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DOC NYC Boosts Doc Oscar Contenders

DOC NYC Boosts Doc Oscar Contenders

Getting picked for the DOC NYC (November 12-19) “Short List” of 15 is one of several key steps for landing on the Academy doc branch’s eventual short list–which also happens to number 15. In each of the past two years, the DOC NYC Short List had nine titles overlapping the subsequent Oscar Documentary Short List. For the last four years, DOC NYC screened the documentary that went on to win the Oscar: “Citizenfour” (2014), “20 Feet From Stardom” (2013), “Searching for Sugar Man” (2012), and “Undefeated” (2011).

READ MORE: The Oscar Documentary Race After the Fall Festivals 

With such a wide field of documentary possibilities, respected festivals wield considerable influence in turning movies into must-sees for Oscar documentary branch voters. That’s because they have to see more than 130 movies released theatrically in 2015. And as the piles of screeners get deeper, the movies nabbing the best reviews and most attention move to the top of the pile. (Technically each of some 250 members of the doc branch, which has doubled in size in recent years, is assigned to watch 20% of the entire list, and encouraged to watch the rest.)

Artistic Director Thom Powers admits that it was tough to narrow down this year’s highlights. “This year had so many worthy docs to choose from, it was very tough to limit our Short List to 15 films,” he states. “We strove to represent a range of doc-making styles and mix relative newcomers with veterans.”

At the second annual DOC NYC Visionaries Tribute, which will be held at The Park restaurant in Manhattan on Thursday, November 12, three Lifetime Achievement Awards will be presented to Jon Alpert, Barbara Kopple and Frederick Wiseman. The Robert and Anne Drew Award for Documentary Excellence, which honors a mid-career filmmaker distinguished for observational cinema, will be given to veteran Kim Longinotto, whose latest film “Dreamcatcher” is screening in the festival’s Short List. And this year’s Leading Light Award will go to exiting RADiUS-TWC co-founder Tom Quinn, an indie distributor who has championed many great docs, including Kirby Dick’s “The Hunting Ground” and Oscar-winners “20 Feet From Stardom” and “Citizenfour.” Quinn, partner Jason Janego and Alamo’s Tim League are joining forces to release Michael Moore’s TIFF/NYFF entry “Where to Invade Next.” 

READ MORE: Anne Thompson Oscar Predictions 2016 Chart

My documentary frontrunners are not all on this list. What’s missing? Amy Berg’s “Janis: Little Girl Blue,” which just got picked up by FilmRise, and “Prophet’s Prey” are notably missing, along with Stevan Riley’s “Listen to Me Marlon” and mountain movies “Meru” and “Sherpa.”

DOC NYC 2015 Short List
 
AMY (A24)
Dir: Asif Kapadia
Prod: James Gay-Rees
BEST OF ENEMIES (Magnolia Pictures, Participant Media)
Dir & prod: Morgan Neville, Robert Gordon
THE BLACK PANTHERS: VANGUARD OF THE REVOLUTION (PBS Distribution)
Dir: Stanley Nelson
Prod: Nelson, Laurens Grant
CARTEL LAND (The Orchard, A&E IndieFilms)
Dir: Matthew Heineman
Prod: Heineman, Tom Yellin
DREAMCATCHER (Showtime, Women Make Movies)
Dir: Kim Longinotto
Prod: Teddy Leifer, Lisa Stevens
GOING CLEAR: SCIENTOLOGY AND THE PRISON OF BELIEF (HBO Documentary Films)
Dir: Alex Gibney
Prod: Gibney, Kristen Vaurio, Lawrence Wright
HE NAMED ME MALALA (Fox Searchlight Pictures)
Dir: Davis Guggenheim
Prod: Guggenheim, Laurie MacDonald, Walter Parkes
THE HUNTING GROUND (RADiUS, CNN Films)
Dir: Kirby Dick
Prod: Amy Ziering
KURT COBAIN: MONTAGE OF HECK (HBO Documentary Films)
Dir: Brett Morgen
Prod: Morgen, Danielle Renfrew Behrens
THE LOOK OF SILENCE (Drafthouse Films, Participant Media)
Dir: Joshua Oppenheimer
Prod: Signe Byrge Sørensen
SEYMOUR: AN INTRODUCTION (Sundance Selects)
Dir: Ethan Hawke
Prod: Ryan Hawke, Greg Loser, Heather Joan Smith
WHAT HAPPENED, MISS SIMONE? (Netflix)
Dir: Liz Garbus
Prod: Garbus, Amy Hobby, Justin Wilkes, Jason Jackson 
WHERE TO INVADE NEXT (Tom Quinn, Jason Janego, Tim League)
Dir: Michael Moore
Prod: Moore, Carl Deal, Tia Lessin
WINTER ON FIRE: UKRAINE’S FIGHT FOR FREEDOM (Netflix)
Dir: Evgeny Afineevsky
Prod: Afineevsky, Den Tolmor
THE WOLFPACK (Magnolia Pictures)
Dir: Crystal Moselle
Prod: Moselle, Izabella Tzenkova, Hunter Gray, Alex Orlovsky

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