The Academy’s documentary branch is no stranger to controversy as their confusing rules often disqualify many of critics groups’ favorite films in a year. This year proves no different as the Academy releases their shortlist of 15 documentary features that will eventually be narrowed down to five. Numerous of this year’s favorite documentaries were not included on the shortlist, leaving the race now wide open.
The two most notable omissions were the films that I also had at the number one and two spot on my Oscar predictions for the category. Steve James’ The Interrupters and Asif Kapadia’s Senna were both not included on the list of 15 finalists, despite being two of the best reviewed movies of the year. Another film that was surprisingly ignored was Errol Morris’ Tabloid. Morris won the Oscar seven years ago for his film The Fog of War, but that still remains the only time he has ever been nominated. Werner Herzog had two documentaries this year with Cave of Forgotten Dreams and Into the Abyss, but neither will be getting Oscar nominations. Cave of Forgotten Dreams was ineligible because it received a limited release last year, but it’s a mystery why Into the Abyss was snubbed. This means that three of the greatest documentary filmmakers working today – Errol Morris, Werner Herzog, and Steve James – will not be getting Academy recognition this year.
Films that were included on the list include highly praised movies like We Were Here, which examines the impact of AIDS on San Francisco, Bill Cunningham New York, which provides a detailed portrait on the New York Times’ longtime fashion photographer, and Project Nim, which looks at an experiment by American scientists to raise a chimp like a human. Those seem like the three frontrunners at this point, but the order is always subject to change. Look for detailed prediction updates on Best Documentary and Best Animated Feature coming this week.
15 Documentary Features on the Shortlist
Battle for Brooklyn
Bill Cunningham New York
Hell and Back Again
If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front
The Loving Story
Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory
Semper Fi: Always Faithful
Sing Your Song
Under Fire: Journalists in Combat
We Were Here
Many of these titles can be found available either on DVD or on Watch Instantly platforms.