International Documentary Association picks doc winners, PGA shortlists nominees

Two weeks after the Academy advanced 15 films in the race for Best Documentary Feature, the non-fiction awards circuit is showing further signs of life.

Last night, the International Documentary Association held its annual awards gala. None of the nominees happened to be on the AMPAS shortlist, but “Nostalgia for Light” came out on top, besting “Better This Workd” (one of the surprise Academy omissions), “How to Die in Oregon,” “The Redemption of General Butt Naked” and “The Tiniest Place.” One of last year’s Best Documentary Short Oscar nominees, “Poster Girl” — a fantastic portrait of a female Iraq veteran grappling with post-traumatic stress disorder — managed to win the short film prize (beating out fellow Oscar nominee “The Warriors of Qiugang” in the process).

Meanwhile, the Producers Guild of America (PGA) was busy tapping its list of documentary nominees for the year. Those had a little more in common with the Academy shortlist, though not much.

Favorite in the category, “Project Nim,” was nominated along with fellow short-lister “Bill Cunningham New York.” The similarities stopped there, though, as “Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest,” “Senna” and “The Union” rounded out the nominees.

There doesn’t appear to be anything approaching a consensus forming from the documentary announcements we’ve had thus far. In addition to the IDA and PGA, the Cinema Eye Honors named nominees in October. “Nostalgia for Light” and “Senna” also popped up there, but neither made it as an Oscar finalist. The only shared entry among the three is “Project Nim,” which was also nominated by the Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association today and looks more and more like the favorite. The New York Film Critics chose Werner Herzog’s “Cave of Forgotten Dreams,” which, you guessed it, isn’t on the Academy shortlist. (It was cited by the D.C. crowd as well.)

Precursors aren’t necessarily the biggest help with calling this race. The committee that screens each eventual nominee can react any number of ways, but for now, it really does seem like James Marsh could be on his way to a second Oscar. (He previously won in 2009 for “Man on Wire.”)

For year-round entertainment news and awards season commentary follow @kristapley on Twitter.

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