You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Faced With Too Many Oscar-Qualifying Docs, Where Should Voters Begin?

Think of the sprawling field of documentary features to consider as a buffet. Oscar guru Tim Gray divides up the courses by topic.

Members of the Academy’s documentary branch may see their 149 films as proof that reality bites.

Never fear. Variety will help you sort through this. Don’t think of it as a mountainous assignment. Think of these titles as a buffet: Just decide what kind of meal you are in the mood for. Here are various categories and a cross-section of titles that may appeal to your tastebuds.

America today: “After Tiller” (late-term abortions), “Best Kept Secret” (education), “Blackfish” (captive whales), “Dirty Wars” (covert ops), “Gideon’s Army” (public defenders), “Letters to Jackie” (Bill Couturie, letters of sympathy after JFK’s shooting), “Mumia: Long Distance Revolutionary” (notorious political prisoner), “The Unknown Known” (Donald Rumsfeld, exposed), “Valentino’s Ghost” (U.S. foreign policy).

International affairs: “The Act of Killing” (Indonesia gangsters re-enact murders), “Blood Brother” (Sundance-winning portrait of an AIDS hostel in India), “God Loves Uganda” (American Evangelicals in Africa), “Narco Cutura” (narco traffickers), “The Square” (Egypt), “Stolen Seas” (Somali piracy).

The economy: “Inequality for All,” “Money for Nothing: Inside the Federal Reserve,” “99%: The Occupy Wall Street Collaborative Film.”

Popular on Variety

Hard to describe: “Approved for Adoption” (half-animated cross-cultural memoir), “Cutie and the Boxer” (an artistic N.Y. relationship), “The Missing Picture” (conceptual re-creation of Khmer Rouge atrocities), “Stories We Tell” (Sarah Polley, family matters, sorta/kinda), “Tim’s Vermeer” (directed by Teller of Penn & Teller, a look at art and creativity).

Gay issues: “Bridegroom” (case study on equal rights), “Call Me Kuchu” (a gay man fights Uganda’s legal ban), “Married and Counting” (cross-country odyssey), “The New Black” (minority activism in same-sex ballot initiatives), “Two: The Story of Roman and Nyro” (a gay couple and their children), “Valentine Road” (hate crimes in Oxnard).
The Internet and lack of privacy: “Terms and Conditions May Apply,” “We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks.”

And showbiz: The year’s highest-grossing docu is “20 Feet From Stardom” (the unsung story of backup singers), pictured above. Also, “Becoming Traviata,” “Casting By,” “CinemAbility,” “The Girls in the Band,” “Jodorowsky’s Dune,” “Muscle Shoals,” “The Muslims Are Coming!” (Muslim comics tour America), “The Network” (Afghanistan TV), “Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer,” “Running From Crazy” (the Hemingway family), “Seduced and Abandoned” (James Toback in Cannes), “12 12 12.”

Whatever films you choose, make sure to spread the word.

More Film

  • My Zoe

    'My Zoe': Film Review

    There are two films in Julie Delpy’s ambitious, sharply-made but unbalanced “My Zoe.” There’s the scabrous relationship melodrama, about bitter exes sharing custody of a beloved child, which contains the story’s most potent emotions. And there’s the sci-fi-inflected ethical-dilemma grief movie, which houses its most provocative ideas. Both have much to recommend them, not least [...]

  • Richard Jewell

    The Big Lie of 'Richard Jewell' (Column)

    For a man who was so enraged at the administration of Barack Obama that he spent his 2012 Republican Convention speech lecturing an empty chair, Clint Eastwood has made a number of conventional, level-headed — one might even say liberal — political dramas. Films like “Invictus” and “J. Edgar” and “Midnight in the Garden of [...]

  • Oscar Isaac Star Wars The Rise

    Oscar Isaac Has Never Felt Like a 'Star Wars' Insider

    Unlike his “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” co-stars Daisy Ridley and John Boyega, Oscar Isaac had already established a long and acclaimed acting career before J.J. Abrams cast him as ace X-wing pilot Poe Dameron in 2015’s “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” including standout roles in 2006’s “The Nativity Story” and 2011’s “Drive,” and [...]

  • Les Arcs to Showcase New Projects

    Les Arcs to Showcase New Projects by Jonas Alexander Arnby, Agnieszka Smoczyńska

    Denmark’s Jonas Alexander Arnby, France’s Alain Gagnol and Jean-Loup Felicioli, and Poland’s Agnieszka Smoczyńska are among up-and-coming directors from across Europe whose latest projects will be presented at the 11th Coproduction Village of Les Arcs Film Festival. This edition of Les Arcs Coproduction Village will showcase a total of 22 European projects spanning 19 countries. [...]

  • Chez Jolie Coiffure

    'Chez Jolie Coiffure': Film Review

    Shortly before the credits roll on “Chez Jolie Coiffure,” a customer in the eponymous hair salon asks her stylist, Sabine, if she has any plans to go home this year. Out of context, this sounds like the kind of standard, empty small talk one often makes while having one’s hair cut: what good movies you’ve [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content