Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Celebrating 17 Years of Film.Biz.Fans.
by Peter Knegt
December 3, 2013 1:07 PM
  • |

Oscars Narrow Documentary Feature Race To 15 Films

A musical sequence from "The Act of Killing." Drafthouse Films

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has announced the 15 films left in the race for the Documentary Feature Oscar. A record 147 films had originally qualified in the category.

Overall there was no major shockers, with the expected likes of "The Act of Killing," "Blackfish," "The Square," "Stories We Tell," "Tim's Vermeer" and "20 Feet From Stardom" all making the cut (and likely battling it out for the final five). There were a few notable exclusions: Martha Shane and Lana Wilson's "After Tiller," Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Véréna Paravel's "Leviathan," Penny Lane's "Our Nixon," Linda Bloodworth-Thomason's "Bridegroom," Errol Morris' "The Unknown Known" and Jason Osder's "Let The Fire Burn" all seemed like strong contenders to make the list, but in the end an incredibly competitive year pushed them out of the competition.

READ MORE: Updated 2014 Oscar Predictions - Best Documentary Feature

"Stories We Tell"

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

   "The Act of Killing," Final Cut for Real
   "The Armstrong Lie," The Kennedy/Marshall Company
   "Blackfish," Our Turn Productions
   "The Crash Reel," KP Rides Again
   "Cutie and the Boxer," Ex Lion Tamer and Cine Mosaic
   "Dirty Wars," Civic Bakery
   "First Cousin Once Removed," Experiments in Time, Light & Motion
   "God Loves Uganda," Full Credit Productions
   "Life According to Sam," Fine Films
   "Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer," Roast Beef Productions
   "The Square," Noujaim Films and Maktube Productions
   "Stories We Tell," National Film Board of Canada
   "Tim’s Vermeer," High Delft Pictures
   "20 Feet from Stardom," Gil Friesen Productions and Tremolo Productions
   "Which Way Is the Front Line from Here? The Life and Time of Tim Hetherington," Tripoli Street

The Academy’s Documentary Branch determined the shortlist in a preliminary round of voting.  Documentary Branch members will now select the five nominees from among the 15 titles. Those nominees will be announced on Thursday, January 16 along with the rest of the 2014 Oscar nominations.


  • arshadfilms | December 27, 2013 6:19 PMReply

    The Act of Killing and the Square as well as Dirty Wars and Leviathan- best docs of 2013.

  • Keegan | December 5, 2013 11:54 PMReply

    After Tiller???

    1. The Act of Killing
    2. Stories We Tell
    3. After Tiller
    4. Leviathan
    5. Room 237
    6. The Square
    7. Blackfish
    8. God Loves Uganda
    9. 20 Feet From Stardom
    10. At Berkley

  • Louise | December 4, 2013 7:43 PMReply

    The Act of Killing was fascinating and the most interesting insight into human things I've seen for a good while, possibly ever. However for me it BLACKFISH all the way. Among all the praise I could give it, it seems to be bringing Seaworld to its knees more and more everyday. THAT shows the power of what a great film can do. Actually inspiring a positive change. It will work I can feel it.

  • julie greco | December 4, 2013 6:29 PMReply

    BLACKFISH! Captivity is a death sentence. Humans don't have the right to do this to other animal nations.

  • jd | December 4, 2013 12:29 PMReply

    Blackfish..Very compelling and heart breaking. Man's Greed over life.All life is precious.

  • | December 4, 2013 10:48 AMReply

    like Jack replied I didnt even know that some people able to make $9181 in a few weeks on the internet. read this post here

  • Cathy Gilmore | December 4, 2013 2:25 AMReply

    BLACKFISH!!! Amazing doco opening up the can of worms which is $ea World!!! Best doco I have seen for a couple of years!!!

  • Nima | December 4, 2013 2:22 AMReply

    Blackfish!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! So good.

  • Lynne Koenigsberg | December 4, 2013 1:39 AMReply


  • Laura Leigh | December 4, 2013 1:24 AMReply


  • MK | December 3, 2013 11:47 PMReply

    I'd go with The Act of Killing, followed by the Square. Leviathan and Frederick Wiseman's At Berkeley should've been nominated too but the Academy never nominates anything that innovative or any of Wiseman's films, so I guess this is par for the crappy course.

  • Julianne Taylor | December 3, 2013 7:42 PMReply

    The Crash Reel was such a fascinating and touching documentary. So glad it made the list.

  • Jake | December 3, 2013 5:08 PMReply

    Seen most of those films... "Blackfish" winner by far.

    To Juan Fran, whom said the human cause is more important than the animal cause: you should realize humans are able to stand up for themselves while animals can not. I would never suggest we ignore human problems or that human suffering is not as "worthy" however that shouldn't give reason to ignore animal suffering at the hands of humans either.

  • Cathy Gilmore | December 4, 2013 2:29 AM

    Contrary to everyone's beliefs - if we don't save the environment in which the animals are an important part of we all die anyway so there will no human suffering anywhere....l

  • Lynne Koenigsberg | December 4, 2013 1:58 AM

    Contrary to popular belief... those who choose to support non human/environmental causes do so because the scales are highly imbalanced by humans who tend to support human/social issues... not because we are "loonies" ... What just transpired at "The Cove" Taiji, Japan only confirms this...

  • Keygan | December 3, 2013 6:20 PM

    Contrary to popular belief, it is entirely possible to support multiple causes at the same time. (Woah!) You can make a difference for both environmental and social causes; you do not have to pick one. "Environmental loonies" just choose to focus on specific causes because not everyone can do everything.

  • Juan Fran | December 3, 2013 5:23 PM

    Ridiculous! Yemeni, Pakistani and Afghan civilians can't stand up for themselves against the tyranny of drones. You environmentalist loonies make me nuts.

  • Sam | December 3, 2013 5:06 PMReply

    Blackfish deserves to make top 5. I'm sure all those other documentaries are great but Blackfish was quite wonderful and moved me and broke my heart.!

  • DJ | December 3, 2013 4:49 PMReply

    Stories We Tell is one of the best films of the year, period.

  • Laura | December 3, 2013 4:47 PMReply

    YESS!! Blackfish for the win!! I'm glad Blackfish is on the list! they deserve to win, and show the world the real truths behind such a cruel and harsh industry behind SeaWorld and the way they abuse their animals, especially their orcas! #VoteBlackfish

  • Olivia | December 3, 2013 4:42 PMReply

    YES!!!!!! Blackfish all the way!!! I am so thrilled that Blackfish is recongized as a brilliant documentry!!! #VoteBlackfish

  • Alyssa Röhricht | December 3, 2013 4:37 PMReply

    Dirty Wars is a phenomenal film. I'm very pleased to see it make this list. The Act of Killing was great as well - never seen anything quite like it.

  • Mohammed Noori | December 3, 2013 4:32 PMReply

    The Armstrong Lie and Dirty Wars. Jeremy Scahill really made a tremendous film about drone warfare and special forces killings in the Muslim world.

  • Juan Fran | December 3, 2013 4:31 PMReply

    Dirty Wars should win it. It's amazing that more people are outraged over sea animals being killed than actual human beings.

  • DJ | December 4, 2013 11:32 AM

    I'm not sure what the hoopla over Blackfish is. I get why people connect to the nostalgia (and the questioning of that nostalgia) it brings: it's Sea World, it's our childhood, it's an expose of both and that makes it unnerving.

    But as a film, it's nothing more than a straightforward, advocacy doc that's akin to anything that Dateline or 20/20 would do: talkie, emotional interviews, archival footage, linear biography of the whales.

  • Ram Johnson | December 4, 2013 7:53 AM

    Dirty Wars IS a better documentary. It's just not something people want to challenge themselves with. Blackfish is also good but it's very cliche and pedestrian in terms of filmmaking acumen. It's not (supposed to be) a popularity contest.

    It's a shame viewers don't like to be visually challenged. Levithian, Let the Fire Burn and At Berkeley are all major snubs in my opinion.

    Having said all that I'll take Blackfish winning over 20 Feet From Stardom any day! Jesus!!

  • Keygan | December 3, 2013 6:22 PM

    This isn't a contest of which cause is more worthy. Both are. It's about which documentary is better.

  • Jake | December 3, 2013 5:14 PM

    Who said more people are outraged over sea animals being killed than human beings? Nobody. Poor logic. If people voice outrage over the cruelty of animals, it doesn't mean that they aren't outraged over human suffering as well. There are more than enough people screaming about human problems, some people want to speak up for the animals, living creatures that don't have the luxury of doing such.

  • Alyssa Röhricht | December 3, 2013 4:38 PM

    I agree, DW should win but I'd never condemn people for showing compassion - whether for human or otherwise.

  • Altslash | December 3, 2013 4:20 PMReply

    Act of the Killing got to win it! Most important documentary of the decade.

  • Marsmick | December 3, 2013 4:13 PMReply

    Blackfish all the way!!

  • Eva | December 3, 2013 4:03 PMReply

    The movie Blackfish opened my eyes & broke my heart.

  • maria | December 3, 2013 3:56 PMReply

    I am wondering why Indiwire does not use other stills from the other Documentaries?
    I find it tendentious.

  • Thomas | December 3, 2013 2:58 PMReply

    I hope The act of killing and The crash reel get on the short list, Both are brilliant documentaries. The act of killing captures something I don't believe had ever been seen before, And may never be seen again. Truly incredible.

  • Molly | December 3, 2013 2:57 PMReply

    I vote Blackfish!

  • Fred | December 3, 2013 2:34 PMReply

    No Sound City?!

  • Nicole | December 3, 2013 2:02 PMReply

    I'm so pleased that Blackfish has been chosen! It is a magnificent documentary showing the truth behind the lies of an industry that exploits these wonderful creatures. If you have not seen this, please watch, it is time awareness resulted in outcomes, only we can stop this. Thank you Academy Awards!

  • Jessee | December 3, 2013 2:00 PMReply

    Talk about inciting change- BLACKFISH is a must watch film that will make you question the entire way we relate with animals for entertainment. Sea World, zoos, mascots- all distilled into one whale's story- Tilikum. I hope to goodness it wins, as it should!

  • ACE VENTURA | December 3, 2013 1:51 PMReply

    best doc i saw last year was EVERYTHING OR NOTHING THE UNTOLD STORY OF 007

    this year i might watch,,
    "The Act of Killing,"
    "The Armstrong Lie,"
    "Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer,"

  • WTF | December 3, 2013 1:44 PMReply

    No "Leviathan"? F that.

  • Robin | December 3, 2013 1:41 PMReply

    Thank you so much for recognizing and acknowledging the brilliance of Blackfish! Very excited to see them honored by the Academy.

  • Rose Pennington | December 3, 2013 1:35 PMReply

    Blackfish is truly deserving consideration and I hope that it wins. The captive industry is now exposed for all to see in its ugliness. If you have not seen it, it is a "must see" documentary exposing Sea World for the way they really treat "their" animals. Thank you Academy Awards for acknowledging the truth behind the lies....

  • Steve | December 3, 2013 1:14 PMReply

    Please please please don't nominate Stories We Tell aka Sarah Polley's Home Movies Her Family Barely Cares About