List shatters previous high; contenders include Sundance, SXSW and Cannes doc winners
A record 170 feature-length documentaries will contend for the best documentary Oscar this year, the Motion Picture Academy announced on Friday. That far outpaced the previous record of 151 feature docs set in 2013.
"Several of the films have not yet had their required Los Angeles and New York qualifying releases," the Academy noted in a press release, but most screened in theaters earlier in the year and some are now playing -- including Brett Morgen's Jane and SXSW-winner The Work by Jairus McLeary.
Among the many notable films to qualify are Faces Places by 89-year-old director Agnès Varda and her 33-year-old co-director, known simply as JR. The documentary, in which the filmmakers undertake a road trip around France in JR's customized van/mobile photo booth, won the top prize for documentary at the Cannes Film Festival in May. Varda -- a pioneer of French New Wave cinema -- has previously been announced as a recipient of an honorary Academy Award, which will be presented to her in November.
Dina, directed by Dan Sickles and Antonio Santini, made the cut. It won the grand jury prize for a U.S. documentary at the Sundance Film Festival last January.
Strong Island, a winner of a Sundance special jury award for storytelling, joined the list of eligible films. Yance Ford directed the searing tale on the death of her brother, an unarmed African-American man, killed by a white man who went unpunished and uncharged. It has already collected nominations for best documentary from the Gotham Independent Film Awards and the Critics Choice Documentary Awards.
Related: Inside the Oscar contenders (click on image for full story)
Matthew Carey is a documentary filmmaker and journalist. His work has appeared on CNN, CNN.com, TheWrap.com, NBCNews.com and Documentary.org.