15 Documentaries Land on Oscar’s Short List

CitizenFour Edward Snowden

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences on Tuesday unveiled 15 films that will be competing for Oscar’s five documentary-feature nominations.

The list was winnowed down from the 134 eligible submissions. The Academy’s documentary branch determined the shortlist in a preliminary round of voting.  Branch members will now select the five nominees from among the 15 titles.

The semi-finalists are:

“Art and Craft,” Purple Parrot Films
“The Case Against 8,” Day in Court
“Citizen Koch,” Elsewhere Films
CitizenFour,” Praxis Films
“Finding Vivian Maier,” Ravine Pictures
“The Internet’s Own Boy,” Luminant Media
“Jodorowsky’s Dune,” City Film
“Keep on Keepin’ On,” Absolute Clay Productions
“The Kill Team,” f/8 filmworks
“Last Days in Vietnam,” Moxie Firecracker Films
Life Itself,” Kartemquin Films and Film Rites
“The Overnighters,” Mile End Films West
“The Salt of the Earth,” Decia Films
“Tales of the Grim Sleeper,” Lafayette Film
“Virunga,” Grain Media

The Academy, as always, offered some surprise omissions. Among the films that didn’t make the cut were Robert Kenner’s “Merchants of Doubt,” about pundits-for-hire who are “authorities” on topics like global warming; “Red Army,” about the Soviet Union’s sports domination during the cold war; “Happy Valley” about the Jerry Sandusky scandal; and “Code Black” about healthcare as seen through experiences in an emergency room.

There were also some notable docus on showbiz topics that were left out, including “Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me,” “Glen Campbell … I’ll Be Me” and Mike Myers’ “Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon.”

Also missing was “America: Imagine the World Without Her,” a political docu from Dinesh D’Souza and John Sullivan. It was the highest-earning docu this year, with $14.4 million at the box office.

However, the docu branch recognized such high-profile works as Laura Poitras’ docu on Edward Snowden “CitizenFour”; “Finding Vivian Maier,” about the mysterious photographer; “Life Itself” about Roger Ebert; and fest faves including Juliano Ribeiro Salgado and Wim Wenders’ “The Salt of the Earth” and Nick Broomfield’s “Tales of the Grim Sleeper,” about the Los Angeles serial killer case.

Nominations will be announced Jan. 15, with Oscar ceremonies held Feb. 22 at the Dolby Theatre at Hollywood & Highland.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that “Last Days in Vietnam” was not on the shortlist.

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  1. Case Study says:

    How is it that Finding Vivian Maier has qualified for consideration? The photographs are stunning, the story is interesting but the film is effectively a promotional piece designed to increase sales of Vivian Maier prints from the collection of the filmmaker. Maier prints have been available from other collections but you wouldn’t find that out from the film or the websites connected with it. Promotional films do not qualify under Academy rules.

  2. julie Parmenter says:

    Fantastic to see Virunga in the shortlist. This is an inspiration to everyone, that a few individuals can tell a story with such passion, they can make a real difference to the world for generations to come.

    • Howard George says:

      Well said. This is a documentary that needs to be seen by a far wider audience than on Netflix and a one week qualifying engagement at one theater in LA. Unfortunately the crude words I would like to use here regarding how the perpetrators of animal poaching should be punished [made to suffer in the same fiendish and slow torturous way that the poor animals were slaughtered] cannot be used here. Animals being hunted for their horns, tusks and skins… absolute madness!

  3. Jeff Fenner says:

    Glad to see that Tim Gray was evidently wrong about LAST DAYS IN VIETNAM being excluded. That was listed, and then right below the text of the article states it was left off. Amazing documentary.

  4. Ped Antic says:

    LAST DAYS IN VIETNAM is shortlisted.

  5. Howard George says:

    Very pleased to see Virunga on the list. It’s a stomach turning must see!

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