocaust, died Sunday at a London hospital.

"We thought she was going to go on forever," said director Malcolm Clarke, who told the crowd at the motion picture academy headquarters he originally didn't want to make a film about Herz-Sommer until he met her and was taken with her charisma.

"The Lady in Number 6" is competing against earth artist portrait "CaveDigger," hate crime account "Facing Fear," Yemeni uprising story "Karama Has No Walls" and prison hospice tale "Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall" for the short documentary trophy at the Academy Awards.

Morgan Neville, director of documentary feature nominee "20 Feet From Stardom," recalled that film producer Gil Friesen originally conceived of the idea of a film about backup singers. Friesen, an entertainment executive who helped to found A&M Records, died in 2012.

"He worked with us right up until a few weeks before we premiered it when he passed away, so this whole experience of the film and how it's been received has been so bittersweet because Gil's not here to enjoy it, and he would've loved every minute of it," said Neville. "Believe me."

The film is up against the battlefield expose "Dirty Wars," Japanese artist portrait "Cutie and the Boxer," Indonesian death squad odyssey "The Act of Killing" and Egyptian revolution recount "The Square."

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