Oscar Shortlists for 2021 Academy Awards Documentary Races

Boys State
Photo: AppleTV+

By Pat Mullen

Fifteen documentary features and ten short docs advanced in the Oscar race today. The Academy released the annual Oscar shortlists and all the expected frontrunners made the cut in the feature doc race. There are few surprises with critical favourites and festival winners on the list, which was perhaps inevitable with a record number of 238 submissions. The list includes several docs that made POV’s list for best of the year, including #1 choice Boys State.

Docs also performed respectably in additional categories. Two documentary made the shortlists for both feature documentary and international feature. Romania’s Collective, which won the Toronto Film Critics Association’s Allan King Documentary Award this weekend, is widely expected to be nominated in both categories. Chile’s submission The Mole Agent is a dark horse and both fronts. Italy’s submission Notturno missed the cut in the International Feature race but landed on the doc shortlist, just like Gianfranco Rosi’s Fire at Sea did in 2016. Welcome to Chechnya landed on the doc shortlist as well as the shortlist for visual effects thanks to its groundbreaking appropriation of deepfake technology. All In, meanwhile, scored for Janelle Monáe’s anthemic song “Turntables.” Only members of the documentary branch vote on the documentary-specific shortlists, so the presence of docs in other races is notable.

Although Canada had numerous contenders among the short and feature doc races, none made the shortlists, although several shorts were strong contenders. Canada also missed in the International Feature race as expected. However, Ben Proudfoot, one of the directors of the short A Concerto Is a Conversation, is a Canuck.

The Oscar shortlists in the documentary categories are:

Best Documentary Feature

All In: The Fight for Democracy
Boys State
Crip Camp
Dick Johnson Is Dead
The Mole Agent
My Octopus Teacher
The Painter and the Thief
76 Days
The Truffle Hunters
Welcome to Chechnya

Best Documentary Short Subject

Abortion Helpline, This Is Lisa
Call Center Blues
A Concerto Is a Conversation
do Not Split
Hunger Ward
Hysterical Girl
A Love Song for Latasha
The Speed Cubers
What Would Sophia Loren Do?