After striking a chord during the Winter Olympics, Netflix’s Icarus made an impression during the Oscars. The documentary from director Bryan Fogel about Russia’s state-sanctioned doping program earned the award for Best Documentary Feature during Sunday’s Academy Awards.
Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov, the subject of Icarus, was one of the whistleblowers who came forward about Russian athletes using performance-enhancing drugs to compete in the Olympic Games. Fogel’s documentary helped shed a spotlight on the subject, and the country was subsequently banned from competing in the Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
However, Olympic officials allowed Russian athletes to participate under a neutral flag as “Olympic Athletes from Russia,” which Fogel told EW was “a slap in the face to every clean athlete in the world.”
In his acceptance speech, Fogel said, “We dedicate this award to Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov, our fearless whistleblower who now lives in great danger. We hope Icarus is a wake-up call — yes, about Russia, but more than that, about the importance of telling the truth, now more than ever.”
Backstage, Fogel elaborated that “from what we know” the threat against Rodchenkov is “very real.”
“There is a hunt going on for him, at least, is what we’ve been told,” he told reporters. “And more importantly, Russia has formally asked for his extradition, and in Russia, he has been made out to be a liar and somebody who’s deceitful, and the Russian media has not honestly reported on this story.”
He added, “The Russian Olympics Committee said publicly months ago that Grigory should be shot as he would have been in Stalin’s time, and I haven’t heard him take that back, since he said that… I think we all have to take the threats to him extremely seriously.”
Fogel further called for Thomas Bach, the president of the International Olympic Committee, to resign: “He is a crook. And what he has shown to planet earth and any athlete who believes in the Olympic ideal is to not trust it and to not trust those words, because if you can corroborate and prove and substantiate a fraud of this caliber on this level that spans for decades, and then essentially give that country that committed that fraud a slap on the wrist, allow 160 athletes to compete in those games… and then … lift the ban on that country? What a fraud. What a corrupt organization, and that man should be embarrassed and ashamed of himself. He needs to resign.”
Icarus‘ Oscar win also marks a victory for Netflix. Year to year, the streaming giant continues to break into the awards race with its original offerings. Last year, its White Helmets documentary won Best Documentary Feature, while this year saw Netflix earn eight nominations.
Last Men in Aleppo, Strong Island, Abacus: Small Enough to Jail, and Faces Places were nominated alongside Icarus for Best Documentary Feature this year.
See the full list of this year’s Oscar winners here.
Additional reporting by Marc Snetiker.