You will be redirected back to your article in seconds
Back to IndieWire

The Best Documentary Oscar Race Narrows to 15

The Best Documentary Oscar Race Narrows to 15

The Academy has made its first cut in the race for best documentary, narrowing the field from 124 to 15.

The 15 films are listed below in alphabetical order by title, with their production company:

“Battle for Brooklyn” (RUMER Inc.)
“Bill Cunningham New York” (First Thought Films)
“Buck” (Cedar Creek Productions)
“Hell and Back Again” (Roast Beef Productions Limited)
“If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front” (Marshall Curry Productions, LLC)
“Jane’s Journey” (NEOS Film GmbH & Co. KG)
“The Loving Story” (Augusta Films)
“Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory” (
“Pina” (Neue Road Movies GmbH)
“Project Nim” (Red Box Films)
“Semper Fi: Always Faithful” (Tied to the Tracks Films, Inc.)
“Sing Your Song” (S2BN Belafonte Productions, LLC)
“Undefeated” (Spitfire Pictures)
“Under Fire: Journalists in Combat” (JUF Pictures, Inc.)
“We Were Here” (Weissman Projects, LLC)

The Documentary Branch Screening Committee viewed all the eligible documentaries for the preliminary round of voting. Documentary Branch members will now select the five nominees from among the 15 titles on the shortlist.

This Article is related to: Awards and tagged ,


Jerry Ensminger

Congratulations to all of the films that made the "short list"…Semper Fi! Jerry


Wouldn't put "The Interrupters" or "Senna" in the top 10 docs of the year. Can think of plenty of overlooked films that were much more deserving but less hyped. "The Interrupters" is a very good film but does somewhat ramble at times and needs at least 30 – 40 mins off it's excessive run time. When will directors remember that an audience needs to ultimately watch these movies. "Hoop Dreams" had the same problem in that although the characters were fantastic and the number of years filming admirable, felt that the director needed a strong producer to work with to be less attached and more ruthless with editing the material. It again could have been cut down and been a much better film. "Senna" should have been amazing but despite the huge campaign (probably had an advertising budget that dwarfed any other films entire budget) never hit the mark as had the feel of a puff vanity project for the Senna family. Not a patch on "When We were Kings" which have read the director name checking in interviews.


Okay, your favorite film was "snubbed" that doesn't mean you get to crap on the filmmakers and the films that have made the list, especially when you probably haven't seen them or most of them.


How the hell is it possible that Steve James' The Interrupters, one of the most powerful, acclaimed and well crafted docs of 2011, did not make this list?


This list is ridiculous… Where's Transcendent Man? Hands down the best doc of the year.

Earth White Horse

The solution to world starvation.
We need you to Sustain life.


The Academy has made it a pain to put a documentary into the competition since you just can't go NY-LA like a dramatic film. Being Elmo should have been shortlisted. Can't there at least be one documentary that lets people know that if you put in the work, you can get your dream job?

Happy to see Project Nim in the running. But it ought to be considered for Best Film of the year.

Laurent Rejto

Semper Fi: Always Faithful – well deserved and congratulations!





My wife and I were stunned that Being Elmo didn't make the list.


The voters do not watch the entire list – they skim through films. This is the reason why the more challenging films, or those which build slowly with brilliant twists, don't always make the list.


The Academy has no credibility whatsoever after publishing this silly list. It is at best a curious entertainment show. Sort out your voting system!


I remember last year being appalled that two films I helped distribute did not get shortlisted: The Oath and Last Train Home. I really believed and worked hard on those films.

Conversely, I'm so happy that Bill Cunningham New York has made it this year!

What I've learned from this is basically that the selection process is mercurial/erratic and not tangibly justified in any political or cultural equation. Further more, I can't identify any parameters that would satisfy everyone's expectations for the documentary nominations.

I guess that's what makes documentaries such a specialized field. Maybe the academy should consider expanding the categories for non-fiction films and (gasp) even having them eligible in the Best Picture category.


Really, where is The Interrupters? That's one of the biggest, and best reviewed docs of the year. The academy really has to revise their process. Especially when people vote for politically relevant docs over the best overall movie.

Fog of War is amazing, but Capturing the Friedmans was the best doc that year. For 2011 Inside Job was okay, but the statue really should've gone to Exit Through the Gift Shop or Restrepo.

Way too many people get snubbed, the system has been broken since at least Hoop Dreams. You'd figure they'd fix it by now.


they didn't watch the movies!


A slightly ridiculous list. Must be something wrong with the voting system?


d ray

Seriously?! Where's The Arbor or Senna??

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *