Best Documentary Feature:
Long one of the hardest categories to predict before nominations are released, with heavy favorites in years past like Won’t You Be My Neighbor? and Apollo 11 missing nominations entirely after dominating documentary discussions for their respective years, the category has been going through something of a shift recently as, like other categories, it has become more international, and documentaries have begun to break from being relegated solely to this one category. For the second year in a row, a foreign documentary has snagged nominations in both the Best Documentary and Best International Feature Film categories with Romanian Collective following last year’s Honeyland. Covering massive fraud discovered in Romania in the aftermath of a disastrous fire, Collective has found wide representation on best of the year lists. The Mole Agent similarly uncovers corruption abroad as it explores the mistreatment in a Chilean nursing home.
The Obamas show up as producers again this year with Crip Camp, a Netflix documentary about a camp for disabled teens in the 1970s while Netflix’s second nominee in the category is My Octopus Teacher, a beautiful look at a man’s friendship with an octopus in a South African kelp forest. Leading in most predictions is Amazon’s Time, a searing look at the American prison system following a woman fighting for her husband’s release from his 60 year prison sentence. As with many years, Best Documentary is one of the most interesting categories, even as many of its films remain unseen by many, as it covers a diverse range of issues and provides the truly global perspective the Academy has been attempting to move towards.
Best Documentary Short Subject:
In 40 minutes or fewer, the filmmakers behind the documentaries in the short subject category transport us to all the corners of the globe, highlighting the lives and struggles of people that would otherwise be unknown. Often directed by lesser known filmmakers with shoestring budgets, these films demonstrate commitment to the craft and the power of film to bring light to issues that may have never been seen otherwise.
This year notably sees the first ever Oscar nomination for a video game studio with Colette, a short documentary about a French Resistance member returning to Germany for the first time in 74 years where she visits the concentration camp her brother was murdered in. Further exploring the issues faced in the modern world, Do Not Split attempts to present a street level view of the protests going on in Hong Kong while Hunger Ward follows healthcare workers in Yemen attempting to save children in the famine stricken region. Closer to Americans, A Love Song for Latasha documents the events surrounding the 1991 killing of 15-year-old Latasha Harlins and the subsequent uprisings it spurred, often only described as the Rodney King riots. The final film in this year’s lineup is A Concerto Is a Conversation, a filmed conversation between Green Book composer Kris Bowers and his grandfather about his history.
Prediction: A Concerto Is a Conversation
Best Live Action Short Film:
When one looks at the films nominated for Best Live Action Short Film, there’s one that immediately sticks out: The Letter Room. The film stars Oscar Isaac, an A-list Hollywood actor. The film’s director is his wife, which answers the question of how this short film landed such a well-known actor in a category often known for its humble, wholesome films that bring light to lesser-known stories. Nonetheless, The Letter Room does just that, Isaac playing the role of a kind-hearted prison officer who eavesdrops on an inmate after working in the letter room.
Also a well-known figure, Joey Bada$$ plays the role of a man shot by a police officer who then experiences a Grounday Day-like series of events in the nominated film Two Distant Strangers. Inspired by a director’s meeting of a DeafBlind man in New York City is the film Feeling Through, notably the first film that stars a DeafBlind actor in a lead role. Israel and Palenstine each have a film nominated for this award, White Eye and The Present, respectively. White Eye is about a man who finds his stolen bicycle that now belongs to a stranger. Released just a few weeks ago on Netflix is The Present, featuring a father and daughter in the Israeli-occupied West Bank who try to buy a wedding anniversary gift.
Prediction: The Letter Room