Monday was a good day for filmmaker David France. Hours after his debut documentary "How to Survive a Plaque" won over the New York Film Critics Circle as Best First Feature, he found out that it was one of 15 semi-finalists for the Oscar. This intense examination of the AIDS epidemic also won the Gotham Award and is nominated at the Indie Spirits.
Of the other four Spirit nominees, only "The Invisible War," Kirby Dick's expose on rape in the US Army, made the academy's shortlist. Other high profile contenders include two of the PGA nominees: "Searching for Sugar Man," which traces Malik Bendjelloul's journey to find Rodriquez, a musician who enjoyed some success in the 1970s before disappearing; and "The Gatekeepers," Dror Mreh's film about the Israeli security services. Both "The Invisible War" and "Searching for Sugar Man" are in contention for the International Documentary Assn. award on Dec. 7.
Among those snubbed was NYFCC winner "The Central Park Five," which is both an IDA and Spirit nominee, as well as IDA contender "The Queen of Versailles" and the high-profile "West of Memphis."
The Documentary Branch screened 126 films and will now watch the contenders listed below again to determine the final five nominees which will be revealed on Jan. 10.