Oscars Predictions: Best Documentary Feature – ‘Collective’ Goes For the Double Nod, Dawn Porter Shut Out

Clayton Davis

Variety's Awards Circuit is home to the official predictions for the upcoming Oscars from Film Awards Editor Clayton Davis. Following Academy Awards history, buzz, news, reviews and sources, the Oscar predictions are updated regularly with the current year's contenders in all categories. Variety's Awards Circuit Prediction schedule consists of four phases, running all year long: Draft, Pre-Season, Regular Season and Post Season. Eligibility calendar and dates of awards will determine how long each phase lasts and will be displayed next to revision date.

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2021 OSCARS PREDICTIONS:
BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

UPDATED: Feb. 5, 2021

AWARDS COMMENTARY:
With 238 documentaries submitted, the category presented itself as fairly standard, with no egregious entries or surprises. However, the amount of entries warrants the Academy to consider expanding this lineup from five to ten nominees if large submissions like this continue. Eight of the 15 are helmed by female filmmakers which is incredibly encouraging with Asian, Black, Latinx and the disability community also represented. Very proud of the branch with many of these choices. Dawn Porter delivered a one-two punch this year with “John Lewis: Good Trouble” and “The Way I See It,” both of which failed to make the respective shortlist. Alex Gibney, Ophelia Harutyunyan and Suzanne Hillinger’s teamwork on “Totally Under Control” was also shut out.

PRECURSORS LEADER: “Time” (Amazon Studios)
Awards Circuit Winners Chart (2020-2021)

AND THE PREDICTED NOMINEES ARE:

  1. "Time" (Amazon Studios)
    Lauren Domino, Kellen Quinn, Garrett Bradley

    OSCAR HISTORY: Never nominated

    DIRECTOR: Garrett Bradley
    SYNOPSIS: Fox Rich fights for the release of her husband, Rob, who is serving a 60-year sentence in prison.
    STARRING: Rob Rich II, Fox Rich

  2. "Dick Johnson Is Dead" (Netflix)
    Katy Chevigny, Marilyn Ness, Kirsten Johnson

    OSCAR HISTORY: Never nominated

    DIRECTOR: Kirsten Johnson
    SYNOPSIS: A daughter helps her father prepare for the end of his life.
    STARRING: Michael Hilow, Ana Hoffman, Dick Johnson

  3. "The Truffle Hunters" (Sony Pictures Classics)
    Michael Dweck, Gregory Kershaw

    OSCAR HISTORY: Never nominated

    DIRECTOR: Michael Dweck, Gregory Kershaw
    SYNOPSIS: Deep in the forests of Piedmont, Italy, a handful of men, seventy or eighty years young, hunt for the rare and expensive white Alba truffle-which to date has resisted all of modern science's efforts at cultivation.
    STARRING: Piero Botto, Sergio Cauda, Maria Cicciù

  4. "Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution" (Netflix)
    Nicole Newnham, James Lebrecht, Sara Bolder Hittman

    OSCAR HISTORY:: Never nominated

    DIRECTOR: Nicole Newnham, James Lebrecht
    SYNOPSIS: Down the road from Woodstock, a revolution blossomed at a ramshackle summer camp for teenagers with disabilities, transforming their lives and igniting a landmark movement.
    STARRING: S Larry Allison, Dennis Billups, William Bronston

  5. "Welcome to Chechnya" (HBO)
    David France, Alice Henty, Askold Kurov, Joy A. Tomchin

    OSCAR HISTORY:
    France: 1 nomination (2012's "How to Survive a Plague")
    Henty: Never nominated
    Kurov: Never nominated
    Tomchin: 1 nomination (2012's "How to Survive a Plague")


    DIRECTOR: David France
    SYNOPSIS: A group of activists risk their lives fighting for LGBTQ+ rights in Chechnya.
    STARRING: Olga Baranova, David Isteev, Maxim Lapunov

NEXT IN LINE CONTENDERS:

  1. "Collective" (Magnolia Pictures and Participant)
    Alexander Nanau, Bernard Michaux, Hanka Kastelicová, Bianca Oana

    OSCAR HISTORY: Never nominated

    DIRECTOR: Alexander Nanau
    SYNOPSIS: Director Alexander Nanau follows a crack team of investigators at the Romanian newspaper Gazeta Sporturilor as they try to uncover a vast health-care fraud that enriched moguls and politicians and led to the deaths of innocent citizens.
    STARRING: Razvan Lutac, Mirela Neag, Catalin Tolontan

  2. "The Painter and the Thief" (Neon)
    Ingvil Giske, Benjamin Reel

    OSCAR HISTORY: Never nominated

    DIRECTOR: Benjamin Ree
    SYNOPSIS: An artist befriends the thief who stole her paintings. She becomes his closest ally when he is severely hurt in a car crash and needs full time care, even if her paintings are not found. But then the tables turn.
    STARRING: Karl Bertil-Nordland, Barbora Kysilkova, Øystein Stene

  3. "Boys State" (Apple TV Plus)
    Amanda McBaine, Jesse Moss

    OSCAR HISTORY: Never nominated

    DIRECTOR: Amanda McBaine, Jesse Moss
    SYNOPSIS: A thousand 17-year-old boys from Texas join together to build a representative government from the ground up.
    STARRING:Ben Feinstein, Steven Garza, Robert MacDougall

  4. "All In: The Fight for Democracy" (Amazon Studios)
    Liz Garbus, Lisa Cortés, Dan Cogan, Stacey Abrams

    OSCAR HISTORY:
    Garbus: 2 nominations (1998's "The Farm: Angola, USA")
    Cortés: Never nominated
    Cogan: 1 nomination, 1 win (2017's "Icarus")
    Abrams: Never nominated


    DIRECTOR: Liz Garbus, Lisa Cortés
    SYNOPSIS: The documentary takes a look at the history, and current activism against voter suppression; barriers to voting that most people don't even know is a threat to their basic rights as citizens of the United States.
    STARRING: Stacey Abrams, Debo Adegbile, Jayla Allen

  5. "Gunda" (Neon)
    Anita Rehoff Larsen, ,Viktor Kossakovsky

    OSCAR HISTORY: Never nominated

    DIRECTOR: Viktor Kossakovsky
    SYNOPSIS: Documentary looks at the daily life of a pig and its farm animal companions: two cows and a one-legged chicken.
    STARRING: Gunda

TOP-TIER AWARDS CONTENDERS:

  1. "76 Days" (MTV Documentary Films)
    Hao Wu, Jean Tsien

    OSCAR HISTORY: Never nominated

    DIRECTOR: Hao Wu, Jean Tsien, Anonymous
    SYNOPSIS: Raw and intimate, this documentary captures the struggles of patients and frontline medical professionals battling the COVID-19 pandemic in Wuhan.
    STARRING: Unknown

  2. "MLK/FBI" (IFC Films)
    Benjamin Hedin, Sam Pollard

    OSCAR HISTORY: Never nominated

    DIRECTOR: Sam Pollard
    SYNOPSIS: Based on newly declassified files, Sam Pollard's resonant film explores the US government's surveillance and harassment of Martin Luther King, Jr.
    STARRING: James Comey, Beverly Gage, Martin Luther King

  3. "My Octopus Teacher" (Netflix)
    Pippa Ehrlich, James Reed

    OSCAR HISTORY:: Never nominated

    DIRECTOR: Pippa Ehrlich, James Reed
    SYNOPSIS: A filmmaker forges an unusual friendship with an octopus living in a South African kelp forest, learning as the animal shares the mysteries of her world.
    STARRING: Craig Foster, Tom Foster

  4. "The Mole Agent" (Gravitas Ventures)
    Marcela Santibañez, Maite Alberdi

    OSCAR HISTORY: Never nominated

    DIRECTOR: Maite Alberdi
    SYNOPSIS: A private investigator in Chile hires someone to work as a mole at a retirement home where a client of his suspects the caretakers of elder abuse.
    STARRING: Romulo Aitken, Sergio Chamy

  5. "Notturno" (Neon)
    Gianfranco Rosi

    OSCAR HISTORY: Never nominated

    DIRECTOR: Gianfranco Rosi
    SYNOPSIS: Gianfranco Rosi's new documentary is an immersive portrait of those trying to survive in the war-torn Middle East.
    STARRING: None

† = no release date scheduled / could be delayed / may not be eligible
†† = could be campaigned in lead or supporting categories / original or adapted screenplay categories

The Academy Awards, better known as the Oscars, is Hollywood’s most prestigious artistic award in the film industry. The most awarded films in Oscar history are “Ben-Hur,” “Titanic” and “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” at 11 statuettes. The most nominated films in Academy history are “All About Eve,” “Titanic” and “La La Land” at 14. “La La Land” is the only film of the three to have lost best picture. The biggest Oscar “losers,” meaning most nominated and walk away with zero awards, are 1977’s “The Turning Point” and 1985’s “The Color Purple” at 11 each.

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