Academy announces 166 documentaries qualify for Oscar consideration; 'RBG,' Mister Rogers doc in the mix
The 166 total of qualifiers falls just short of record established last year
The Motion Picture Academy on Thursday revealed a list of 166 feature documentary films that have qualified for Oscar consideration this year, the second highest total ever.
As expected, the biggest box office hits of the year made the cut, including Morgan Neville's Won't You Be My Neighbor?, RBG by Betsy West and Julie Cohen and Tim Wardle's smash documentary Three Identical Strangers. Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 11/9 and Free Solo, by directors E. Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin, which have earned more than $6 million apiece theatrically, also qualified.
In the past to qualify for the Oscars, a feature documentary had to play in cinemas in New York and Los Angeles for at least a week. The Academy loosened requirements this year, noting in a press release, "For the first time, films that have won a qualifying award at a competitive film festival or have been submitted in the Foreign Language Film category as their country’s official selection, are also eligible in the category."
Consistent with previous years, any documentary that premieres on television or VOD before getting a theatrical release is deemed ineligible. And the "O.J." rule is still in place, adopted after Ezra Edelman's nearly eight-hour long O.J.: Made in America won the Oscar for Best Documentary in 2017. Some considered it more of a multi-part series than a single film and Academy rules now expressly prohibit "multi-part or limited series" works from consideration.
Among the surprises on the Oscar qualifying list was the absence of Errol Morris' documentary American Dharma, about former Trump adviser Steve Bannon. It premiered at the Venice Film Festival and later screened at TIFF and the New York Film Festival. But it apparently has not been submitted for consideration this year, leaving open the possibility that it will resurface next year.
Posters for some of the films to qualify for Oscar consideration this year.
Matthew Carey is a documentary filmmaker and journalist. His work has appeared on Deadline.com, CNN, CNN.com, TheWrap.com, NBCNews.com and in Documentary magazine.