Last night's Academy Awards marked a number of achievements in film history, but there was one noteworthy accomplishment that wasn't mentioned on stage. While many people were focused on the high-profile Best Picture nominees and Hollywood stars, the low-budget film Searching for Sugar Man received the award for Best Documentary. Aside from earning plenty of acclaim for its director, Malik Bendjelloul, the film also became a technological milestone as the first movie partially shot with an iPhone to win an Oscar.
The film centers around a Detroit-born musician named Rodriguez, who never gained much recognition in the U.S., but became wildly popular in South Africa during the 1970s. To capture the grittier feel of that decade, the movie's director decided to shoot entirely on Super 8 film, but hit a snag near the end of filming. With several important shots left to go, the production ran out of money and could no longer afford any more pricey Super 8 film. Speaking with CNN, Bendjelloul said he tried out an app called 8mm Vintage Camera on his iPhone in desperation, and was relieved to find that it "looked basically the same."
Developed by Nexvio Inc., the app applies several filters and some color correction to give video a vintage look, much like Instagram does with photos. The director used the app to film some last-minute shots that were added seamlessly into the final cut ... and so, the documentary that would eventually go on to sweep several film festivals and even receive a prestigious Academy Award was completed with a $1.99 app on a smartphone.
It may not be quite as incredible a story as the one portrayed in the movie, but Bendjelloul's quick thinking confirms that modern technology has lowered the barriers for amateur film-makers further than ever before. At this rate, we may not be far off from seeing the first Oscar-worthy film made entirely with a smartphone.
Check out the trailer for Searching for Sugar Man below.