Oscars Predictions: Best Documentary Feature

Oscars Predictions: Best Documentary Feature – Too Many Political Documentaries for the Academy in This Climate?

By Clayton Davis

In this political climate, and big wins in the Senate race in Georgia could have the documentary branch members be attracted to those examinations or run far from it. Even if they do embrace them, how many will they check off? “Time” currently leads in documentary feature wins but as we’ve learned with “Apollo 11,” “Jane” and “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” being the frontrunner is never a good thing and it could be one of the big misses on the morning. Georgia victories have likely bestowed a big light on “All In: The Fight for Democracy,” which would make Stacey Abrams an Oscar nominee. Not bad after the year we had, eh? Laura Dern’s name and the heir of Obama’s legacy could also help “The Way I See It” but with two Dawn Porter documentaries in the mix, which one will make it in the end? 20 films will be shortlisted in February so prepare for something big (or small) to miss (or enter the fray).


1. "Dick Johnson Is Dead" (Netflix)
Katy Chevigny, Marilyn Ness, Kirsten Johnson
OSCAR HISTORY: Never nominated
DIRECTOR: Kirsten Johnson
SYNOPSIS: A daughter helps her father prepare for the end of his life.
STARRING: Michael Hilow, Ana Hoffman, Dick Johnson

2. "All In: The Fight for Democracy" (Amazon Studios)
Liz Garbus, Lisa Cortés, Dan Cogan, Stacey Abrams
Garbus: 2 nominations (1998's "The Farm: Angola, USA")
Cortés: Never nominated
Cogan: 1 nomination, 1 win (2017's "Icarus")
Abrams: Never nominated
DIRECTOR: Liz Garbus, Lisa Cortés
SYNOPSIS: The documentary takes a look at the history, and current activism against voter suppression; barriers to voting that most people don't even know is a threat to their basic rights as citizens of the United States.
STARRING: Stacey Abrams, Debo Adegbile, Jayla Allen

3. "The Truffle Hunters" (Sony Pictures Classics)
Michael Dweck, Gregory Kershaw

OSCAR HISTORY: Never nominated
DIRECTOR: Michael Dweck, Gregory Kershaw
SYNOPSIS: Deep in the forests of Piedmont, Italy, a handful of men, seventy or eighty years young, hunt for the rare and expensive white Alba truffle-which to date has resisted all of modern science's efforts at cultivation.
STARRING: Piero Botto, Sergio Cauda, Maria Cicciù

4. "The Way I See It" (Focus Features)
Dawn Porter, Laura Dern, Evan Hayes, Jayme Lemons Lee
Porter: Never nominated
Dern: 3 nominations, 1 win (2019's "Marriage Story" in supporting actress)
Hayes: 1 nomination, 1 win (2018's "Free Solo")
Lee: Never nominated
DIRECTOR: Dawn Porter
SYNOPSIS: Former Chief Official White House Photographer Pete Souza's journey as a person with top secret clearance and total access to the President.
STARRING: Pete Souza, Barack Obama, Ben Rhodes Lewis

5. "Time" (Amazon Studios)
Lauren Domino, Kellen Quinn, Garrett Bradley
OSCAR HISTORY: Never nominated
DIRECTOR: Garrett Bradley
SYNOPSIS: Fox Rich fights for the release of her husband, Rob, who is serving a 60-year sentence in prison.
STARRING: Rob Rich II, Fox Rich


6. "Welcome to Chechnya" (HBO)
David France, Alice Henty, Askold Kurov, Joy A. Tomchin
France: 1 nomination (2012's "How to Survive a Plague")
Henty: Never nominated
Kurov: Never nominated
Tomchin: 1 nomination (2012's "How to Survive a Plague")
DIRECTOR: David France
SYNOPSIS: A group of activists risk their lives fighting for LGBTQ+ rights in Chechnya.
STARRING: Olga Baranova, David Isteev, Maxim Lapunov

7. "Boys State" (Apple TV Plus)
Amanda McBaine, Jesse Moss
OSCAR HISTORY: Never nominated
DIRECTOR: Amanda McBaine, Jesse Moss
SYNOPSIS: A thousand 17-year-old boys from Texas join together to build a representative government from the ground up.
STARRING:Ben Feinstein, Steven Garza, Robert MacDougall

8. "Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution" (Netflix)
Nicole Newnham, James Lebrecht, Sara Bolder Hittman
OSCAR HISTORY:: Never nominated
DIRECTOR: Nicole Newnham, James Lebrecht
SYNOPSIS: Down the road from Woodstock, a revolution blossomed at a ramshackle summer camp for teenagers with disabilities, transforming their lives and igniting a landmark movement.
STARRING: S Larry Allison, Dennis Billups, William Bronston

9. "Collective" (Magnolia Pictures and Participant)
Alexander Nanau, Bernard Michaux, Hanka Kastelicová, Bianca Oana
OSCAR HISTORY: Never nominated
DIRECTOR: Alexander Nanau
SYNOPSIS: Director Alexander Nanau follows a crack team of investigators at the Romanian newspaper Gazeta Sporturilor as they try to uncover a vast health-care fraud that enriched moguls and politicians and led to the deaths of innocent citizens.
STARRING: Razvan Lutac, Mirela Neag, Catalin Tolontan

10. "John Lewis: Good Trouble" (Magnolia Pictures and Participant)
Laura Michalchyshyn, Dawn Porter, Erika Alexander, Ben Arnon
OSCAR HISTORY: Never nominated
DIRECTOR: Dawn Porter
SYNOPSIS: The film explores Georgia representative's, 60-plus years of social activism and legislative action on civil rights, voting rights, gun control, health care reform, and immigration.
STARRING: Elijah Cummings, Anthony Johnson, Hillary Clinton


11. "Totally Under Control" (Neon)
Alex Gibney, Ophelia Harutyunyan , Suzanne Hillinger
Gibney: 2 nominations, 1 win (2007's "Taxi to the Dark Side")
Harutyunuan: Never nominated
Hillinger: Never nominated
DIRECTOR: Alex Gibney, Ophelia Harutyunyan , Suzanne Hillinger
SYNOPSIS: An in-depth look at how the United States government handled the response to the COVID-19 outbreak during the early months of the pandemic.
STARRING: Alex Azar, Charlie Baker, Scott Becker

12. "MLK/FBI" (IFC Films)
Benjamin Hedin, Sam Pollard
OSCAR HISTORY: Never nominated
DIRECTOR: Sam Pollard
SYNOPSIS: Based on newly declassified files, Sam Pollard's resonant film explores the US government's surveillance and harassment of Martin Luther King, Jr.
STARRING: James Comey, Beverly Gage, Martin Luther King

13. "On the Record" (HBO Max)
Kirby Dick, Amy Ziering, Amy Herdy, Jamie Rogers
Kirby: 2 nominations (2013's "The Invisible War" and 2005's "Twist of Faith")
Ziering: 1 nomination (2013's "The Invisible War")
Herdy: Never nominated
Rogers: Never nominated
DIRECTOR: Kirby Dick, Amy Ziering
SYNOPSIS: A former hip hop executive decides whether to make public her rape by one of the most powerful men in the music industry.
STARRING: Sil Lai Abrams, Tarana Burke, Kimberle Crenshaw

14. "The Painter and the Thief" (Neon)
Ingvil Giske, Benjamin Reel
OSCAR HISTORY: Never nominated
DIRECTOR: Benjamin Ree
SYNOPSIS: An artist befriends the thief who stole her paintings. She becomes his closest ally when he is severely hurt in a car crash and needs full time care, even if her paintings are not found. But then the tables turn.
STARRING: Karl Bertil-Nordland, Barbora Kysilkova, Øystein Stene

15. "The Mole Agent" (Gravitas Ventures)
Marcela Santibañez, Maite Alberdi
OSCAR HISTORY: Never nominated
DIRECTOR: Maite Alberdi
SYNOPSIS: A private investigator in Chile hires someone to work as a mole at a retirement home where a client of his suspects the caretakers of elder abuse.
STARRING: Romulo Aitken, Sergio Chamy

16. "Athlete A" (Netflix)
Serin Marshall, Jen Sey, Julie Parker Benello, Bonni Cohen, Jon Shenk
OSCAR HISTORY: Never nominated
DIRECTOR: Bonni Cohen, Jon Shenk
SYNOPSIS: Follow the Indianapolis Star reporters that broke the story about USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar's abuse and hear from gymnasts like Maggie Nichols.
STARRING: Maggie Nichols, Gina Nichols, John Nichols

17. "A Thousand Cuts" (PBS Distribution and FRONTLINE PBS)
Julie Goldman, Christopher Clements, Carolyn Hepburn, Ramona S. Diaz, Leah Marino
OSCAR HISTORY:: Never nominated
DIRECTOR: Ramona S. Diaz
SYNOPSIS: A look at how Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte uses social media to spread disinformation.
STARRING: Amal Clooney, Ronaldo 'Bato' Dela Rosa, Rodrigo R. Duterte

18. "76 Days" (MTV Documentary Films)
Hao Wu, Jean Tsien
OSCAR HISTORY: Never nominated
DIRECTOR: Hao Wu, Jean Tsien, Anonymous
SYNOPSIS: Raw and intimate, this documentary captures the struggles of patients and frontline medical professionals battling the COVID-19 pandemic in Wuhan.

19. "Gunda" (Neon)
Anita Rehoff Larsen, ,Viktor Kossakovsky
OSCAR HISTORY: Never nominated
DIRECTOR: Viktor Kossakovsky
SYNOPSIS: Documentary looks at the daily life of a pig and its farm animal companions: two cows and a one-legged chicken.

20. "Rebuilding Paradise" (National Geographic Films)
Ron Howard, Brian Grazer, Xan Parker, Sara Bernstein, Justin Wilkes
OSCAR HISTORY: 3 nominations
DIRECTOR: Ron Howard
SYNOPSIS: The community of Paradise, California, a town in the Sierra Nevada foothills, attempts to rebuild after devastating wildfires in 2018.
STARRING: Erin Brockovich-Ellis, Matt Gates, Michelle John


21. "Kingdom of Silence" (Showtime)
Sam Black, Trevor Davidoski, Rick Rowley
OSCAR HISTORY: Never nominated
DIRECTOR: Rick Rowley
SYNOPSIS: An in-depth look at Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi's life, work, and murder. Featuring interviews and footage that explore his personal and professional relationships with Saudi rulers, jihadists and fellow global journalists.
STARRING: Nasser Faris, Lawrence Wright, Jamal Khashoggi

22. "The Dissident" (Briarcliff Entertainment)
Bryan Fogel, Jake Swantko, Mark Monroe, Thor Halvorssen
OSCAR HISTORY:: Never nominated
DIRECTOR: Bryan Fogel
SYNOPSIS: When Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi disappears in Istanbul, his fiancée and dissidents around the world piece together the clues to a murder and expose a global cover up.
STARRING: Omar Abdulaziz, Fahrettin Altun, John O. Brennan

23. "Mr. Soul!" (Shoes in the Bed Productions)
Melissa Haizlip
OSCAR HISTORY:: Never nominated
DIRECTOR: Melissa Haizlip
SYNOPSIS: Before Oprah, before Arsenio, there was Mr. Soul! Ellis Haizlip ensures the Revolution will be televised, with "soul," America's first "Black Tonight Show." From 1968 to 1973, the public-television variety show SOUL!, guided by the enigmatic, openly gay producer and host Ellis Haizlip, offered an unfiltered, uncompromising celebration of Black literature, poetry, music, and politics—voices that had few other options for national exposure, and, as a result, found the program an improbable place to call home.
STARRING: Questlove, Sidney Poitier, Blair Underwood

24. "My Octopus Teacher" (Netflix)
Pippa Ehrlich, James Reed
OSCAR HISTORY:: Never nominated
DIRECTOR: Pippa Ehrlich, James Reed
SYNOPSIS: A filmmaker forges an unusual friendship with an octopus living in a South African kelp forest, learning as the animal shares the mysteries of her world.
STARRING: Craig Foster, Tom Foster

25. "Acasa, My Home" (Kino Lorber)
Radu Ciorniciuc, Alina David, Erkko Lyytinen, Monica Lãzurean-Gorgan
OSCAR HISTORY: Never nominated
DIRECTOR: Radu Ciorniciuc
SYNOPSIS: In the wilderness of the Bucharest Delta, nine children and their parents lived in perfect harmony with nature for 20 years until they are chased out and forced to adapt to life in the big city.
STARRING: Gica Enache, Vali Enache, Rica Enache

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