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
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
Participant Media and AC Films
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
National Geographic Studios in association with Public Road Productions
“Last Men in Aleppo”
“Long Strange Trip”
Double E Pictures, AOMA Sunshine Films and Sikelia
“One of Us”
Yanceville Films and Louverture Films
Shella Films and Little by Little Films
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.