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DOC NYC Announces Awards Short List, from ‘American Factory’ to ‘One Child Nation’

The DOC NYC short list influences future awards for documentaries.

"One Child Nation" director Nanfu Wang

“One Child Nation” director Nanfu Wang

Yuanchen Liu

Ten-year-old DOC NYC, America’s largest documentary festival, has announced its influential 15-film Short List. The festival will announce its main lineup of 100 films as well as its opening night selection in two weeks, before kicking off on November 6.

Historically, most of the DOC NYC short-list titles overlap with the Academy’s official 15-film Oscar Short List. For the last eight years, DOC NYC has screened the documentary that went on to win the Academy Award, including “Free Solo,” “Icarus,” “O.J.: Made in America,” “Amy,” “Citizenfour,” “20 Feet From Stardom,” “Searching for Sugar Man,” and “Undefeated.” The festival has screened 27 of the last 30 Oscar-nominated documentary features.

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’s list of 15 features contains a balanced spectrum of subjects, box-office hits, and less widely-viewed films, funders, and distributors, including four from Netflix, three from Neon, and two from HBO. The selections range from hard-hitting war films like “The Cave” to crowdpleasers like Ryan White’s “Ask Dr. Ruth,” which will play well for New Yorkers.

When the programmers stepped back and looked at their lineup they were surprised that nine films (60%) were directed by women, an increase from last year’s peak of seven films. Returning DOC NYC veterans include respected Academy documentary branch Governor and three-timer Roger Ross Williams, and on their second go-round, Jehane Noujaim, Ryan White, and Asif Kapadia.

“The truth is in any year that we’ve done this we could have named a list of 15 other films just as good,” Powers told IndieWire. “There are so many strong films. If 150 qualified for the Oscars last year, we were only representing 10 percent. We represent a broad spectrum of what’s being done.”

Many other awards groups have yet to weigh in, including critics, guilds, Cinema Eye Honors, and the IDA Awards. Among the other titles that could turn up with awards nods are Mads Brügger’s mystery-solving “Cold Case: Hammarskjold,” which won the Sundance World Documentary directing prize, Timothy Greenfield-Sanders’ moving deep-dive into a recently departed world-changing author, “Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am,” and Avi Belkin’s hard-charging journalist profile “Mike Wallace Is Here,” all from Magnolia Pictures, as well as Alex Gibney’s “The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley” (HBO).

For the first time, the Short List Features will vie for jury awards in four categories: Directing, Producing, Cinematography, and Editing, and a Best Director prize will also be awarded in the Short List Shorts section. “These crafts don’t always get a lot of love,” said Powers. “We wanted a chance to showcase them.”

The festival is also launching a new section, Winner’s Circle, highlighting films that have won top prizes at international festivals, but might fly below the radar of American audiences. “While some international films had a substantial theatrical release,” said Powers, “we noticed last year that the makeup of the Academy is changing, and the documentary branch has grown substantially in its international representation. We wanted to create a section to shine a light on those films that didn’t get as robust distribution in the U.S. but clearly have made a strong impression on critics and juries.”

Michael Apted and Martin Scorsese, the two recipients of DOC NYC’s previously announced Visionaries Lifetime Achievement Awards, will also screen their latest documentary films, Apted’s “63 Up” and Scorsese’s “Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story,” which is available on Netflix. The festival also announced the second year of its 40 Under 40 list of young rising stars in the documentary community.

Check out the influential DOC NYC Short List below as Academy members determine the most important films in their growing screener piles.

DOC NYC Short List of 15

“American Factory” (Netflix)
Dir: Julia Reichert, Steven Bognar

“The Apollo” (HBO Documentary Films)
Dir: Roger Ross Williams

“Apollo 11” (NEON)
Dir: Todd Douglas Miller

“Ask Dr. Ruth” (Hulu / Magnolia Pictures)
Dir: Ryan White

“The Biggest Little Farm” (NEON)
Dir: John Chester

“The Cave” (National Geographic Documentary Films)
Dir: Feras Fayyad

“Diego Maradona” (HBO Sports)
Dir: Asif Kapadia




“The Edge of Democracy” (Netflix)
Dir: Petra Costa

“The Elephant Queen” (Apple)
Dir: Mark Deeble, Victoria Stone

“For Sama” (PBS Distribution/FRONTLINE)
Dir: Waad al-Kateab, Edward Watts

“The Great Hack” (Netflix)
Dir: Karim Amer, Jehane Noujaim

“Honeyland” (NEON)
Dir: Tamara Kotevska, Ljubomir Stefanov

“The Kingmaker” (Showtime Documentary Films)
Dir: Lauren Greenfield

“Knock Down the House” (Netflix)
Dir: Rachel Lears

“One Child Nation” (Amazon Studios)
Dir: Nanfu Wang, Jialing Zhang

2019 DOC NYC Short List: Doc Shorts

“Fire in Paradise” (Netflix)
Dir: Drea Cooper and Zackary Canepari

“Ghosts of Sugar Land” (Netflix)
Dir: Bassam Tariq

“In the Absence” (Field of Vision)
Dir: Yi Seung-Jun

“Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (If You’re a Girl)” (Lifetime Films/A&E IndieFilms)
Dir: Carol Dysinger

“Little Miss Sumo” (Netflix)
Dir: Matt Kay

“Lost and Found” (National Geographic Documentary Films)
Dir: Orlando von Einsiedel

“Mack Wrestles” (ESPN Films)
Dir: Erin Sanger, Taylor Hess

“The Nightcrawlers” (National Geographic Documentary Films)
Dir: Alexander A. Mora

“Song of Parkland” (HBO Documentary Films)
Dir: Amy Shatz

“St. Louis Superman” (MTV Documentary Films)
Dir: Smitri Mundhra, Sami Kahn

“Stay Close” (New York Times Op-Docs/POV Shorts)
Dir: Luther Clement, Shuhan Fan

“Tungrus” (New York Times Op-Docs)
Dir: Rishi Chandra

Midnight Traveler movie

“Midnight Traveler”

New this year, the Winner’s Circle section was created to highlight films that have won major festival awards — in many cases, from Oscar-qualifying international festivals — but might fly below the radar of American audiences. Some have been distributed in American art house theaters; others have not.

“Winner’s Circle is full of hidden gems,” stated DOC NYC Director of Programming Basil Tsiokos, who oversees the section. “I look forward to our audience discovering why these films were beloved by juries and critics around the world.”

2019 DOC NYC Winner’s Circle

“Advocate” (Film Movement)
Dir: Rachel Leah Jones, Philippe Bellaïche
Winner: DocAviv (Israel), Krakow (Poland), Thessaloniki (Greece)

“Cold Case Hammarskjold” (Magnolia Pictures)
Dir: Mads Brügger
Winner: It’s All True (Brazil)

“The Fourth Kingdom” (EL CUARTO REINO)
Dir: Adán Aliaga, Àlex Lora Cercos
Winner: DocumentaMadrid (Spain)

“Hope Frozen”
Dir: Pailin Wedel
Winner: Hot Docs (Canada)

“Midnight Family” (1091 Media)
Dir: Luke Lorentzen
Winner: Sheffield (UK), Hong Kong

“Midnight Traveler” (Oscilloscope Laboratories)
Dir: Hassan Fazili
Winner: Doc Edge (New Zealand)

“Sea of Shadows” (National Geographic Documentary Films)
Dir: Richard Ladkani
Winner: Sundance Audience Award

Returning for its second year, DOC NYC’s 40 Under 40 list honors 40 documentary talents under the age of 40. The honorees span the documentary disciplines of directing, producing, editing, and cinematography and will attend two days of industry networking events at the DOC NYC PRO conference with a celebratory luncheon on Nov 12.

"Minding The Gap" subjects Keire Johnson and Zack Mulligan

“Minding The Gap” subjects Keire Johnson and Zack Mulligan


“The list represents a multitude of perspectives and backgrounds,” said Powers. “For funders, commissioning editors, and producers looking for new talent, this is an invaluable resource.”

The list ranges from past Oscar nominees such as Bing Liu (“Minding the Gap”) and RaMell Ross (“Hale County This Morning, This Evening”) to less known rising stars. Over half the list are women.

40 Under 40:

Cecilia Aldarondo, director/producer, “Memories of a Penitent Heart”
Puloma Basu, director/producer, “Other Music”
Alexandria Bombach, director, “On Her Shoulders”
Shane Boris, producer, “The Edge of Democracy”
Jamie Boyle, editor, “Jackson”
Jennifer Brea, director/producer, “Unrest”
Bryan Chang, producer, “Island Soldier”
Ian Cheney, director/producer, “Picture Character”
Lauren Cioffi, producer, “Jawline”
Erika Cohn, director/producer, “The Judge”
Cristina Costantini, director/producer, “Science Fair”
Trevor Davidoski, producer, “The Clinton Affair”
Bennett Elliott, producer, “Bisbee ‘17”
Lawrence Everson, sound editor, “American Factory”
Rob Hatch-Miller, director/producer, “Other Music”
Alan Hicks, director, “Quincy”
Yuqi Kang, director, “A Little Wisdom”
Bess Kargman, director, “First Position”
Sonia Kenneback, director/producer, “National Bird”
Sofian Khan, director/producer, “The Interpreters”
Amanda Lipitz, director/producer, “Step”
Bing Liu, director/producer/cinematographer, “Minding the Gap”
Ivete Lucas, director/producer/editor, “Pahokee”
Nicholas Ma, producer, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”
Crystal Moselle, director/producer, “The Wolfpack”
Kristina Motwani, co-editor, “Midnight Traveler”
Tadashi Nakamura, director/editor, “Mele Murals”
Anjali Nayar, director/producer, “Silas”
Nico Opper, director/producer, “The F Word”
Clair Popkin, cinematographer, “Inside Bill’s Brain: Decoding Bill Gates”
RaMell Ross, director/producer/editor/cinematographer, “Hale County This Morning, This Evening”
Deia Schlosberg, director/producer, “The Story of Plastic”
Martha Shane, director/producer, “Narrowsburg”
Yvonne M. Shirley, producer, “Black 14”
Erick Stoll, director/producer/cinematographer/editor, “América”
Kareem Tabsch, director/producer, “The Last Resort”
Izabella Tzenkova, producer, “Walking on Water”
Lindsay Utz, editor, “American Factory”
Chase Whiteside, director/producer/editor, “América”
Shuling Yong, cinematographer, “The Feeling of Being Watched”

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