Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature

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Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature
Country United States
Presented by Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
Currently held by Morgan Neville
Gil Friesen
Caitrin Rogers
20 Feet from Stardom (2013)
Official website http://www.oscars.org

The Academy Award for Documentary Feature is an award for documentary films.

Winners and nominees[edit]

Following the Academy's practice, films are listed below by the award year (that is, the year they were released under the Academy's rules for eligibility). In practice, due to the limited nature of documentary distribution, a film may be released in different years in different venues, sometimes years after production is complete.

1940s[edit]

In 1942, there was one Documentary category, twenty-five nominees and four winners.

  • Nominees:
    • Africa, Prelude to Victory
    • Combat Report
    • Conquer by the Clock
    • The Grain That Built a Hemisphere
    • Henry Browne, Farmer
    • High Over the Borders
    • High Stakes in the East
    • Inside Fighting China
    • It's Everybody's War
    • Listen to Britain
    • Little Belgium
    • Little Isles of Freedom
    • Mr. Blabbermouth!
    • Mister Gardenia Jones
    • The New Spirit
    • The Price of Victory
    • A Ship Is Born
    • Twenty-One Miles
    • We Refuse to Die
    • The White Eagle
    • Winning Your Wings

From 1943 there were two separate documentary categories (features and short films)

1950s[edit]

1960s[edit]

1970s[edit]

1980s[edit]

Year Film Name(s)
1980
(53rd)
From Mao to Mozart: Isaac Stern in China Murray Lerner
Agee Ross Spears
The Day After Trinity Jon Else
Front Line David Bradbury
The Yellow Star – The Persecution of the Jews in Europe 1933-45 Dieter Hildebrandt
1981
(54th)
Genocide Arnold Schwartzman
Against Wind and Tide: A Cuban Odyssey John Brousek
Brooklyn Bridge Ken Burns
Eight Minutes to Midnight: A Portrait of Dr. Helen Caldicott Mary Benjamin
El Salvador: Another Vietnam Glenn Silber
1982
(55th)
Just Another Missing Kid John Zaritsky
A Portrait of Giselle Muriel Balash
After the Axe Sturla Gunnarsson
Ben's Mill Michel Chalufour and John Karol
In Our Water Meg Switzgable
1983
(56th)
He Makes Me Feel Like Dancin' Emile Ardolino
Children of Darkness Ara Chekmayan and Richard Kotuk
First Contact Robin Anderson and Bob Connolly
The Profession of Arms Michael Bryans and Tina Viljoen
Seeing Red Jim Klein and Julia Reichert
1984
(57th)
The Times of Harvey Milk Rob Epstein
High Schools Charles Guggenheim
In the Name of the People Frank Christopher
Marlene Maximilian Schell
Streetwise Martin Bell
1985
(58th)
Broken Rainbow Maria Floria and Victoria Mudd
The Mothers of Plaza de Mayo Susana Blaustein Muñoz and Lourdes Portillo
Soldiers in Hiding Malcolm Clarke
The Statue of Liberty Ken Burns
Unfinished Business Steven Okazaki
1986
(59th)
Artie Shaw: Time Is All You've Got (tie) Brigitte Berman
Down and Out in America (tie) Lee Grant
Chile: Hasta Cuando? David Bradbury
Isaac in America: A Journey with Isaac Bashevis Singer Amram Nowak
Witness to Apartheid Sharon I. Sopher
1987
(60th)
The Ten-Year Lunch Aviva Slesin
Eyes on the Prize Henry Hampton
Hellfire: A Journey from Hiroshima Michael Camerini, John Junkerman and James MacDonald
Radio Bikini Robert Stone
A Stitch for Time Nigel Noble
1988
(61st)
Hôtel Terminus: The Life and Times of Klaus Barbie Marcel Ophüls
The Cry of Reason: Beyers Naude – An Afrikaner Speaks Out Robert Bilheimer
Let's Get Lost Bruce Weber
Promises to Keep Ginny Durrin
Who Killed Vincent Chin? Christine Choy and Renee Tajima-Peña
1989
(62nd)
Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt Rob Epstein and Bill Couturié
Adam Clayton Powell Richard Kilberg
Crack USA: County Under Siege Vince DiPersio and William Guttentag
For All Mankind Al Reinert
Super Chief: The Life and Legacy of Earl Warren Judith Leonard and Bill Jersey

1990s[edit]

Year Film Name(s)
1990
(63rd)
American Dream Barbara Kopple and Arthur Cohn
Berkeley in the Sixties Mark Kitchell
Building Bombs Mark Mori and Susan Robinson
Forever Activists: Stories from the Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade Judith Montell
Waldo Salt: A Screenwriter's Journey Robert Hillmann and Eugene Corr
1991
(64th)
In the Shadow of the Stars Allie Light and Irving Saraf
Death on the Job Vince DiPersio and William Guttentag
Doing Time: Life Inside the Big House Alan Raymond and Susan Raymond
The Restless Conscience: Resistance to Hitler Within Germany 1933-1945 Hava Kohav Beller
Wild by Law Lawrence Hott and Diane Garey
1992
(65th)
The Panama Deception Barbara Trent and David Kasper
Changing Our Minds: The Story of Dr. Evelyn Hooker David Haugland
Fires of Kuwait Sally Dundas
Liberators: Fighting on Two Fronts in World War II Bill Miles and Nina Rosenblum
Music for the Movies: Bernard Herrmann Margaret Smilow and Roma Baran
1993
(66th)
I Am a Promise: The Children of Stanton Elementary School Susan Raymond and Alan Raymond
The Broadcast Tapes of Dr. Peter David Paperny and Arthur Ginsberg
Children of Fate Susan Todd and Andrew Young
For Better or For Worse David Collier and Betsy Thompson
The War Room D. A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus
1994
(67th)
Maya Lin: A Strong Clear Vision Freida Lee Mock
Complaints of a Dutiful Daughter Deborah Hoffmann
D-Day Remembered Charles Guggenheim
Freedom on My Mind Connie Field and Marilyn Mulford
A Great Day in Harlem Jean Bach
1995
(68th)
Anne Frank Remembered Jon Blair
The Battle Over Citizen Kane Thomas Lennon and Michael Epstein
Fiddlefest: Roberta Tzavaras and Her East Harlem Violin Program Allan Miller and Walter Scheuer
Hank Aaron: Chasing the Dream Mike Tollin and Fredric Golding
Troublesome Creek: A Midwestern Jeanne Jordan and Steven Ascher
1996
(69th)
When We Were Kings Leon Gast and David Sonenberg
The Line King: The Al Hirschfeld Story Susan W. Dryfoos
Mandela Jo Menell and Angus Gibson
Suzanne Farrell: Elusive Muse Anne Belle and Deborah Dickson
Tell the Truth and Run: George Seldes and the American Press Rick Goldsmith
1997
(70th)
The Long Way Home Marvin Hier and Richard Trank
Ayn Rand: A Sense of Life Michael Paxton
Colors Straight Up Michèle Ohayon and Julia Schachter
4 Little Girls Spike Lee and Sam Pollard
Waco: The Rules of Engagement Dan Gifford and William Gazecki
1998
(71st)
The Last Days James Moll and Ken Lipper
Dancemaker Matthew Diamond and Jerry Kupfer
The Farm: Angola, U.S.A. Jonathan Stack and Liz Garbus
Lenny Bruce: Swear to Tell the Truth Robert B. Weide
Regret to Inform Barbara Sonneborn and Janet Cole
1999
(72nd)
One Day in September Arthur Cohn and Kevin Macdonald
Buena Vista Social Club Wim Wenders and Ulrich Felsberg
Genghis Blues Roko Belic and Adrian Belic
On the Ropes Nanette Burstein and Brett Morgen
Speaking in Strings Paola di Florio and Lilibet Foster

2000s[edit]

Year Film Name(s)
2000
(73rd)
Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport Mark Jonathan Harris and Deborah Oppenheimer
Legacy Tod Lending
Long Night's Journey into Day Deborah Hoffmann and Frances Reid
Scottsboro: An American Tragedy Daniel Anker and Barak Goodman
Sound and Fury Josh Aronson and Roger Weisberg
2001
(74th)
Murder on a Sunday Morning Jean-Xavier de Lestrade and Denis Poncet
Children Underground Edet Belzberg
LaLee's Kin: The Legacy of Cotton Deborah Dickson and Susan Frömke
Promises B.Z. Goldberg and Justine Shapiro
War Photographer Christian Frei
2002
(75th)
Bowling for Columbine Michael Moore and Michael Donovan
Daughter from Danang Gail Dolgin and Vicente Franco
Prisoner of Paradise Malcolm Clarke and Stuart Sender
Spellbound Jeffrey Blitz and Sean Welch
Winged Migration Jacques Perrin
2003
(76th)
The Fog of War Errol Morris and Michael Williams
Balseros Carlos Bosch and Josep Maria Domenech
Capturing the Friedmans Andrew Jarecki and Marc Smerling
My Architect Nathaniel Kahn and Susan R. Behr
The Weather Underground Sam Green and Bill Siegel
2004
(77th)
Born into Brothels Ross Kauffman and Zana Briski
The Story of the Weeping Camel Byambasuren Davaa and Luigi Falorni
Super Size Me Morgan Spurlock
Tupac: Resurrection Karolyn Ali and Lauren Lazin
Twist of Faith Kirby Dick and Eddie Schmidt
2005
(78th)
March of the Penguins Luc Jacquet and Yves Darondeau
Darwin's Nightmare Hubert Sauper
Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room Alex Gibney and Jason Kliot
Murderball Henry Alex Rubin and Dana Adam Shapiro
Street Fight Marshall Curry
2006
(79th)
An Inconvenient Truth Davis Guggenheim
Deliver Us from Evil Amy Berg, Frank Donner, and Matthew Cooke
Iraq in Fragments James Longley and Yahya Sinno
Jesus Camp Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady
My Country, My Country Jocelyn Glatzer and Laura Poitras
2007
(80th)
Taxi to the Dark Side Alex Gibney and Eva Orner
No End in Sight Charles Ferguson and Audrey Marrs
Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience Richard Robbins
Sicko Michael Moore and Meghan O'Hara
War/Dance Sean Fine and Andrea Nix
2008
(81st)
Man on Wire Simon Chinn and James Marsh
The Betrayal (Nerakhoon) Ellen Kuras and Thavisouk Phrasavath
Encounters at the End of the World Werner Herzog and Henry Kaiser
The Garden Scott Hamilton Kennedy
Trouble the Water Carl Deal and Tia Lessin
2009
(82nd)
The Cove Louie Psihoyos and Fisher Stevens
Burma VJ Anders Østergaard and Lise Lense-Møller
Food, Inc. Robert Kenner and Elise Pearlstein
The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers Judith Ehrlich and Rick Goldsmith
Which Way Home Rebecca Cammisa

2010s[edit]

Year Film Name(s)
2010
(83rd)
Inside Job Charles H. Ferguson and Audrey Marrs
Exit Through the Gift Shop Banksy and Jaimie D'Cruz
Gasland Josh Fox and Trish Adlesic
Restrepo Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger
Waste Land Lucy Walker and Angus Aynsley
2011
(84th)
Undefeated TJ Martin, Dan Lindsay, and Richard Middlemas
Hell and Back Again Danfung Dennis and Mike Lerner
If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front Marshall Curry and Sam Cullman
Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky
Pina Wim Wenders and Gian-Piero Ringel
2012
(85th)
Searching for Sugar Man Malik Bendjelloul and Simon Chinn
5 Broken Cameras Emad Burnat and Guy Davidi
The Gatekeepers Dror Moreh, Philippa Kowarsky, and Estelle Fialon
How to Survive a Plague David France and Howard Gertler
The Invisible War Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering
2013
(86th)
20 Feet from Stardom Morgan Neville, Gil Friesen and Caitrin Rogers
The Act of Killing Joshua Oppenheimer and Signe Byrge Sørensen
Cutie and the Boxer Zachary Heinzerling and Lydia Dean Pilcher
Dirty Wars Richard Rowley and Jeremy Scahill
The Square Jehane Noujaim and Karim Amer

Controversies[edit]

While accepting the Best Supporting Actress award in 1978, Vanessa Redgrave made a scornful reference to the Jewish Defense League, which was picketing the event in protest of Redgrave's involvement in the documentary "The Palestinian," which advocated for a Palestinian state. She was both cheered and booed when she praised the Academy for ignoring "the threats of a small bunch of Zionist hoodlums whose behavior is an insult to the stature of Jews all over the world."[2]

Many critically acclaimed documentaries were never nominated. Examples include Shoah, The Thin Blue Line, Roger & Me, Touching The Void, Hoop Dreams, Crumb, Paris is Burning, Grizzly Man, The Interrupters, Crime After Crime, Blackfish, Waiting for "Superman", Senna and Fahrenheit 9/11 (see below).

Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11, at the time the highest-grossing documentary film in movie history, was ruled ineligible because Moore had opted to have it played on television prior to the 2004 election. Previously, the 1982 winner Just Another Missing Kid had already been broadcast in Canada and won that country's ACTRA award for excellence in television at the time of its nomination.

The controversy over Hoop Dreams was enough to have the Academy Awards begin the process to change its documentary voting system.[3] Roger Ebert, who had declared it to be the best 1994 movie of any kind, looked into its failure to receive a nomination: "We learned, through very reliable sources, that the members of the committee had a system. They carried little flashlights. When one gave up on a film, he waved a light on the screen. When a majority of flashlights had voted, the film was switched off. "Hoop Dreams" was stopped after 15 minutes."[4]

The Academy's executive director, Bruce Davis, took the unprecedented step of asking accounting firm Price Waterhouse to turn over the complete results of that year's voting, in which members of the committee had rated each of the 63 eligible documentaries on a scale of six to ten. "What I found," said Davis, "is that a small group of members gave zeros (actually low scores) to every single film except the five they wanted to see nominated. And they gave tens to those five, which completely skewed the voting. There was one film that received more scores of ten than any other, but it wasn't nominated. It also got zeros (low scores) from those few voters, and that was enough to push it to sixth place."[5]

In 2000, Arthur Cohn, the producer of the winning "One Day in September" boasted, "I won this without showing it in a single theater!" Cohn had hit upon the tactic of showing his Oscar entries at invitation-only screenings, and to as few other people as possible. Oscar bylaws at the time required voters to have seen all five nominated documentaries; by limiting his audience, Cohn shrank the voting pool and improved his odds. Following protests by many documentarians, the nominating system was subsequently changed.[6]

"Hoop Dreams" director Steve James said "With so few people looking at any given film, it only takes one to dislike a film and its chances for making the short list are diminished greatly. So they’ve got to do something, I think, to make the process more sane for deciding the shortlist."[7] Among other rule changes taking effect in 2013,[8] the Academy began requiring a documentary to have been reviewed by either the New York Times or Los Angeles Times, and be commercially released for at least one week in both of those cities. Advocating for the rule change, Michael Moore said, "When people get the award for best documentary and they go on stage and thank the Academy, it's not really the Academy, is it? It's 5% of the Academy."[9]

The awards process has also been criticized for emphasizing a documentary's subject matter over its style or quality. In 2009, Entertainment Weekly's Owen Gleiberman wrote about the documentary branch members' penchant for choosing "movies that the selection committee deemed good because they’re good for you... a kind of self-defeating aesthetic of granola documentary correctness."[10]

Although documentaries are eligible for the Academy Award for Best Picture, none has yet earned a nomination.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]