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AWARDS WATCH ’08 | Academy Shortlists 15 for Best Doc Race

AWARDS WATCH '08 | Academy Shortlists 15 for Best Doc Race

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences have named 15 films that made the short-list in the Documentary Feature category for the 81st Academy Awards, whittling the number down from a record 94 that had originally qualified. Documentary Branch members will now select the five nominees from among the 15 titles on the shortlist. The Academy Awards nominations will be announced on Thursday, January 22, 2009, at 5:30 a.m. PT in the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater, and the awards for outstanding film achievements of 2008 will be presented on Sunday, February 22, 2009, at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood.

The Fifteen films are:

At the Death House Door, directed by Peter Gilbert and Steve James
The Betrayal” (Nerakhoon), directed by Ellen Kuras
Blessed Is the Match: The Life and Death of Hannah Senesh“, directed by Roberta Grossman
Encounters at the End of the World“, directed by Werner Herzog
Fuel“, directed by Josh Tickell
The Garden“, directed by Scott Hamilton Kennedy
Glass: A Portrait of Philip in Twelve Parts“, directed by Scott Hicks
I.O.U.S.A.“, directed by Patrick Creadon
In a Dream“, directed by Jeremiah Zagar
Made in America“, directed by Stacy Peralta
Man on Wire“, directed by James Marsh
Pray the Devil Back to Hell“, directed by Gini Reticker
Standard Operating Procedure“, directed by Errol Morris
They Killed Sister Dorothy“, directed by Daniel Junge
Trouble the Water“, directed by Carl Deal and Tia Lessin

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It’s hard to understand why “I.O.U.S.A.” is in the running, since it can barely qualify as a documentary. It completely ignores the possibility of health care reform as a solution to the budget deficit, and instead, ominously projects that Medicare and Social Security will bankrupt our government.

It’s like “Reefer Madness!” but with deficits…


Of course not every great (or even good) doc will get a nod…but I am glad “Man on Wire” made the short-list.


For me, the most glaring omission is “Stranded: I’ve Come From a Plane That Crashed in the Mountains,” one of the best films I saw this year…documentary or otherwise. I’m glad to see “In a Dream,” “Encounters,” “Trouble the Water,” and “Man on Wire,” the latter of which is now in its 15th week of release here in San Francisco.


i’m extremely thrilled – and surprised – that “In a Dream” has been recognized.

new york film academy

Good list but they are missing a few great films this year.


Did “Dear Zachary” not qualify? Because it’s an incredible film on so many levels. Let’s hope it gets a nod at the Spirit awards.

woodstock film festival

There are always oversights BUT Academy Members should be commended for nominating “The Betrayal,” “In a Dream” and many of these other films.

woodstock film festival

There are always oversights BUT Academy Members should be commended for nominating “The Betrayal,” “In a Dream” and many of these other films.


I’m with both of you. The fact that “Dear Zachary” and “The Order of Myths” are not listed is a major oversight . Very sad.

paul sturtz

Why anyone takes the Academy seriously is a mystery. Let’s be blunt: “Fuel” (formerly “Fields of Fuel”) is an embarrassment — a self-serving ego-driven bit of nonsense — and there are at least three others here, that while they have all the good intentions in the world, are mediocre at best. Important topics do not ensure important, well-made films, a fact that seems to escape an Academy so tone-deaf it ignores “The Order of Myths,” one of the three or four best docs in the last few years.


Kurt Kuenne’s “Dear Zachary” is sadly missing from this list but is already on plenty of top 10 lists and hopefully will find other venues for award recognition! Not only is “Dear Zachary” one of the most moving films I’ve seen in a very long time – Kurt is one of the most gifted, genuine and gracious filmmakers I’ve worked with in my 8 years at Gen Art.

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