The Documentary Branch screened 126 films and will now watch the 15 contenders listed below again to determine the final five which will be revealed on Jan. 10, along with the rest of the Oscar nominations.
In alphabetical order:
"Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry"
Directed by Alison Klayman.
Synopsis - Chronicling artist and activist Ai Weiwei as he prepares for a series of exhibitions and gets into an increasing number of clashes with the Chinese government.
Directed by Lee Hirsch.
Synopsis - A documentary on peer-to-peer bullying in schools across America.
Directed by Jeff Orlowski.
Synopsis - Follow National Geographic photographer James Balog across the Arctic as he deploys time-lapse cameras designed for one purpose: to capture a multi-year record of the world's changing glaciers.
Directed by Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady.
Synopsis - A documentary on the city of Detroit and its woes, which are emblematic of the collapse of the U.S. manufacturing base.
Directed by Rory Kennedy.
Synopsis - A documentary on Ethel Kennedy that provides an insider's view of a political dynasty, including her life with Robert F. Kennedy and the years following his death when she raised their eleven children on her own.
"5 Broken Cameras"
Directed by Emad Burnat and Guy Davidi.
Synopsis - A documentary on a Palestinian farmer's chronicle of his nonviolent resistance to the actions of the Israeli army.
Directed by Dror Moreh.
Synopsis - The filmmaker interviews six former heads of the Shin Bet, the Israeli intelligence service. The interviews paint a picture of the security situation Israel is facing and the decisions it has made in its conflict with the Palestinians.
"The House I Live In"
Directed by Eugene Jarecki.
Synopsis - From the dealer to the narcotics officer, the inmate to the federal judge, a penetrating look inside America's criminal justice system, revealing the profound human rights implications of U.S. drug policy.
"How to Survive a Plague"
Directed by David France.
Synopsis - The story of two coalitions -- ACT UP and TAG (Treatment Action Group) -- whose activism and innovation turned AIDS from a death sentence into a manageable condition.
Directed by Bart Layton.
Synopsis - A documentary centered on a young Frenchman who convinces a grieving Texas family that he is their 16-year-old son who went missing for 3 years.
"The Invisible War"
Directed by Kirby Dick.
Synopsis - An investigative documentary about the epidemic of rape of soldiers within the US military.
"Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God"
Directed by Alex Gibney.
Synopsis - Exploring the charged issue of pedophilia in the Catholic Church, following a trail from the first known protest against clerical sexual abuse in the United States and all the way to the Vatican.
"Searching for Sugar Man"
Directed by Malik Bendjelloul.
Synopsis - Documentary about the journey of two South Africans to discover the fate of their hero, American musician Rodriguez.
"This is Not a Film"
Directed by Mojtaba Mirtahmasb and Jafar Panahi.
Synopsis - It's been months since Panahi has been awaiting a verdict by the appeals court. By depicting a day in his life, the filmmakers try to portray the deprivations looming in contemporary Iranian cinema.
"The Waiting Room"
Directed by Peter Nicks.
Synopsis - Go behind the doors of an American public hospital struggling to care for a community of largely uninsured patients.
Of these filmmakers, Gibney won this same category in 2007 for "Taxi to the Dark Side" and was nominated in 2005 for "Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room." Ewing and Grady received a bid for "Jesus Camp" in 2006 while Dick contended in 2004 for "Twist of Faith."
Earliest Oscars Predictions Ever
Our Oscarologists are busy updating their predictions as they see more and more contenders. Make your early picks now -- click here -- and change them later as the derby heats up.