Two octogenarian filmmakers make the list, but Turkish kitties are cut
The Oscar race for best documentary feature has been narrowed to 15 films, culled from a record-setting group of 170 qualifiers.
Agnès Varda claimed one of the 15 spots for her film Faces Places, co-directed by the street artist JR. At 89, Varda stands to become one of the oldest Oscar nominees in history if she makes the final five. At age 87, Frederick Wiseman is just a wee bit younger than Varda. He made the feature shortlist for his documentary Ex Libris: The New York Public Library.
The Oscar nominations will be announced January 23, 2018. The ceremony will be held Sunday, March 4, 2018.
Two films about the Syrian civil war made the list, including Matthew Heineman's City of Ghosts, his documentary about citizen journalists in Raqqa who have risked their lives to report on the ISIS takeover of their city. Last Men in Aleppo also made the cut, Feras Fayyad's searing film on the White Helmets of Aleppo who rush to the aid of victims injured in relentless bombing attacks by Russian warplanes and Syrian government forces.
But two other prominent documentaries about Syria were left off the shortlist: Hell on Earth: The Fall of Syria and the Rise of ISIS directed by Sebastian Junger and Nick Quested, and Cries From Syria, by Evgeny Afineevsky.
Nine of the 15 shortlisted docs:
Among the other surprise omissions from the shortlist was Kedi, director Ceyda Torun's charming film on the street cats of her native Istanbul. Kedi has factored on a number of critics "best of 2017" lists, and it won best first documentary at the Critics' Choice Documentary Awards last month.
Dina, the acclaimed documentary by Dan Sickles and Antonio Santini, also failed to make the shortlist, despite earning an IDA Award nomination for best documentary. Last January Dina won the grand jury prize for U.S. documentary at the Sundance Film Festival.
Two environmental-themed documentaries earned spots among the top 15: Chasing Coral directed by Jeff Orlowski and An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power. Chasing Coral examines the threat to coral reefs worldwide posed by rising ocean temperatures; An Inconvenient Sequel documents Al Gore's continued efforts to warn the world about the dangers of climate change.
The remaining six films to make the documentary shortlist:
Two films made the shortlist that have figured prominently in pre-Oscar awards shows: Jane, director Brett Morgen's portrait of primatologist Jane Goodall, and Strong Island, Yance Ford's personal and powerful story of his brother's racially-charged killing a quarter century ago.
Human Flow's appearance on the shortlist must be counted as a mild surprise because it has not factored in as many of the early critics "best of" lists as some of the other shortlisted docs. Chinese artist and filmmaker Ai Weiwei directed the film that examines the world refugee crisis, which has seen 65 million people driven from their homes -- the highest total since the end of World War II.
The Academy's Documentary Branch voted to determine the feature shortlist. Branch members will also select the final five Oscar nominees, which will be announced on January 23, 2018. The Oscar ceremony will take place March 4, 2018.
This is the full list of 15 films on the Oscar shortlist:
“Abacus: Small Enough to Jail,” Mitten Media, Motto Pictures, Kartemquin Educational Films
“Chasing Coral,” Exposure Labs in partnership with The Ocean Agency & View Into the Blue
in association with Argent Pictures & The Kendeda Fund
“City of Ghosts,” Our Time Projects and Jigsaw Productions
“Ex Libris – The New York Public Library,” Ex Libris Films
“Faces Places,” Ciné Tamaris
“Human Flow,” Participant Media and AC Films
“Icarus,” Netflix Documentary in association with Impact Partners, Diamond Docs, Chicago
Media Project and Alex Productions
“An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power,” Paramount Pictures and Participant Media
“Jane,” National Geographic Studios in association with Public Road Productions
“LA 92,” Lightbox
“Last Men in Aleppo,” Larm Film
“Long Strange Trip,” Double E Pictures, AOMA Sunshine Films and Sikelia
“One of Us,” Loki Films
“Strong Island,” Yanceville Films and Louverture Films
“Unrest,” Shella Films and Little by Little Films
Photos of the filmmakers recognized on the Oscar doc shortlist:
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.