Academy Award for Best Documentary (Short Subject)

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Academy Award for Best Documentary (Short Subject)
Country United States
Presented by Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
Currently held by Ellen Goosenberg Kent
Dana Perry
Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1 (2014)
Official website www.oscars.org

This is a list of films by year that have received an Oscar together with the other nominations for best documentary short subject. Following the Academy's practice, the year listed for each film is the year of release: the awards are announced and presented early in the following year.

Rules & Eligibility[edit]

Per the recent rules of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), a Short Subject Documentary is defined as a nonfiction motion picture "dealing creatively with cultural, artistic, historical, social, scientific, economic or other subjects".[1] It may be photographed in actual occurrence, or may employ partial reenactment, stock footage, stills, animation, stop-motion or other techniques, as long as the emphasis is on fact, and not on fiction. It must have a run time of no more than 40 minutes and released during a special eligibility period which may vary from year to year, but generally begins the month of September of the prior year and ends in August of award year. (This eligibility differs from most other Acadamy Award categories which only includes films released between January and December of the award year). The documentary's release must also occur within 2 years of the film's completion, and there are also rules governing the formatting of audio and video used to produce and exhibit the picture.

In addition, to be eligible the film must meet one of the following criteria:

  • complete a commercial showing of at least 7 days in either Los Angeles County, California or the borough of Manhattan, New York before being released to other non-theatrical venues such as DVD or TV; or,
  • regardless of any public exhibition or nontheatrical release the film must have won a qualifying award at a competitive film festival, as specified by the Academy; or
  • win a Gold, Silver or Bronze Medal award in the Academy’s Student Academy Award Competition.

The film must run daily for 7 days, open to the public for paid admission, and must be advertised in one of the city's major circulars during its run. The film must have narration or dialogue primarily in English or with English subtitles, and must be the whole of an original works. Partial edits from larger works and episodes from serialized films are not eligible.[1]

Eligibility rules for prior years may have differed from these.

Nomination Process[edit]

The Documentary Branch of the Academy first votes to select ten pictures for preliminary nomination, after which a second round of balloting is conducted to select the five documentary nominees. The entire Academy membership will then vote for one of these five for The Oscar. A maximum of two people involved with the production of the documentary may be nominated for the award, one of whom must be the film's credited director. One producer may also be nominated, but if more than one non-director producer is credited the Academy Documentary Branch will vet the producers to select the one they believe was most involved in the creation of the film.[1]

List of winners and nominees[edit]

1940s[edit]

1950s[edit]

Note: A press release issued by AMPAS in 2005 states that "Documentary Short Subject winners Benjy (1951) and Neighbours (1952) are among a group of films that not only competed, but won Academy Awards in what were clearly inappropriate categories. Benjy, directed by Fred Zinnemann and narrated by Henry Fonda, is the fictional tale of a crippled boy. The film was used as a fundraiser for the Los Angeles Orthopedic Hospital. ... Norman McLaren's Neighbours, which today would compete in the Animated Short category, used "pixilation" – animation using living people – to create an allegory of war." [3]

1960s[edit]

1970s[edit]

1980s[edit]

1990s[edit]

2000s[edit]

2010s[edit]

References[edit]