At the 2006 Academy Awards, Grammy-winning singer/songwriter Melissa Etheridge made Oscar history by winning the first Best Original Song prize ever awarded to a documentary feature. Her tune “I Need to Wake Up” was featured in “An Inconvenient Truth,” a film about global warming that also picked up the Best Documentary Feature trophy that night.
Since then, the academy has nominated five original tunes from documentaries: J. Ralph‘s “Before My Time” from “Chasing Ice” (2012); Glen Campbell and Julian Raymond‘s “I’m Not Gonna Miss You” from “Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me” (2014); J. Ralph and Anohni‘s “Manta Ray” from “Racing Extinction” (2015); Diane Warren and Lady Gaga‘s “‘Til It Happens to You” from “The Hunting Ground” (2015); and J. Ralph and Sting‘s “The Empty Chair” from “Jim: The James Foley Story” (2016). None of those tracks prevailed.
This year, songs from six acclaimed non-fiction films are in contention and maybe, just maybe, one will have what it takes to become the second-ever winner from a documentary feature.
One of these documentaries is “An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power,” the sequel to the 2006 feature, which follows former Vice President Al Gore on his continued mission to raise awareness around climate change. This time, it’s Oscar winner T. Bone Burnett, alongside Ryan Tedder, who have composed the One Republic-performed original tune, “Truth to Power.”
Also hoping to return to the category is eight-time Oscar nominee Diane Warren, who has composed “Prayers for This World” for “Cries from Syria,” a documentary about the Syrian Civil War. Performing the tune is Oscar winner Cher.
Another Syria-focused feature, “City of Ghosts,” is a contender in Best Original Song. The team of Al-Dimashqia, Jackson Greenberg, Wasfi Massarani and H. Scott Salinas have composed “Broken Wing,” which is performed by Massarani.
Grammy-winning rock legend Pat Benatar may earn her first Oscar nomination with “Dancing Through the Wreckage,” composed for “Served Like a Girl,” a documentary tracing five female veterans as they make the transition from active duty to civilian life. The song is composed by Benatar, Grammy nominee Linda Perry and guitarist Neil Giraldo.
The tune “Jump” from “Step,” a documentary chronicling the senior year of a Baltimore high school’s all-girl step team, has already left an awards season mark, having picked up the Critics’ Choice Awards’ prize for Best Song in a Documentary. It is composed by Laura Karpman, Raphael Saadiq and Taura Stinson.
Also in contention in “Tell Me How Long” from “Chasing Coral,” a film following a team of divers, scientists and photographers as they investigate the disappearance of coral reefs. The track, composed by Teddy Geiger and Dan Romer, is performed by actress Kristen Bell.
Be sure to make your Oscar nomination predictions so that Hollywood studio executives can see how their films are faring in our Academy Awards odds. Don’t be afraid to jump in now since you can keep changing your predictions until just before nominees are announced on January 23.