Omissions More Than Inclusions Highlight Documentary Oscar Shortlist

Late yesterday the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences released their list of 15 documentaries that are in contention for the five nomination slots for this year’s Academy Awards. The Academy narrowed down their list to 15 possible nominees from 124 pictures that met the Best Documentary category’s eligibility rules. While you can see the complete list of films named below, there are a few that you may be surprised to note that aren’t on the list.

Chief among the omissions is Hoop Dreams director Steve James’ The Interrupters. His film about former Chicago gang members who now work to stop violence on the streets earned an impressive 99% approval at Rotten Tomatoes. This is not the first time that James has been overlooked by the Academy. Hoop Dreams had earned nearly the same level of praise with a 98% on Rotten Tomatoes and perhaps even more of a level of commercial success but it too was bypassed for a nomination.

German director Werner Herzog was overlooked by the Academy for the second year in a row – this year for his examination of two men found guilty for a murder but who received different sentences, Into The Abyss, and last year for Cave Of Forgotten Dreams about the Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc Cave in southern France which contains the earliest known cave paintings. The Academy did put on the documentary shortlist fellow German director Wim Wenders’ Pina even though it is already Germany’s official entry in the Best Foreign Language Film category.

Bigger name documentarians such as Morgan Spurlock and Errol Morris are also absent from the list. While Spurlock’s Pom Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold may not be the best work from the director, it may be the fact that the film takes a look at something the Hollywood establishment would rather you not see, i.e., the process of product placement in films, that has kept it off this year’s list. Morris’s Tabloid didn’t make the cut, even though with a 92% rating at Rotten Tomatoes it still placed higher than five other docs that did earn a spot on the shortlist – Pina (88%), Buck (87%), If A Tree Falls (87%), Battle For Brooklyn (75%) and Jane’s Journey (45%).

The final five nominees will be announce on January 24, 2012 with the Oscars being presented on February 26, 2012.

The complete list of film’s eligible for the five nominations are –

  • Battle for Brooklyn
  • Bill Cunningham New York
  • Buck
  • Hell and Back Again
  • If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front
  • Jane’s Journey
  • The Loving Story
  • Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory
  • Pina
  • Project Nim
  • Semper Fi: Always Faithful
  • Sing Your Song
  • Undefeated
  • Under Fire: Journalists in Combat
  • We Were Here
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About Rich Drees 7023 Articles
A film fan since he first saw that Rebel Blockade Runner fleeing the massive Imperial Star Destroyer at the tender age of 8 and a veteran freelance journalist with twenty-five years experience writing about film and pop culture. He is a member of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle.
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