The Producers Guild of America has an excellent track record presaging the Best Picture winner at the Oscars. Since it began handiing out prizes in 1989, the guild feted 18 of the 25 Oscar champs, including the last eight in a row.
But how does it do when it comes to forecasting which Documentary Feature will win the Academy Award?
This year’s five nominees for the PGA prize are:
Synopsis: The story of Amy Winehouse in her own words, featuring unseen archival footage and unheard tracks.
Easily one of the biggest documentary hits, both commercially and critically, since 2013’s “Blackfish,” “Amy” enters the race with clout unmatched by any of its competition. While buzz doesn’t always translate into a nomination (“Blackfish” missed out after all), “Amy,” which has made over $8 million stateside, earned three Cinema Eye Honors nominations and a Best Feature bid from the IDA.
“The Hunting Ground”
Synopsis: An exposé of rape crimes on U.S. college campuses, their institutional cover-ups, and the devastating toll they take on students and their families.
Director Kirby Dick is a two-time Oscar nominee in the category with 2005’s “Twist of Faith” and 2013’s “The Invisible War,” both of which also shine a light on sexual abuse.
“The Look of Silence”
Synopsis: A family that survives the genocide in Indonesia confronts the men who killed one of their brothers.
Joshua Oppenheimer has followed up his 2013 Oscar-nominated documentary “The Act of Killing” with this companion piece that takes another look at the genocide in Indonesia. Top nominations at both IDA and Cinema Eye Honors followed on numerous awards throughout the world.
Synopsis: Three elite climbers struggle to find their way through obsession and loss as they attempt to climb Mount Meru, one of the most coveted prizes in the high stakes game of Himalayan big wall climbing.
Though the feature “Everest” may have taken a back seat in this year’s race, the world of adventure climbing may still make it to the Oscars. “Meru,” which has made just over $2 million, reaped four Cinema Eye Honors nominations. The 2011 nominee “Pina” showed that the branch values visually striking films just as much as anyone else.
“Something Better To Come”
Synopsis: Ten-year-old Yula has but one dream: to lead a normal life. For 14 years, Hanna Polak follows Yula as she grows up in the forbidden territory of Svalka, the garbage dump located 13 miles from the Kremlin in Putin’s Russia.
Writer/director Polak contended at the 2004 Oscars for the documentary short “The Children of Leningradsky,” an intense examination of life in post-Soviet Russia.
Since the PGA began giving out this award in 2007, it has honored three of the eight films that went on to win the Oscar while four of its champs were snubbed outright by the academy and one contended there but was defeated.
2007: “Sicko” (lost Oscar to “Taxi to the Dark Side”)
2008: “Man on Wire”
2009: “The Cove”
2010: “Waiting for ‘Superman'” (not nominated at Oscars)
2011: “Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest” (not nominated at Oscars)
2012: “Searching for Sugar Man”
2013: “We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks” (not nominated at Oscars)
2015: Life Itself” (not nominated at Oscars)
And just how many of the PGA nominees reaped Oscar bids?
Of the 38 PGA contenders over the past eight years, only nine have gone on to compete at the Oscars.
Of five 2007 PGA nominees: “Sicko” contends at Oscars
Of three 2008 PGA nominees: “Man on Wire” wins Oscar and “Trouble the Water” contends;
Of four 2009 PGA nominees: “The Cove” wins Oscar and “Burma VJ” contends;
Of six 2010 PGA nominees: “Inside Job” wins Oscar;
Of five 2011 PGA nominees: none contend at Oscars;
Of five 2012 PGA nominees: “Searching for Sugar Man” wins Oscar and “The Gatekeepers” contends; and
Of five 2013 PGA nominees: none contend at Oscars.
Of five 2014 PGA nominees: “Virunga” contends at Oscars.
The PGA will reveal the eligible producers of these films on Jan. 5 when it unveils the nominees in the other film and TV movie categories. Winners will be announced during a Jan. 23 ceremony at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.
The academy will announce the 15 Documentary Features that made it to the semi-finals in early December.