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"Searching for Sugar Man" becomes first movie partly shot with an iPhone to win an Oscar


February 25, 2013

At the 2013 Academy Awards, Searching for Sugar Man took home Best Documentary, becoming the first movie shot partly on an iPhone to win an Oscar

At the 2013 Academy Awards, Searching for Sugar Man took home Best Documentary, becoming the first movie shot partly on an iPhone to win an Oscar

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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.

Source: CNN

About the Author
Jonathan Fincher Jonathan grew up in Norway, China, and Trinidad before graduating film school and becoming an online writer covering green technology, history and design, as well as contributing to video game news sites like Filefront and 1Up. He currently resides in Texas, where his passions include video games, comics, and boring people who don't want to talk about either of those things. All articles by Jonathan Fincher

I bet now hes wishing he shot the whole thing on his iphone.

Nathaneal Blemings

I use my full frame Sony NEX-VG900 camcorder and my Verizon HTC Droid DNA when I shoot 1080p videos but for a documentary I would prefer a large sensor camera with fast primes like my 24mm, 35mm , 50mm and 85mm F1.4s.


99% of the shots in this film were shot with a >$6000 camera, wireless microphones and other expensive equipment. Don't get me wrong, I really liked this film and thought it deserved the oscar but the whole "shot with an iphone" is just BS marketing.

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