Acclaimed Documentarian R.J. Cutler to Receive The Pennebaker Award at the Sixth Annual Critics Choice Documentary Awards

September 30, 2021 in DOCS, International, MOVIES, News, Press, TV

Acclaimed Documentarian R.J. Cutler
to Receive The Pennebaker Award 

Sunday, November 14, 2021 in Brooklyn, New York
Presented by National Geographic Documentary Films
The Sixth Annual Critics Choice Documentary Awards 

Los Angeles, CA (Thursday, September 30) — The Sixth Annual Critics Choice Documentary Awards gala will take place on Sunday, November 14, 2021 at BRIC in Brooklyn, New YorkThe Critics Choice Association (CCA) will once again be honoring the finest achievements in documentaries, released in theaters, on TV and on major digital platforms, as determined by the voting of qualified CCA members.

In addition to the 14 award categories and one honor listed below, a most prestigious honor – The Pennebaker Award (formerly known as the Critics Choice Lifetime Achievement Award) – will be presented to esteemed documentarian R.J. Cutler. This award is named for Critics Choice Lifetime Achievement Award winner D A Pennebaker, who passed away in 2019. The award will be presented to Cutler by Pennebaker’s producing partner and wife, Chris Hegedus.

R.J. Cutler is the award-winning producer/director whose work includes some of the most acclaimed documentaries of the last thirty years. His most recent film, the Apple Original Film cinema verité documentary Billie Eilish: The World’s A Little Blurry, which tells the coming-of-age story of the singer-songwriter and her rise to global superstardom, was released to critical acclaim (96% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes), recently nominated for four Emmy Awards and is currently eligible for honors in this film awards season. Additional credits include the three-time Critics Choice-nominated BELUSHI, the Oscar-nominated The War Room, the Emmy-nominated A Perfect Candidate, the Sundance Award-winning The September Issue, the Peabody Award-winning Listen to Me Marlon, the Grierson Award-winning Thin, and The World According to Dick Cheney. Cutler has also been a pioneer in the area of non-fiction television, having created such landmark programs as American High (winner of the first Emmy Award for Outstanding Non-Fiction Television Series), Freshman Diaries30 Days, and Dear…, which is currently in production on its second season for AppleTV+. Cutler’s scripted work includes conceiving and directing the Emmy-nominated television series Nashville, directing the People’s Choice Award-winning feature film If I Stay, and creating, writing, directing and producing the Webby Award-winning podcast The Oval Office Tapes. Cutler recently launched This Machine, a production company focused on developing and producing documentary projects for film and television.

Critics Choice Association CEO Joey Berlin states, “Throughout his distinguished career, R.J. Cutler has created category-defining films and television series, and we are honored to have him as our recipient of this prestigious award. With his work as a documentarian beginning as a producer of D A Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus’ landmark 1993 film, The War Room, that collaboration serves as a link between generations, and R.J. has continued to honor Penny’s pioneering legacy in the arena of observational cinema, from his directorial debut, A Perfect Candidate, and his docuseries American Highthrough to his latest feature, the coming-of-age portrait of teenage global superstar, Billie Eilish: The World’s a Little Blurry. He also continues to explore other directions in documentary, as with the unique archival films Listen to Me Marlon, which he produced, and last year’s BELUSHI, which he produced and directed.”   

He added, “For the sixth year in a row, we look forward to shining the spotlight on the outstanding documentary filmmaking of the year. We continue to highlight the importance and cultural value of documentaries and are thrilled to give the creative filmmakers the recognition and acknowledgment that they deserve.”

Stand-alone and two-part documentaries are eligible for awards consideration. To qualify for consideration, documentaries must have a theatrical or television/streaming premiere between 

November 1, 2020 and December 31, 2021.  

This year, the Critics Choice Documentary Awards proudly has its first Presenting Sponsor, National Geographic Documentary Films. 

Catalyst Sponsors for the Sixth Annual Critics Choice Documentary Awards are HBO Max, Hulu, Netflix, and Showtime.

At the Fifth Annual Critics Choice Documentary Awards, Dick Johnson is Dead took home the CCA’s top award for Best Documentary as well as the Best Director award for Kirsten Johnson. 

My Octopus Teacher took home the awards for Best Science and Nature Documentary and Best Cinematography. The film later received many more accolades and awards, including an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.

Award Categories at the Sixth Annual Critics Choice Documentary Awards will include:

•      Best Documentary Feature

•      Best Director

•      Best First Documentary Feature

•      Best Cinematography

•      Best Narration

•      Best Score

•      Best Editing

•      Best Archival Documentary

•      Best Political Documentary

•      Best Biographical Documentary

•      Best Science and Nature Documentary

•      Best Sports Documentary

•      Best Music Documentary

•      Best Documentary Short

•      Most Compelling Living Subject Honor

Nomination committee deliberations began on Friday, September 24, with nominations to be announced on Monday, October 18. Winners will be chosen by qualified members of the Critics Choice Association and announced at the sixth annual Critics Choice Documentary Awards gala on November 14, 2021 at BRIC in Brooklyn.

About the Critics Choice Association (CCA) 

The Critics Choice Association is the largest critics organization in the United States and Canada, representing almost 500 media critics and entertainment journalists. It was established in 2019 with the formal merger of the Broadcast Film Critics Association and the Broadcast Television Journalists Association, recognizing the intersection between film, television, and streaming content. For more information, visit:

About the Critics Choice Documentary Awards

The sixth annual awards ceremony will take place Sunday, November 14, 2021 in Brooklyn, New York. The Critics Choice Documentary Awards will be produced by Bob Bain Productions and Berlin Entertainment.

November 1, 2020 through December 31, 2021: Eligibility Period

October 18, 2021: Nominations Announcement

November 14, 2021: Awards Gala

About the Critics Choice Awards

The Critics Choice Documentary Awards are an off-shoot of The Critics Choice Awards, which are bestowed annually by CCA to honor the finest in cinematic and television achievement. Historically, the Critics Choice Awards are the most accurate predictor of the Academy Award nominations.

The Critics Choice Awards ceremony will be held on January 9, 2022 at the Fairmont Century Plaza in Century City, CA and will be broadcast live on The CW.


For consideration, please send password-protected digital screening links or site-wide promo code access for forwarding to nominating committee members, to:
David Freedman: [email protected]

To request a complete CCA membership list in order to send digital screener links or DVD screeners, please contact:
David Freedman: [email protected]

For tickets and table sales, please contact:
David Freedman: [email protected]

For talent and bookings, please contact:
Carole Propp, Talent Producer: [email protected]

For press inquiries and media accreditation, please contact:
Laura Danford Mandel, Publicist: [email protected], 917-848-1460

For sponsorship, please contact:
Gary Mezzatesta: [email protected], 323-804-2359

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