Director-producer Bryan Fogel, a Denver native, won the Oscar for best feature-length documentary at the Academy Awards’ 90th ceremony on Sunday, March 4.
“Icarus” rips the lid off Russia’s systematic doping of its Olympic athletes with the invaluable aid of whistle-blower Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov.
Rodchenkov, former director of Russia’s state-run anti-doping lab, admitted his participation in subverting and covering up Russia’s egregious doping scam on film.
“Icarus,” Netflix’s sole winner in this year’s competition, influenced the International Olympic Committee’s decision to ban Russia from the recently concluded winter games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
However, the IOC allowed 169 Russian athletes — two of whom were disqualified for doping — to compete as individuals in the 2018 games under the banner of “Olympic Athletes from Russia.”
Although the Russian athletes won 17 medals, the national anthem was never played and no wins were accorded to the country itself.
“Icarus” beat fellow Netflix documentary “Strong Island” as well as “Abacus: Small Enough to Jail,” “Faces Places” and “Last Men in Aleppo.”
Netflix’s first, and until now its only Oscar win, came in 2017 when “The White Helmets” won documentary short subject.
Fogel, the comic brains behind the play and film “Jewtopia,” is the son of David and Linda Fogel of Denver.
A Bar Mitzvah at BMH-BJ, Fogel attended East High School and CU.
Fogel, a skilled cyclist, originally wanted to investigate doping in amateur cycling races. He went to Russia and contacted Rodchenkov, who became his coach, trainer and friend.
Rodchenkov also measured Fogel’s urine every day, but the reason didn’t emerge until later.
Russia’s state-sponsored doping of Olympic athletes, long suspected yet essentially ignored by the IOC, broke wide open during filming.
After decades of silence and supported by Fogel, Rodchenkov realized he must finally expose the truth.
The Russian fled to the US, where he provided testimony and documentation to the US Justice Dept., with Fogel at his side.
Rodchenkov, who left his wife and family behind, is now in the witness protection program.
Fogel and co-producer Dan Cogan, who stood together on the Swarovski-encased stage March 4, dedicated their Oscars to Rodchenkov.
“We hope ‘Icarus’ is a wake-up call — yes about Russia, but more about the importance of telling the truth, now more than ever,” Fogel said.
At the press reception, Fogel strenuously called for the resignation of IOC President Thomas Bach.
“Plain and simple, Thomas Bach needs to resign,” Fogel said.
“If you can corroborate and prove and substantiate a fraud of this caliber, on this level . . . and then essentially give that country [a] slap on the wrist . . .
“What a fraud. What a corrupt organization; that man should be embarrassed and ashamed of himself,” he said.
“He needs to resign.”
Netflix acquired “Icarus,” which was featured at the Sundance Film Festival and had picked up several awards, for $5 million.
The documentary is now available on Netflix streaming.
“Icarus” is Fogel’s first documentary — but the golden statuette indicates it won’t be his last.
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