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Hollywood Contenders – The State of The Race: Looking at potential Best Documentary Feature contenders

weiner documentary
Ahoy there folks! For what might be my final installment of the annual category/contender rundown, I’m finishing up by again moving on from the big eight categories. Yes, I’m taking a look now at one of the in betweens, or as I call them “mini-majors”. This time out, that happens to be the rarely boring and highly unpredictable Best Documentary Feature race. Obviously, this is a rather hard one to pin down early on, but as always, I’m feeling up for the challenge. Take a gander below and obviously keep in mind that this one also will be more fluid than normal going forward, as lots is still to be decided. Also, I’ll make up my mind soon about if there’s another category getting this treatment. If not, I’ll be doubling back to the majors in the next month or two. For the moment though, check this piece out…

Here now are the five documentary films that I actually have currently cracking the unofficial lineup later on this year:

1. Weiner – An already timely documentary that has only gotten more timely with the recent news about Huma Abedin separating from Anthony Weiner. In my eyes, it’s the current doc to beat. Directors Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg captured something amazing here, with a captivating you are there approach to politic that we’ve never quite seen before. It’s one of the best things I’ve seen overall in 2016, so expect it to keep pushing forward towards Oscar glory. The category is a crapshoot, but barring something unusual, look for it to be a nominee.

2. The 13th – Debuting at the New York Film Festival, Ava DuVernay’s surprise doc is a potential frontrunner if it’s as good as expected. This look at the prison system and racial inequity in America is another timely pick, so if the NYFF premiere goes well, expect big things. DuVernay has the Selma snubs still fresh, so look for the Academy to potentially make it up to her here. I’ll be seeing it at the fest in the Opening Night spot, so stay tuned for more on it then…

3. OJ: Made in America – This long form doc, if it’s actually watched by voters, should seem like a safe bet. It caught on with pop culture too, which never hurts. Hell, this could even contend for the win. Director Ezra Edelman caught the wave of O.J. Simpson curiosity this year, so that can only help. The length might be an issue for some, but if the screener actually gets put on, it could be one of the more surprising nominees this time around.

4. Life, Animated – A heartwarming and occasionally heartbreaking documentary from Roger Ross Williams with a Disney twist. It tells the story of the Suskind family and how Disney’s animated catalogue helped Owen Suskind overcome a number of childhood difficulties. It’s a touching film, no doubt, and it’s another that will benefit if it gets seen. We shall see what happens, but Documentary Feature usually has a surprise or two in store for us. Sit tight to see what it is!

5. Voyage of Time – The real X factor this year is the long developing doc from Terrence Malick. He’s been in a rut to me, but this has been a long time coming and could be special. That puts it above perhaps a more traditional contender like Gleason, not to mention other contenders like Finding Oscar, Newtown, or Zero Days. It’s hard to know what to make of this one, but its look at the planet/universe could very well captivate. Anything is possible…

6th Annual AAFCA Awards Ceremony - Arrivals
Next in line I’d have these ten contenders (just sans my own personal commentary here) for Best Documentary Feature:

6. Gleason
7. Zero Days
8. Newtown
9. Finding Oscar
10. The Eagle Huntress
11. Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World
12. Command and Control
13. Jim: The James Foley Story
14. Cameraperson
15. Tickled

And here’s another small group to give you 30 contenders in total right now:

16. Abortion: Stories Women Tell
17. Into the Inferno
18. The Music of Strangers
19. Fire at Sea
20. The Turning Point
21. Tower
22. Audrie & Daisy
23. Sky Ladder: The Art of Cai Guo-Qiang
24. Amanda Knox
25. The Seasons in Quincy: Four Portraits of John Berger
26. Abacus
27. Trapped
28. The Ivory Game
29. Under the Gun
30. The Beatles: Eight Days a Week – The Touring Years

Stay tuned ladies and gentlemen, as I’ll be back here with new looks at all of the categories again pretty soon!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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