For most of the awards season the Oscar front-runner for Best Documentary Feature was “Jane,” which profiles the famous primatologist Jane Goodall. So it was a big surprise when “Jane” was left out of the race entirely. That leaves the category wide open, but while Honorary Oscar champ Agnes Varda has moved out front for her film “Faces Places” according to our latest racetrack odds, we might be underestimating Yance Ford, who could make history for his intensely personal documentary “Strong Island.” He would be the first openly transgender man to win an Oscar.
Transgender artists have previously been nominated for music: Angela Morley for the song scores of “The Little Prince” (1974) and “The Slipper and the Rose” (1977), and Anohni for her original song “Manta Ray” from “Racing Extinction” (2015). Yance Ford is the first openly trans nominee for Best Documentary Feature, and he would also be only the third black filmmaker to win this category, following T.J. Martin for “Undefeated” (2012) and Ezra Edelman for “O.J.: Made in America” (2016).
Like Edelman’s “O.J.” doc, Ford’s “Strong Island” is about the experience of being black in the criminal justice system. He tells the story of how his brother was shot and killed in 1992 by a white man who was never even charged with a crime by the grand jury. Ford often addresses the camera directly while in close-up, which makes this one of the most intimate films nominated for an Oscar this year. So can it repeat the success of “Made in America” by exploring racial injustice from this personal perspective?
As of this writing “Strong Island” trails with 22/1 odds based on the combined predictions of more than 4,000 Gold Derby users who have entered their picks in our prediction center thus far. But it’s backed by Rob Licuria, one of our Editors who cover awards year-round for Gold Derby, and also by one of our Top 24 Users who got the highest scores predicting last year’s Oscar winners. Do you think we’re underestimating Ford’s film, or do you agree with the consensus that “Faces Places” will take home the gold?
Be sure to check out how our experts rank Oscar contenders in all 24 categories. Use the drop-down menus at the top of each page to see the other categories. Then take a look at the most up-to-date combined odds before you make your Oscar winner predictions. Don’t be afraid to jump in now since you can keep changing your predictions until just before winners are announced on March 4.