You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Documentary Feature: ‘Searching’ unique among issue-heavy fare

Eye on the Oscars 2013: Best Picture Preview

The Academy’s documentary branch is known for its unpredictability, but the five nominated docs, selected from an exceptionally strong shortlist of 15 eligible titles, are among the least shocking crop of nominees the category has seen in years.

Noms went to Emad Burnat and Guy Davidi’s “5 Broken Cameras,” Dror Moreh’s “The Gatekeepers,” David France’s “How to Survive a Plague,” Kirby Dick’s “The Invisible War” and Malik Bendjelloul’s “Searching for Sugar Man.”

Environmental fare (“Chasing Ice”), U.S. economics (“Detropia”) zeitgeist issues (“Bully”), the war on drugs (“The House I Live in”) and American royalty (“Ethel”) did not make the cut, while branch members clearly found the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and call-to-action films appealing.

“The Gatekeepers” and “5 Broken Cameras” take an unprecedented look at the ongoing struggles between Israelis and Palestinians, while “The Invisible War,” about sexual assault in the U.S. military, and “How To Survive a Plague” — a look at AIDS treatment activism in the 1980s — each examine past and present community activism.

While the branch remained largely consistent in its general preference for social issue fare, the unique “Searching for Sugar Man,” about singer-guitarist Rodriguez, managed to make the cut. Among other honors, doc has won at the National Board of Review kudofest and the International Documentary Awards.

In fact, every contender has kudos to boast. “5 Broken Cameras” recently picked up the outstanding feature prize at the Cinema Eye Honors, while “The Gatekeepers” garnered the Los Angeles Film Critics Association doc prize. In January “The Invisible War” won the U.S. doc audience award at Sundance and “How To Survive a Plague” took home a Gotham Award trophy in November.

Returns to the Best Picture Preview 2013

Popular on Variety

More Scene

  • Taron Egerton Elton John Rocketman Live

    Elton John and Taron Egerton Duet at 'Rocketman' Awards Season Event at the Greek Theatre

    “Rocketman” has officially launched into awards season. Paramount hosted a screening of the film with a live-performance of the score by the Hollywood Symphony Orchestra and a headlining performance by Elton John and the film’s star Taron Egerton. John and Egerton — who is in contention for best actor for his portrayal of the singer [...]

  • Hailee Steinfeld Dickinson Premiere

    Hailee Steinfeld, Jane Krakowski on What Modern Women Can Learn From Emily Dickinson

    Emily Dickinson lived in the 1800s, but if you ask the team behind Apple TV Plus’ upcoming series, “Dickinson,” her story is more current than ever. Hailee Steinfeld stars in the the modern-day retelling of the poet’s young life. The actress — who makes her first full-time foray into television with the role and also [...]

  • Don Cheadle

    ACLU Bill of Rights Gala to Honor Don Cheadle, Feature Appearances by Selena Gomez, Regina Hall

    The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California will honor “Avengers: Endgame” and “Black Monday” star Don Cheadle at the organization’s annual Bill of Rights dinner on Nov. 17 at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel. Cheadle will be recognized for his activist work as an advocate for racial and gender equality, immigration reform, reproductive and LGBTQ [...]

  • Helen Mirren attends the LA Premiere

    Why Helen Mirren Considers Catherine the Great to Be 'Superhuman'

    It’s no secret that Dame Helen Mirren has a knack for nailing regal roles. Following her Oscar-winning on-screen reign as Queen Elizabeth II back in 2006, the thespian brings yet another powerful ruler to life in HBO’s limited mini-series “Catherine the Great.” Just as she does on the small screen as Russian Empress Catherine II, [...]

  • Taika Waititi Jojo Rabbit Premiere

    Why Director Taika Waititi Decided to Play Adolf Hitler in 'Jojo Rabbit'

    “Fox Searchlight blackmailed me into doing it,” Taika Waititi told Variety of playing Adolf Hilter in “Jojo Rabbit” at the film’s premiere at American Legion Post 43 on Tuesday night in Hollywood. Staying mum when asked which other actors had been on his wish list to play the role, Waititi explained why he eventually decided [...]

  • Jessica Biel Limetown Premiere

    Why 'Limetown' Star & Producer Jessica Biel Thought the Show Was Based on a True Story

    In a world of increasingly outlandish headlines, the story behind “Limetown” — in which an entire community in rural Tennessee disappears overnight — seems plausible. Even Jessica Biel, who executive produces and stars in the Facebook Watch television adaptation of the hit 2015 podcast, was initially convinced that it was real. “I just thought I [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content