Academy narrows best Oscar documentary list from 126 to 15 films

Ai Weiwei in a big pot

Today The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced 15 out of 126 films will advance to the next stage. Here are the 15 films (in alphabetical order by title) with their production companies (links to the films added):

(**) “Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry,” Never Sorry LLC
(*) “Bully,” The Bully Project LLC
(*) “Chasing Ice,” Exposure
(*) “Detropia,” Loki Films
(*) “Ethel,” Moxie Firecracker Films
(*) “5 Broken Cameras,” Guy DVD Films
(*) “The Gatekeepers,” Les Films du Poisson, Dror Moreh Productions, Cinephil
(*) “The House I Live In,” Charlotte Street Films, LLC
How to Survive a Plague,” How to Survive a Plague LLC
The Imposter,” Imposter Pictures Ltd.
(*) “The Invisible War,” Chain Camera Pictures
Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God,” Jigsaw Productions in association with Wider Film Projects and Below the Radar Films
Searching for Sugar Man,” Red Box Films
(*)* “This Is Not a Film,” Wide Management
(*) “The Waiting Room,” Open’hood, Inc.

These 15 films are now qualified for the documentary branch members to further narrow down to five nominees. Regrettably this reporter only has a chance to watch one of the above films Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry and I really enjoyed it. Documentary films are insightful sources to expand our views and sometimes world views. I am hope in the coming months to have chances to watch some of the above films, especially the ones I’ve put a “*” in front of.

Rory Kennedy’s (director of “Ethel”) reaction (via Variety) are I guess typical,

“I was just on an airplane — I just got off and got a call and I was very excited,” Kennedy told Variety. “It’s just an honor anytime to get shortlisted by the Academy — it’s a huge honor. Obviously, there are so many extraordinary documentaries out there.” 

This year’s rules changes in the selection process apparently lead to some controversy,

This year’s process, which involved narrowing a record 126 official submissions to the 15 semifinalists, came with controversy over rules changes that solved some problems while creating others.

Most notably, instead of using committees, each person in the 160-member documentary branch weighed in on the selections, a method that was theoretically more fair and more likely to keep worthy selections from being ignored, but inevitably tested voters’ abilities to see every project in consideration.

Academy governor Michael Moore, who helped instigate the changes, later expressed public regret over the mountain of entries. The Academy later revealed that each branch member was assigned 10 movies that they were to guarantee watching, to make sure every film project had some audience.“I think it’s not a perfect system, but it does kind of lend itself to more voices in the fray to vote on more films,” Kennedy said. “I think most people recognized they couldn’t watch all of the films. … Ultimately, it’s more important to have more voices to vote for all of the films, so I think in that sense the process succeeded.

“I think it needs to be tweaked, frankly, but I think the idea is to make it more democratic and more open. And I think that’s the direction it’s heading in I think is good.”On Twitter following the announcement, Moore called today’s shortlisted docs “a strong and incredible group of films.”

note: This article is cross-posted by me at examiner.

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