Oscars 2018: Best Documentary Feature Shortlist

Our next shortlist is Best Documentary Feature. If we’re gonna get into the ones that require effort, let’s at least go for the one that requires the most first.

There were 166 films submitted, and they’ve whittled us down to 15. I’ve watched more documentaries over the past couple of years, and have even gotten over some of my aversion to them. That said, I still prefer ones about nonsense to important ones, but that’s just my own personal taste.

Still, I feel like this year, there are at least two or three that are really obvious major contenders, so it’s really only gonna come down to whether or not they leave them off, or if this one’s gonna be cut and dry all the way through. Only one way to find out.

Here’s your shortlist for Best Documentary Feature:

Charm City
Crime + Punishment
Dark Money
The Distant Barking of Dogs
Free Solo
Hale County This Morning, This Evening
Minding the Gap
Of Fathers and Sons
On Her Shoulders
The Silence of Others
Three Identical Strangers
Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

Charm City — On the streets of Baltimore, shooting is rampant, the murder rate is approaching an all-time high and the distrust of the police is at a fever pitch. With nerves frayed and neighborhoods in distress, dedicated community leaders, compassionate law-enforcement officers and a progressive young citcouncilman try to stem the epidemic of violence.

Communion — Ola, a 14-year-old girl, takes care of her dysfunctional father, autistic brother, and a mother who doesn’t live with them and tries to reunite the family.

Crime + Punishment — A group of brave NYPD officers risk it all to expose the truth about illegal quota practices in police departments.

Dark Money — Examines one of the greatest present threats to American democracy: the influence of untraceable corporate money on our elections and elected officials. The film takes viewers to Montana–a front line in the fight to preserve fair elections nationwide–to follow an intrepid local journalist working to expose the real-life impact of the US Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. Through this gripping story, DARK MONEY uncovers the shocking and vital truth of how American elections are bought and sold. This Sundance award-winning documentary is directed/produced by Kimberly Reed (PRODIGAL SONS) and produced by Katy Chevigny (E-TEAM).

The Distant Barking of Dogs –Set in Eastern Ukraine on the frontline of the war. The film follows the life of 10-year-old Ukrainian boy Oleg throughout a year, witnessing the gradual erosion of his innocence beneath the pressures of war. Oleg lives with his beloved grandmother, Alexandra, in the small village of Hnutove. Having no other place to go, Oleg and Alexandra stay and watch as others leave the village. Life becomes increasingly difficult with each passing day, and the war offers no end in sight. In this now half-deserted village where Oleg and Alexandra are the only true constants in each other’s lives, the film shows just how fragile, but crucial, close relationships are for survival. Through Oleg’s perspective, the film examines what it means to grow up in a war zone. It portrays how a child’s universal struggle to discover what the world is about grows interlaced with all the dangers and challenges the war presents. Thus, THE DISTANT BARKING OF DOGS unveils the consequences of war bearing down on the children in Eastern Ukraine, and by natural extension, the scars and self-taught life lessons this generation will carry with them into the future.

Free Solo — Follow Alex Honnold as he becomes the first person to ever free solo climb Yosemite’s 3,000ft high El Capitan Wall. With no ropes or safety gear, he completed arguably the greatest feat in rock climbing history.

Hale County This Morning, This Evening — Composed of intimate and unencumbered moments of people in a community, this film is constructed in a form that allows the viewer an emotive impression of the Historic South – trumpeting the beauty of life and consequences of the social construction of race, while simultaneously a testament to dreaming.

Minding the Gap — Three young men bond together to escape volatile families in their Rust-Belt hometown. As they face adult responsibilities, unexpected revelations threaten their decade-long friendship.

Of Fathers and Sons — Talal Derki returns to his homeland where he gains the trust of a radical Islamist family, sharing their daily life for over two years. His camera is providing an extremely rare insight into what it means to grow up in an Islamic Caliphate.

On Her Shoulders — Nadia Murad, a 23-year-old Yazidi, survived genocide and sexual slavery committed by ISIS. Repeating her story to the world, this ordinary girl finds herself thrust onto the international stage as the voice of her people.

RBG — The Ruth Bader Ginsburg documentary.

Shirkers — In 1992, teenager Sandi Tan and her friends Sophie and Jasmine shot Singapore’s first indie-a road movie called “Shirkers”-with their enigmatic American mentor, Georges Cardona. Sandi wrote the script and played the lead, a killer named S. After shooting wrapped, Georges vanished with all the footage! 20 years later, the 16mm cans are recovered in New Orleans, sending Sandi-now a novelist in Los Angeles-on a new personal odyssey across two continents and many media: 16mm, digital, Hi8, Super8, slides, animation and handwritten letters. A kaleidoscopic punk rock ghost story!

The Silence of Others — Reveals the epic struggle of victims of Spain’s 40-year dictatorship under General Franco, who continue to seek justice to this day. Filmed over six years, the film follows the survivors as they organize the groundbreaking ‘Argentine Lawsuit’ and fight a state-imposed amnesia of crimes against humanity, and explores a country still divided four decades into democracy. Seven years in the making, The Silence of Others is the second documentary feature by Emmy-winning filmmakers Almudena Carracedo and Robert Bahar (Made in L.A.). It is being Executive Produced by Pedro Almodóvar, Agustín Almodóvar, and Esther García.

Three Identical Strangers — In 1980 New York, three young men who were all adopted meet each other and find out they’re triplets who were separated at birth. Then they discover why.

Won’t You Be My Neighbor? — It’s the Mr. Rogers documentary. You fucking know what this is.

– – – – – – – – –

So yeah, that’s the rundown of what these are about.

I’ve seen… five of these. So not bad. I’ve seen Won’t You Be My Neighbor, Three Identical Strangers, RBG, Shirkers and Free Solo.

I now have or can easily see Minding the Gap, Crime + Punishment and Dark Money. But that only takes me to the halfway point. So I’ll see what I can get watched in a month.

That said, I fully expect Won’t You Be My Neighbor and RBG to make it on. Three Identical Strangers seems likely, but it not a given (nothing’s a given in this category). Shirkers seems unlikely to make the final, as does Free Solo. I’m not totally ruling out Free Solo, but my guess is they won’t nominate it.

Of the rest, which I’m basing solely on what little I know about them:

Charm City is 50/50. My gut says no, but I’ll leave it solidly as a maybe until I see it.

Communion. Probably not, but until I see it I can’t fully rule it out.

Crime + Punishment seems a bit too slight for the category, but I could be wrong. I’ll see it soon enough to know for sure.

Dark Money — possible, but I gotta see how it plays.

Distant Barking of Dogs — My gut says no, but who the hell knows anymore.

Hale County I’ve heard of. People love this. I’ll need to see it, but that’s a maybe to probably right now.

Minding the Gap I heard is very good. That also is a distinct possibility.

Of Fathers and Sons — could be too narrow for them. But if it’s really strong, they could nominate it.

On Her Shoulders certainly seems like them. That seems like a distinct possibility as well.

The Silence of Others — probably not.

Again, this is all based on just about nothing at this point.

– – – – – – – – –

Picking a category out of my ass now, having seen only a third of the potential nominees:

Minding the Gap

On Her Shoulders


Three Identical Strangers

Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

This will 100% be completely wrong. Documentary always throws you curveballs.

Though you know what I do find very interesting here — after a year where they dominated this category, Netflix only has one movie on this list: Shirkers. So 1) don’t rule out Shirkers, and 2) do you think they had a backlash against Netflix because of how easily they got stuff on in the past? No idea if that’s remotely true or even plausible, but it is a steep dropoff considering it felt like they comprised so much of this category in recent years.

Anyway, I’m gonna go watch more of these and probably revisit this all later once I have.

More shortlists coming.

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