Oscar Documentary Shortlist Favours Frontrunners

Flee makes history with triple bid.

4 mins read

Fifteen films advance in the Oscar race for Best Documentary Feature. The Academy shortlists, released today, offer few surprises in the Oscar race. Clear frontrunners Flee, Summer of Soul, and The Rescue are among the final fifteen, which were winnowed down from a list of 134. That number was far lower than previous years as new rules with the Oscars and Emmy Awards require doc-makers to choose between the two bodies for consideration.

Also on the list are festival favourites Julia, Writing with Fire, Procession, President, In the Same Breath, and Faya Dayi. Once again, over half the titles on the shortlist are Sundance premieres.

Among the surprising omissions, however, is Liz Garbus’s Becoming Cousteau, which had a well-received run following premieres at Telluride and TIFF. It might simply have been pushed out by fellow National Geographic titles The Rescue and The First Wave, both of which brought aggressive levels of campaigning to the doc branch. Also absent is former winner Morgan Neville with his Anthony Bourdain doc Roadrunner. The film played well upon release, but was quickly embroiled in controversy (albeit, not really so from the doc biz) when it was revealed that Neville used an AI recreation of the late chef’s voice for a five-line sentence.

On the Canadian front, no Canucks made the feature doc list, but Ben Proudfoot returns to the short doc list with The Queen of Basketball after being nominated last year for A Concerto Is a Conversation. Other Canadians on Oscar shortlists include Zacharias Kunuk’s animated short The Shaman’s Apprentice and Claude Clouthier’s Bad Seeds, and the live action shorts Les grandes claques, directed by Annie St-Pierre, and Frimas by Marianne Farley, the latter a recent Oscar nominee for Marguerite. Denis Villeneuve’s Dune also landed on shortlists across the board.

Canada’s submission for Best International Feature, Drunken Birds, did not advance in the race. However, the shortlist proved a historic day for docs as Flee landed a spot on the International Feature shortlist as Denmark’s submission. This means Flee is the first film in contention for Best Documentary Feature, Best International Feature, and Best Animated Feature after the shortlist announcements.


The Oscar doc shortlists are as follows:


Fifteen films will advance in the Documentary Feature category for the 94th Academy Awards.  One hundred thirty-eight films were eligible in the category.  Members of the Documentary Branch vote to determine the shortlist and the nominees.

The films, listed in alphabetical order by title, are:

Billie Eilish: The World’s a Little Blurry
Faya Dayi
The First Wave
In the Same Breath
The Rescue
Simple as Water
Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised)
The Velvet Underground
Writing with Fire

Fifteen films will advance in the Documentary Short Subject category for the 94th Academy Awards.  Eighty-two films qualified in the category.  Members of the Documentary Branch vote to determine the shortlist and the nominees.

The films, listed in alphabetical order by title, are:

“A Broken House”
“Camp Confidential: America’s Secret Nazis”
“Coded: The Hidden Love of J. C. Leyendecker”
“Day of Rage”
“The Facility”
“Lead Me Home”
“Lynching Postcards: “Token of a Great Day””
“The Queen of Basketball”
“Sophie & the Baron”
“Terror Contagion”
“Three Songs for Benazir”
“When We Were Bullies”

Pat Mullen is the publisher of POV Magazine. He holds a Master’s in Film Studies from Carleton University where his research focused on adaptation and Canadian cinema. Pat has also contributed to outlets including The Canadian Encyclopedia, Paste, That Shelf, Sharp, Xtra, and Complex. He is the vice president of the Toronto Film Critics Association and an international voter for the Golden Globe Awards.

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