Narrowing 138 documentary features down to 15 seems like an almost impossible task. Someday I’d really like to talk to the Academy members whose job it is to whittle them down. Instead of just picking the five I think will get Oscar nominations, I decided to expand and guess the 15 documentaries that will be shortlisted next week. I broke them into three different categories:

  • What I think is likely to get the Oscar nominations (again, parring down 238 to 5 leaves enormous room for error).
  • What has been tracking throughout the awards season and has a shot at being shortlisted.
  • What I personally want to see get shortlisted and perhaps even sneak in for a nomination as well.

As more information comes in, these will probably change.


MTV Documentary Films

“The First Wave”
National Geographic Documentary Films


“The Rescue”
Greenwich Entertainment

“Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised)”
Searchlight Pictures

#1: “Ascension” — MTV Documentary Films

IMDB Synopsis: The absorbingly cinematic Ascension explores the pursuit of the “Chinese Dream.” This observational documentary presents a contemporary vision of China that prioritizes productivity and innovation above all.

WHY’S IT GOING TO GET NOMINATED: Lot’s of love so far this awards season.

#2: “The First Wave” — National Geographic Documentary Films

IMDB Synopsis: A documentary following nurses, doctors, and administrators as they respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

WHY’S IT GOING TO GET NOMINATED: It feels like a documentary about the pandemic has to get in. If I’m reading it wrong, perhaps the Academy will avoid them because we’ve been living it for almost two years.

#3: “FLEE” — NEON

IMDB Synopsis: FLEE tells the extraordinary true story of a man, Amin, on the verge of marriage which compels him to reveal his hidden past for the first time.

WHY’S IT GOING TO GET NOMINATED: PrWith the amount of love this film has received, of the three categories it has the best chances in, the Best Documentary category is the closest to a lock.

#4: “The Rescue” — Greenwich Entertainment

IMDB Synopsis: A chronicle of the enthralling, against-all-odds story that transfixed the world in 2018: the daring rescue of twelve boys and their coach from deep inside a flooded cave in Northern Thailand.

WHY’S IT GOING TO GET NOMINATED: Another film receiving lots of love this awards season.

#5: “Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised)” — Searchlight Pictures

IMDB Synopsis: Summer Of Soul (…Or, When The Revolution Could Not Be Televised) is a feature documentary about the legendary 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival which celebrated African American music and culture, and promoted Black pride and unity.

WHY’S IT GOING TO GET NOMINATED: Of all the documentaries, “Summer of Soul” feels like the strongest lock and the odds-on favorite to take the whole thing. With critical love this awards season as well as love for the director, Questlove, in his first feature, you’ll be seeing this film a lot more before it finally wins.


“The Lost Leonardo”
Sony Pictures Classics

Greenwich Entertainment


“Roadrunner: A Film about Anthony Bourdain”
Focus Features

“The Velvet Underground”
Apple TV+

#6: “The Lost Leonardo” — Sony Pictures Classics

IMDB Synopsis: The mystery surrounding the Salvator Mundi, the first painting by Leonardo da Vinci to be discovered for more than a century, which has now seemingly gone missing.

#7: “President” — Greenwich Entertainment

IMDB Synopsis: A young and charismatic leader takes on the corrupt ruling party in Zimbabwe’s 2018 presidential election.

#8: “Procession” — NETFLIX

IMDB Synopsis: A group of survivors of sexual abuse by Catholic priests battle for justice.

#9: “Roadrunner: A Film about Anthony Bourdain” — Focus Features

IMDB Synopsis: A documentary about Anthony Bourdain and his career as a chef, writer and host, revered and renowned for his authentic approach to food, culture and travel.

WHY’S IT GOING TO GET SHORTLISTED: With the passing of Anthony Boudain, I think this famous figure doc has the best chances of getting in. It also took some heat as far as fabricating certain aspects, which could ultimately work against it.

#10: “The Velvet Underground” — Apple TV+

IMDB Synopsis: The Velvet Underground explores the multiple threads that converged to bring together one of the most influential bands in rock and roll.


“Billie Eilish: The World’s a Little Blurry”

“Paper & Glue”

“The Sparks Brothers”
Focus Features

“Street Gang: How We Got to Sesame Street”
Screen Media Films

Amazon Studios

#11: “Billie Eilish: The World’s a Little Blurry” — NEON

IMDB Synopsis: An intimate look at the singer-songwriter’s journey, navigating life on the road, on stage, and at home, while creating her debut album.

WHY’S IT GOING TO GET SHORTLISTED: It could be a pretty good Oscar year for Billie if her documentary gets nominated because her song for “No Time To Die” has to be the odds-on favorite to win.

#12: “Paper & Glue” — Abramorama

IMDB Synopsis: Using unexpected canvasses, JR’s intention is to give a global voice to everyday people through a genre-blending combination of public art, photography and large format spectacle.

WHY’S IT GOING TO GET SHORTLISTED: We got our JR documentary fix a few years ago with “Faces & Places,” but I can never get enough of this guy and would love to have a reason to see his new film.

#13: “The Sparks Brothers” — Focus Features

IMDB Synopsis: A musical odyssey through five weird and wonderful decades with Ron and Russell Mael celebrating the inspiring legacy of Sparks.

WHY’S IT GOING TO GET SHORTLISTED: You can’t look past an Edgar Wright directed documentary, especially in regards to a musical act that so many people admire. The runtime could be its downfall however.

#14: “Street Gang: How We Got to Sesame Street” — Screen Media Films

IMDB Synopsis: Take a stroll down Sesame Street and witness the birth of the most impactful children’s series in TV history. From the iconic furry characters to the songs you know by heart, learn how a gang of visionary creators changed our world.

WHY’S IT GOING TO GET SHORTLISTED: My personal favorite documentary of the year, I would love to see “Street Gang” get a nomination. A perfect glimpse at a children’s show that so many grew up watching, I can’t be the only one that got emotional watching this film.

#15: “Val” — Amazon Studios

IMDB Synopsis: Documentary centering on the daily life of actor Val Kilmer featuring never-before-seen footage spanning 40 years.

WHY’S IT GOING TO GET SHORTLISTED: The much-talked-about Val Kilmer documentary could get in from all the word-of-mouth.


° “All Light, Everywhere”

Timely… IMDB Synopsis: A far-ranging look at the biases in how we see things, focusing on the use of police body cameras.

° “Bring Your Own Brigade”

Unique look at wildfires, which are especially pertinent in California… IMDB Synopsis: An investigation into our landscape’s hidden fire stories and on-the-ground experiences of firefighters and residents struggling through deadly fires.

° “CUSP”

An interesting concept that reminds of “Minding the Gap”… IMDB Synopsis: In the lazy days of a Texas summer, three teenage girls navigate friendship, relationships, and toxic masculinity as they make the transition to the adult world.

° “Dave Chappelle Live in Real Life”

Never count out anything Dave Chappelle… IMDB Synopsis: Dave Chappelle launches his outdoor and social-distanced live comedy shows in rural to provide a small Ohio community he calls home with an economic and comic relief to encourage them during the COVID-19 pandemic.

° “In the Same Breath”

Another pandemic doc… IMDB Synopsis: How did the Chinese government turn pandemic cover ups in Wuhan into a triumph for the Communist party?

° “Introducing, Selma Blair”

Hollywood recognizing one of their own… IMDB Synopsis: A deeply intimate and raw portrait of Selma Blair after she is diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and tries to slow the progression of her disease.

° “Kurt Vonnegut: Unstuck in Time”

Who hasn’t read Kurt Vonnegut? Could be enough to get it recognized…. IMDB Synopsis: Recounting the extraordinary life of author Kurt Vonnegut, and the 25-year friendship with the filmmaker who set out to document it.

° “The Most Beautiful Boy in the World”

Interesting subject matter….. IMDB Synopsis: In 1971, due to the world premiere of Death in Venice, Italian director Luchino Visconti proclaimed his Tadzio as the world’s most beautiful boy. 50 years later, that shadow still weighs upon Björn Andresen’s life.

° “Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go for It”

With the remake of “West Side Story” this year, a Rita Moreno documentary could easily get some traction… IMDB Synopsis: A look at the life and work of Rita Moreno from her humble beginnings in Puerto Rico to her success on Broadway and in Hollywood.

° “Writing with Fire”

Anything that lifts up women in a positive way is something Academy could easily get behind… IMDB Synopsis: In a cluttered news landscape dominated by men, emerges India’s only newspaper run by Dalit women. Chief Reporter Meera and her journalists break traditions, redefining what it means to be powerful.


“All About My Sisters”
“All Light, Everywhere”
“The Alpinist”
“American 965”
“Aware: Glimpses of Consciousness”
“Barbara Lee: Speaking Truth to Power”
“Becoming Cousteau”
“Beijing Spring”
“Bill Traylor: Chasing Ghosts”
“Billie Eilish: The World’s a Little Blurry”
“Boris Karloff: The Man Behind the Monster”
“Brian Wilson: Long Promised Road”
“Bring Your Own Brigade”
“Can You Bring It: Bill T. Jones and D-Man in the Waters”
“The Capote Tapes”
“Captains of Za’atari”
“Children of the Enemy”
“Citizen Ashe”
“Convergence: Courage in a Crisis”
“A Cop Movie”
“A Crime on the Bayou”
“Dave Chappelle Live in Real Life”
“The Deadliest Disease in America”
“Dying to Divorce”
“Enemies of the State”
“The Faithful: The King, the Pope, the Princess”
“Far Eastern Golgotha”
“Faya Dayi”
“Ferguson Rises”
“Final Account”
“Finding Kendrick Johnson”
“Fire Music”
“The First Wave”
“Five Years North”
“45 Days: The Fight for a Nation”
“Hell or High Seas”
“In the Same Breath”
“Introducing, Selma Blair”
“Iron Temple”
“The Jesus Music”
“The Jump”
“Karen Dalton: In My Own Time”
“Kill the Indian Save the Child”
“Kurt Vonnegut: Unstuck in Time”
“The Last Forest”
“The Last Shelter”
“Like a Rolling Stone: The Life & Times of Ben Fong-Torres”
“Lily Topples the World”
“Little Girl”
“The Loneliest Whale: The Search for 52”
“Los Hermanos / The Brothers”
“The Lost Leonardo”
“Love It Was Not”
“Magaluf Ghost Town”
“Man in the Field: The Life and Art of Jim Denevan”
“Marx Can Wait”
“Mayor Pete”
“The Meaning of Hitler”
“Minnesota! The Modern Day Selma”
“Misha and the Wolves”
“Missing in Brooks County”
“Mr. Bachmann and His Class”
“Moby Doc”
“The Most Beautiful Boy in the World”
“The Mustangs: America’s Wild Horses”
“My Childhood, My Country: 20 Years in Afghanistan”
“My Name Is Pauli Murray”
“The Neutral Ground”
“A New Dawn”
“No Ordinary Man”
“No Straight Lines: The Rise of Queer Comics”
“Not Going Quietly”
“Nothing but the Sun”
“On Broadway”
“Operation Varsity Blues”
“Ostrov – Lost Island”
“Paper & Glue”
“The Paradigm of Money”
“The People vs. Agent Orange”
“The Phantom”
“Playing with Sharks”
“Pray Away”
“Qazaq History of the Golden Man”
“Quiet Explosions: Healing the Brain”
“The Race to Save the World”
“Radiograph of a Family”
“The Real Charlie Chaplin”
“Rebel Hearts”
“The Repentants”
“The Rescue”
“Revolution of Our Times”
“Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go for It”
“Roadrunner: A Film about Anthony Bourdain”
“Ruth – Justice Ginsburg in Her Own Words”
“Seyran Ates: Sex, Revolution and Islam”
“Simple as Water”
“Sisters on Track”
“So Late So Soon”
“The Sparks Brothers”
“Speer Goes to Hollywood”
“Storm Lake”
“Street Gang: How We Got to Sesame Steet”
“Summer Nights”
“Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised)”
“Tigre Gente”
“Truman & Tennessee: An Intimate Conversation”
“Truth to Power”
“Try Harder!”
“2020: The Dumpster Fire”
“Two Gods”
“The Velvet Queen”
“The Velvet Underground”
“Who We Are: A Chronicle of Racism in America”
“Writing with Fire”
“Wuhan Wuhan”

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