Best Documentary Feature remains one of this year’s most excitingly competitive Oscar races. While some titles — notably two critics’ favorites, Joshua Oppenheimer’s “The Act of Killing” and Sarah Polley’s “Stories We Tell” — have emerged repeatedly in the precursor awards, you’d be hard pressed to name a clear frontrunner, while no inclusions or omissions from the Academy’s 15-film shortlist would be truly shocking when the nominations are announced on Thursday.
The DGA, meanwhile, has kept things in balance, yesterday naming five films for their documentary directing award, all of which are in contention for the Oscar. Polley and Oppenheimer are there, of course, as are Zachary Heinzerling for “Cutie and the Boxer,” Lucy Walker for “The Crash Reel” and Jehane Noujaim for “The Square.” That means female directors make up the majority of the nominees — I’ll leave it to more dedicated statisticians out there to tell me whether or not that’s a first, but it’s certainly heartening.
Does that mean they’re on the inside track for the Oscar? Maybe, though not necessarily: three of the DGA’s picks were nominated by the Academy last year (with “Searching for Sugar Man” taking both awards), but 2011’s eventual DGA winner, “Project Nim,” was left out of the Oscar lineup. The documentary branch has always done things its own way.
Meanwhile, if you’re looking to the Guilds for pointers — well, maybe you shouldn’t. There’s not one single overlap between the films nominated by the DGA, PGA and ACE, while only “Stories We Tell” from the DGA list also scored a WGA nod. As I said, it’s completely up in the air this year.
To recap, the five nominees for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Documentary are:
Joshua Oppenheimer, “The Act of Killing”
Lucy Walker, “The Crash Reel”
Zachary Heinzerling, “Cutie and the Boxer”
Jehane Noujaim “The Square”
Sarah Polley, “Stories We Tell”