DOC NYC, America’s largest documentary festival, has announced its 15-film Short List of Oscar contenders along with its opening-night selection, “The Final Year,” in which Greg Barker follows key members of Barack Obama’s administration during their last year in office. The festival runs November 9-16.
Thom Powers, DOC NYC’s artistic director as well as documentary programmer for TIFF, oversees curation of the Short List of films that may be in the running for the Academy Award for Best Documentary feature. This year contains a spectrum of funders and distributors, including four from Netflix — and none from HBO.
Historically, most DOC NYC picks do land on the Academy’s official 15-film Oscar Short List. For the past four years, the Short List had nine to 10 titles overlap, with four or five titles going on to Oscar nominations. For the last six years, DOC NYC screened the documentary that went on to win the Oscar: “O.J.: Made in America” (2016), “Amy” (2015), “Citizenfour” (2014), “20 Feet From Stardom” (2013), “Searching for Sugar Man” (2012), and “Undefeated” (2011).
Many others have yet to weigh in, including critics groups, guilds, Cinema Eye Honors, and the IDA Awards. Among the titles that could turn up are Elvira Lind’s Tribeca jury winner “Bobbi Jene” (Oscilloscope), Evgeny Afineevsky’s “Cries from Syria” (HBO), Frederick Wiseman’s “Ex Libris: The New York Public Library” (Zipporah Films), and Sebastian Junger and Nick Quested’s “Hell on Earth: The Fall of Syria and the Rise of Isis” (NatGeo).
So check out the influential DOC NYC Short List below as Academy members determine the most important films in their growing screener piles.
ABACUS: SMALL ENOUGH TO JAIL (PBS Distribution)
Dir: Steve James
THE B-SIDE: ELSA DORFMAN’S PORTRAIT PHOTOGRAPHY (NEON / Netflix)
Dir: Errol Morris
CHASING CORAL (Netflix)
Dir: Jeff Orlowski
CITY OF GHOSTS (Amazon Studios / A&E IndieFilms / IFC Films)
Dir: Matthew Heineman
DINA (The Orchard)
Dirs: Antonio Santini, Dan Sickles
FACES PLACES (Cohen Media Group)
Dirs: Agnès Varda, JR
THE FINAL YEAR (Motto Pictures / Passion Pictures)
Dir: Greg Barker
THE FORCE (Kino Lorber / PBS Independent Lens)
Dir: Peter Nicks
Dir: Bryan Fogel
JANE (National Geographic Films)
Dir: Brett Morgen
KEDI (Oscilloscope Laboratories / YouTube Red)
Dir: Ceyda Torun
ONE OF US (Netflix)
Dirs: Heidi Ewing, Rachel Grady
RISK (NEON / SHOWTIME® DOCUMENTARY FILMS)
Dir: Laura Poitras
STEP (Fox Searchlight)
Dir: Amanda Lipitz
STRONG ISLAND (Netflix)
Dir: Yance Ford
DOC NYC also announced its November 9 Visionaries Tribute: Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady (“One of Us”) will receive the Robert and Anne Drew Award for observational filmmaking, and Cara Mertes, director of the JustFilms initiative at The Ford Foundation, will receive the Leading Light Award for serving documentary in a role other than filmmaking. Already announced are two Lifetime Achievement Awards for filmmaker Errol Morris (“The Thin Blue Line,” “The Fog of War”) and Sheila Nevins, President of HBO Documentary Films.
All of the DOC NYC Short List titles will show during the festival accompanied by the director or other guests for their first screening. Most of the filmmakers and their collaborators will join the November 10 DOC NYC Short List Day of panel conversations.