2020 Oscar Nominations for Documentary

By Pat Mullen

The Oscar nominations are in! There was a huge snub as the Academy passed over Apollo 11, largely considered a one of the major challengers to win. Apollo 11 made room for The Edge of Democracy, an outside contender that joined consensus favourites American Factory, The Cave, For Sama, and Honeyland. The latter film made history by scoring an additional nomination in the category of Best International Feature as North Macedonia’s submission. The double nomination is a first as no documentary has landed in both categories in the same year. No documentaries were nominated elsewhere in categories for artistic or technical elements.

Apollo 11 joins the now-annual traditional of the doc branch giving the cold shoulder to a frontrunner that was lauded by critics and popular with audiences following the omissions of Jane and Won’t You Be My Neighbour? in previous years. It also hints at a resistance towards honouring archival films (again, note the Jane snub) to which 2014’s winner Amy was a recent exception.

It was a good morning, however, for Toronto festivals as TIFF People’s Choice Award winner for Documentary, The Cave continued the fest’s tradition of forecasting an Oscar favourite. Short doc nominee St. Louis Superman won the audience award at Hot Docs in the shorts category as well, while all four of the other feature docs screened at Hot Docs. American Factory won the Ted Rogers Award for Documentary from the Toronto Film Critics Association last week and includes Toronto-based filmmaker Yiqian Zhang among its producers.

The complete list of documentary nominees are:

Best Documentary Feature

American Factory – Steven Bognar, Julia Reichert and Jeff Reichert
The Cave – Feras Fayyad, Kirstine Barfod and Sigrid Dyekjær
The Edge of Democracy – Petra Costa, Joanna Natasegara, Shane Boris and Tiago Pavan
For Sama – Waad al-Kateab and Edward Watts
Honeyland – Ljubo Stefanov, Tamara Kotevska and Atanas Georgiev

Documentary Short Subject

In the Absence - Yi Seung-Jun and Gary Byung-Seok Kam
Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (If You’re a Girl) - Carol Dysinger and Elena Andreicheva
Life Overtakes Me - John Haptas and Kristine Samuelson
St. Louis Superman - Smriti Mundhra and Sami Khan
Walk Run Cha-Cha - Laura Nix and Colette Sandstedt