The Producers Guild of America (PGA) announced the seven nominees for its 2021 Best Documentary award on Tuesday February 2. The winner will be revealed at the 32nd Annual PGA Awards which will take place virtually on Wednesday, March 24. The remaining Producers Guild Awards nominations, including those for the Oscar bellwether Best Picture, will be unveiled on Monday, March 8. The lucky seven documentary features in the running are:
“David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet”
“Dick Johnson Is Dead”
“My Octopus Teacher”
“A Thousand Cuts”
“The Truffle Hunters”
The PGA nomination is an important step on the path to Oscar glory. In the last five years, four of the eventual Oscar champs for Best Documentary Feature were nominated first by the producers guild, including last year’s “American Factory.” That film was distributed by Netflix, a studio that has proven itself incredibly strong in the doc branch in the last decade.
This year, the streaming service has three contenders for the PGA prize: “David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet,” “My Octopus Teacher,” and Kirsten Johnson‘s “Dick Johnson Is Dead.” Johnson lensed the Oscar winner “Citizenfour” and directed Cinema Eye Honors winner “Cameraperson.” She won Best Director this year at the Critics’ Choice Documentary Awards, as well as Best Documentary. Her film also won Best Writing and Best Editing with the International Documentary Association and was most recently named among the Independent Spirit Award nominees.
Also numbering among the nominees is critics’ favorite, “Time,” the debut film by Garrett Bradley. Prior to the PGA bid, “Time” won Bradley the Sundance Film Festival award for directing, was nominated five times by Cinema Eye Honors, and four times by the CCDA. It won the Gotham Independent Film award for Best Documentary and the IDA award for Best Director. It was also most recently nominated by the Spirits and named the Best Documentary by the National Board of Review, National Society of Film Critics, and New York Film Critics Circle.
In exactly a week on Feb. 9, the academy will announce a 15-title short list, narrowing down the field of hopefuls to a small group that will be screened by the documentary branch for further consideration. “Dick Johnson Is Dead” and “Time” are expected to make that cut, as are “The Truffle Hunters” and possibly “My Octopus Teacher.”
Other titles we might see on the list are the Romanian international film submission “Collective,” Sam Pollard‘s “MLK/FBI,” Gianfranco Rosi‘s dual IFF/documentary candidate “Notturno,” Neon’s “The Painter and the Thief,” HBO’s “Welcome to Chechnya,” and more Netflix titles like “Crip Camp” and “The Social Dilemma.”
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 March 15.