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Former tech exec wins best documentary Oscar

Web software developer-turned-filmmaker Charles Ferguson takes home Oscar for "Inside Job," which depicts the recent economic crisis as a crime perpetrated on the working masses by a greedy few.

Michelle Meyers
Michelle Meyers wrote and edited CNET News stories from 2005 to 2020 and is now a contributor to CNET.
Michelle Meyers
2 min read
"Inside Job" Director Charles Ferguson and Producer Audrey Marrs speak at an Oscar event this week. Their film on the 2008 financial crisis won the Oscar for best documentary feature last night. Oscars.org

More than three years ago, even before Charles Ferguson was nominated for an Oscar for his Iraq war documentary, "No End in Sight," the former tech exec told CNET he would continue to make films "if the world lets me."

Well, the world is not just letting him--it's giving him some of the highest accolades. Last night Ferguson, who founded one of the first Internet software companies in the early dot-com days, accepted the Academy Award for Documentary Feature for his latest film, "Inside Job," which is about the recent fiscal crisis.

And he accepted the award--alongside producer Audrey Marrs--with one of the night's shortest and most pointed speeches: "Forgive me, I must start by pointing out that three years after a horrific financial crisis caused by fraud, not a single financial executive has gone to jail--and that's wrong."

Ferguson's tech industry career ended in 1996 with the sale of his company, Vermeer Technologies--maker of a visual Web site development tool called FrontPage--to Microsoft for a whopping $133 million. But on the eve of his first documentary's theatrical release, he told CNET that he still reflects on lessons learned during those formative years running a software company--and even applied such lessons to filmmaking projects.

Narrated by Matt Damon, "Inside Job" is about the global financial meltdown of 2008. Promotional materials say it traces "the rise of a rogue industry and unveils the corrosive relationships which have corrupted politics, regulation and academia."

Other documentary films nominated by the Academy this year included "Exit through the Gift Shop," "Gasland," "Restrepo," and "Waste Land." In other categories, the visually stunning film "Inception" took home four Oscars that were allnods to the crew responsible for its technical effects. And "The Social Network," a controversial recounting of the origins of Facebook, lost the best picture Oscar to historical drama "The King's Speech."