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2012 Oscar Predictions: Best Documentary Feature

2012 Oscar Predictions: Best Documentary Feature

Indiewire will provide regular updates of our predictions for the 84th Academy Award winners through February 26th, when the winners are announced.

Probably the toughest category to call of the night. Feasibly any of them could win, though “If a Tree Falls” seems like the least likely of the quintent. The Weinstein Company’s “Undefeated” is getting some very well timed buzz as the race nears its end, though “Pina,” “Paradise Lost 3” and “Hell and Back Again” are all definitely possible spoilers.

Best documentary predictions below. Check out all predictions in all the categories here.

The Nominees
Hell and Back Again
If a Tree Falls
Paradise Lost 3

The Predicted Winner: Undefeatead
The Possible Spoilers:Pina, Hell and Back Again or Paradise Lost 3
Shoulda Been Here: The Interrupters, among many, many others


This Article is related to: Awards and tagged


Sean O'Fallon

That "Undefeated" would be the front-runner in this prediction shows how canny Harvey Weinstein is, not how deserving the film is. It was a good film, predictable, not great. Up against "Pina" and "To Hell and Back Again" to have "Undefeated" win would be a travesty.

Michael Barrett

I believe that "Hell and Back Again" has a lot going for it. To some extent it resembles "The Hurt Locker" by reflecting the mental state of a committed soldier who wants to return to battle even though, in this film, he can't. I understand that the filmmaker only by chance was able to develop the personal story that came out of his efforts–it was not his initial intention. The inventiveness of the filmmaker in his use of a DSLR for this project deserves a lot of credit. He also deserves credit for the personal risk he took in doing the filming, although the risk here wasn't as great as the filmmakers of "Restrepo" experienced, and that was truly frightening.

Winston Mark

I watched Hell and Back Again a couple days and I was really blown away. This film has everything that makes it worthy for the Oscar; the cinematography is stunning, the story and people are genuine and the movie is overall emotional for an audience. I give it my full support in the nominations and hope it wins but either way, I love this movie!

bob hawk

I could watch PINA once a week for the rest of my life, but this year the doc category is not only apples and oranges but eggplants and kumquats. And, as noted by Peter, so many worthies weren't even short-listed. On a purely subjective and visceral level HELL AND BACK AGAIN tore me up (as did THE INVISIBLE WAR, which premiered at Sundance and will be eligible — if the ever-shifting rules allow — next year). There are surely no slam dunks in this category this year.

Robert Jackson

I continue to read the handicaps with mouth agape. Yes, Pina is the best of the nominees. Given how this award season has gone, that basically means nothing. As for potential spoiler, Hell and Back Again would have been a great second tier doc in a normal year, and the same would apply to If a Tree Falls. Potential spoiler Purgatory is standard television fare, as is Undefeated.

In a year when The Interrupters wasn't even put on the short list, this is a category incredibly hard to take seriously. I don't know if the new rules changes will have any effect whatsoever, but something desperately needs to be done to restore integrity to this category.


Would hate to see Paradise Lost 3 get anything. It is a slanted portrayal of a vicious crime. The actual facts (case archives) of the case can be found at: The majority of parents of the victims have asked that this "documentary" not be honored since it dishonors the memory of the victims by portraying the murderers as folk heros.


yes.pina should be winner .and it should be nominated in foreign movie too.

Robert Jackson

If these prove to be the final five compared to your last choices, this is win one, lose one

The documentary with the greatest artistic measure of those that got nominated, Pina, is on the list. The one with the least artistic measure, Purgatory, also has made it. Again, I realize you only report what you see as likely and it is hard to disagree. But in a year when The Interruptors and Senna didn't even make the short list, it is appalling that a reality television flick may be one of the five finalists and Buck and Bill Cunningham, by no means great but quite good, won't.

This is one category that needs work, and I'm not certain the rules changes will make all that much difference.


Nim and then Buck


The Wall Street Journal and the L.A. Times have put BUCK in their list of the 10 best films of the year – the only documentary to make their lists! BUCK has won best feature documentary in many film festivals in the USA and two international best doc awards. I read it is playing in Australia & will start screening in New Zealand next month. It is a fabulous film and I hope it makes the Academy Awards……in fact, I hope it wins!


Read on Indiewire that PROJECT NIM's box office was only a quarter of what was paid for it at Sundance so the public certainly didn't rate it. Do agree this demonstrates that most awards are a bit of a stitch up for named directors and can't be taken seriously.


Having "Project Nim" in the top five just shows how silly the Oscars are. It totally bombed at the box office despite a big campaign at the time and although James Marsh is an amazing filmmaker was his weakest work to date. The story was just not there for a theatrical doc compared to the amazing films around this year. Would think even he is surprised it is in there. Makes a joke out of the whole thing. The critics awards select him as again he's an easy choice without them having to watch all of the doc films. Going on this he could direct a cheap car add and it would get an Oscar nomination. With the new rule changes it makes it even more likely the big names clear up each year despite what stories they deliver.


Senna was released (dated) in 2010. For a film to be eligible for nominations, it has to be released in 2011.


Senna and pina are great.pina should be nominated in foreign category too. Senna isn't short list it's ridiculous.


I cant believe Senna wasnt shortlisted! Some of the other films mentioned on this list couldnt even touch it, let alone in the way it has touched hearts of those who dont even follow motorsport.


Why is there no mention of Battle for Brooklyn in this list – its a subject close to everyone's hearts and is very topical………but apart from that it is interesting, well-made and moving – it also shows you what really goes on behind the 1-line entries in the newspapers
I am surprised no mention is made of it here

Lindsay Saar



The Interrupters most definitely should be on the list. Saw it yesterday with a large audience. People were literally crying and 10 minutes later laughing, then crying again. Seeing it was an unbelievably moving experience. A gem — documentary film making at its absolute best.

robert jackson

Can we at least hope Pina gets nominated? After the Senna debacle, is it too much to ask that a film that so richly chronicles something that isn't political or social even can be nominated?

I realize you based the five likely nominees on what the committee is likely to do rather than what it should do, so this isn't a criticism of you as much as it is a lament. Will the recently announced documentary changes prevent such injustices? We can hope. Except for Bill Cunningham, which may bump its way into the top five, you have it about right as to what will happen.


Senna is the best documentary by far!

Edward H.

How Senna was left off best documentary by the Academy is a travesty. I saw every documentary and nothing touched that movie. I wasn't an F1 fan when I went to watch it, but I am now. I will never watch the Oscars again, and I know many people that feel the same way. To leave such a great film off the long-list proves to me, that they have "No-Clue" what's going on.


How is The Interrupters not at the top of the list?


how is senna not on here? that is getting the most buzz and is by far one of the best films of the year. 8.8 on imdb.


George Harrison: Living in the Material World.
Was on hbo from Martin Scorsese and it was incredible, absoluetly unimaginable. I wishe it was on this list because it was just breathtaking his life and his devotion to everything he did. It was definantly Oscar worthy. I'm only 14 and Im an insane Beatles fan!

Mike Schmidt

What about Nat Geo's "The Last Lions"? I thought that was a lock-in for sure…

Richard Frances

Not sure why you think "Undefeated" is a top pick. No one has seen it. It hasn't been on anyone's list. It's sappy and just a Harvey Weinstein grab for a doc Oscar nom. It would be a shame for him to ram this through at the expense of some of the other great films like "Bill Cunningham" and "If a Tree Falls."


Looks like someone forgot Herzog's Cave of Forgotten Dreams!


thought Michael Rappaport's film about Tribe Called Quest was a pretty solid film.


Err, Senna is a going to win for sure but you don't even put it in the top ten? did you just select those names at random?

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