Oscar Feature Documentary Shortlist Announced

The shortlist for the Documentary Feature category of the 2010 Academy Awards has been announced and has been met with equal amounts of pleasant surprise and puzzled scratching of heads: the joy in reaction to the inclusion of Banksy’s Exit Through the Gift Shop, which many of us were convinced would be this year’s Anvil, and the shock that Laura Poitas’ The Oath was absent.

It’s particularly refreshing to see the inclusion of Exit, given the general view that the Academy only sees the more ‘worthy’-subject based documentaries as genuine contenders, and that more ‘populist’ fare never stand a chance. Because documentaries don’t compete within other filmmaking categories such as editing and cinematography (for which Armadillo would certainly deserve to be nominated), the Documentary Feature category has always felt like it was an award based on overall filmmaking achievement rather than subject, impact, or agenda. With this in mind, it is quite shocking to see The Oath and Armadillo (directed by Janus Metz Pedersen) missing. Fred Wiseman’s La Danse, Lixin Fan’s Last Train Home, and Yael Hersonski’s A Film Unfinished were also seen as strong contenders but, sadly, didn’t make the list. I was rooting for Heidi Ewing’s and Rachel Grady’s 12th and Delaware to also make an appearance.

Moving on to the list itself, which is very strong, we have previous Academy Award winners Alex Gibney, for Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer (which is one of four films he has directed or been involved with this year!), and Davis Guggenheim, for Waiting for ‘Superman’. Of those that I’ve seen, it’s fantastic to see Restrepo, by Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger, Lucy Walker’s Waste Land, Rob Lemkin’s and Thet Sambath’s Enemies of the People, Gasland by Josh Fox, and Amir Bar-Lev’s The Tillman Story make the list.

Now we just have to wait to see which five make the official nominations and ruminate on how, or to whom, the Oscar would be presented should Exit Through the Gift Shop take home the statue.

For more detailed analysis of the selection I recommend heading over to AJ Schnack’s All These Wonderful Things.

The full shortlist is after the jump

The 15 films that make up the shortlist:

Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer - Dir. Alex Gibney
Enemies of the People – Dir. Rob Lemkin and Thet Sambath
Exit through the Gift Shop – Dir. Banksy
Gasland – Dir. Josh Fox
Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould – Dir. Michele Hozer and Peter Raymont
Inside Job – Dir. Charles Ferguson
The Lottery – Dir. Madeleine Sackler
Precious Life – Dir. Shlomi Eldar
Quest for Honor – Dir. Mary Ann Smothers Bruni
Restrepo – Dir. Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger
This Way of Life – Dir. Thomas Burstyn
The Tillman Story – Dir.  Amir Bar-Lev
Waiting for ‘Superman’ – Dir. Davis Guggenheim
Waste Land – Dir. Lucy Walker
William Kunstler: Disturbing the Universe – Dir. Emily Kunstler and Sarah Kunstler