2018 Oscar Predictions: Best Documentary Feature (Updated January 14, 2018)

Predicting the winner of the Best Documentary Feature Oscar will become a lot easier in early December when the academy announces the 15 films that have made the shortlist. Those semi-finalists are culled from the 100 plus titles that qualify every year for consideration.

To winnow these down to a manageable number, the academy sends monthly packages of the newly eligible documentary feature screeners to all 350 or so members of the documentary branch. While all members are encouraged to watch as many of these as they can, one-fifth of the voters are assigned each title. In late November, each branch member will submit a preferential ballot listing their top 15 choices.

All of these ballots will be collated to determine the 15 semi-finalists. Branch members will then be encouraged to watch those films on this list that they haven’t seen yet before casting another preferential ballot on which they list their top five choices. The resulting five Documentary Feature nominees will be unveiled along with all the other Oscar categories on Jan. 23, 2018. All academy voters can cast ballots for the winner of this race, which will be revealed during the Oscar ceremony on March 4, 2018.

To be eligible for consideration, a documentary feature must first qualify with week-long runs in Los Angeles and New York City which merited reviews by film critics of leading publications.

UPDATED: January 14, 2018

On December 8, the academy announced the shortlist of the 15 Documentary Features that will contend for one of five Oscar nomination slots to be announced with all the other categories on January 23. To be eligible for consideration, a documentary feature must first qualify with week-long runs in Los Angeles and New York City which merited reviews by film critics of leading publications. A record 170 documentary features qualified for Oscar consideration.

Among those 15 films on the shortlist are two by recent recipients of honorary Oscars: “Faces Places,” which was co-directed by Agnes Varda, who was feted in November; and “Ex Libris – The New York Public Library” by 2016 honoree Frederick Wiseman.

The Emmy-winning “LA 92” is in the running as is the sequel to the Oscar-winning “An Inconvenient Truth.” Other timely topics covered included “Chasing Coral,” which delves into the deep sea; “Human Flow” about the refugee crisis; “Icarus,” which looks at doping by the Russians of Olympic athletes; and “City of Ghosts” and “Last Men in Aleppo,” which look at life in Syria.

Personal stories include Rachel Grady and Heidi Ewing’s “One of Us” about Hassidic Jews in Brooklyn; Yance Ford‘s “Strong Island” about the murder of his brother; and Jennifer Brea’s “Unrest” about her health struggles.

Rounding out the list are “Jane” about the life of naturalist Jane Goodall; “Long Strange Trip,” the four-hour film about the Grateful Dead; and “Abacus: Small Enough to Jail,” from “Hoop Dreams” director Steve James.

To winnow the 170 entries down to this manageable number, the academy sent monthly packages of the newly eligible documentary feature screeners to all 350 or so members of the documentary branch. While all members were encouraged to watch as many of these as they can, one-fifth of the voters were assigned each title. In late November, each branch member submitted a preferential ballot listing their top 15 choices.

All of these ballots were collated to determine the 15 semi-finalists. Branch members will now be encouraged to watch those films on this list that they haven’t seen yet before casting another preferential ballot on which they list their top five choices. The resulting five Documentary Feature nominees will be unveiled along with all the other Oscar categories on Jan. 23, 2018. All academy voters can cast ballots for the winner of this race, which will be revealed during the Oscar ceremony on March 4, 2018.

“Abacus: Small Enough to Jail”
Mitten Media, Motto Pictures, Kartemquin Educational Films and WGBH/FRONTLINE

“Chasing Coral”
Exposure Labs in partnership with The Ocean Agency & View Into the Blue in association with Argent Pictures & The Kendeda Fund

“City of Ghosts”
Our Time Projects and Jigsaw Productions

“Ex Libris – The New York Public Library”
Ex Libris Films

“Faces Places”
Ciné Tamaris

“Human Flow”
Participant Media and AC Films

“Icarus”
Netflix Documentary in association with Impact Partners, Diamond Docs, Chicago Media Project and Alex Productions

“An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power”
Paramount Pictures and Participant Media

“Jane”
National Geographic Studios in association with Public Road Productions

“LA 92”
Lightbox

“Last Men in Aleppo”
Larm Film

“Long Strange Trip”
Double E Pictures, AOMA Sunshine Films and Sikelia

“One of Us”
Loki Films

“Strong Island”
Yanceville Films and Louverture Films

“Unrest”
Shella Films and Little by Little Films

We are predicting all 24 of the competitive categories at the Oscars.

Best Picture | Best Director | Best Original Screenplay | Best Adapted Screenplay
Best Actor | Best Actress | Best Supporting Actor | Best Supporting Actress
Best Cinematography | Best Costume Design | Best Film Editing | Best Production Design
Best Makeup & Hairstyling | Best Sound Editing | Best Sound Mixing | Best Visual Effects
Best Original Score | Best Original Song
Best Animated Feature | Best Documentary Feature | Best Foreign Language Film
Best Animated Short | Best Documentary Short | Best Live-Action Short

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