If there’s no clear front-runner, which acclaimed documentary will appeal to the widest range of Oscar voters?
We’ll be updating these predictions throughout awards season, so stay tuned to IndieWire for our 2023 Oscars picks. The final vote will take place between March 2 and 7, 2023. The 95th Academy Awards will air on Sunday, March 12th and will air live on ABC at 8:00 PM ET/5:00 PM PT.
See IndieWire’s previous Oscar predictions for this category and more here.
Since the much-expanded documentary branch sees all fifteen shortlisted films when the Best Documentary nominees are chosen, it was no surprise that a film that was not praised at the awards made the final five. Danish filmmaker Simon Lerent Wilmont’s Sundance World Cinema directorial winner “A House Made of Shards” was the surprise on the morning of the Oscar nominations. The moving film was produced by Joshua Oppenheimer’s team behind ‘Flee’. The touching film takes place in the homes of neglected children who are anxiously awaiting a court custody decision and was nominated for Cinema Eye Honors, the European Film Award and the Independent Spirit Awards. A third of the Academy’s voters are international.
The documentary competition starts every January at the Sundance Film Festival, which launches a slew of Oscar contenders. While there are notable exceptions (Oscar-winners “Citizenfour,” “Free Solo” and “My Octopus Teacher”), most documentary Oscar nominees launch at Sundance, including the aforementioned animated immigration saga “Flee” ( Neon) and last year’s eventual winner Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson (Searchlight/Hulu’s 1969 concert film “Summer of Soul”).
The Sundance crop of the new pandemic era of 2022 was also impressive. Four scored marks.
The gripping docu-thriller “Navalny” (CNN/HBO Max), Daniel Roher’s timely account of the charismatic Russian opposition leader who survived the poisoning of Vladimir Putin’s thugs, won both the Sundance Documentary Audience Award and the Festival’s Favorite Award. After recuperating in Germany, Alexei Navalny bravely returned to Russia to cheering crowds of supporters – and was jailed. The film received Critics Choice Association Bronze Awards for Best Feature Film and Best Political Documentary, was shortlisted by DOC NYC, nominated for BAFTA, DGA and PGA Awards, and won the Cinema Eye Honors for Outstanding Production and the Audience Award award. . “Navalny” boasts the greatest appeal in the entire Academy.
“Fire of Love”
NatGeo has picked up Sara Dosa’s popular Sundance opener, “Fire of Love” (NatGeo/Neon, $1.7 million worldwide) with Miranda July’s lyrical narration, which follows two French volcanologists who are not only in love, but excited through the decades across. chasing erupting volcanoes around the world. The volcano-chasing crowd-pleaser won the Jonathan Oppenheim Editing Award for US Documentary and won CCA Awards Silver and Best Archive Documentary; Best Editing, Visual Design and Score at the Cinema Eye Honors; won two IDA Awards for Best Cinematography and Best Writing; placed on the DOC NYC Short List, plus BAFTA, DGA and PGA nom. Among the Oscar contenders, it is the only popular blockbuster and could receive the most votes from the wider Academy.
The Sundance World Documentary Jury Prize went to Shaunak Sen’s All That Breathes (Oct. 21, HBO Documentary Films), a lyrical portrait of two brothers who rescue predatory black kites from the polluted air over New Delhi, taking home the 2022 Cannes Documentary Jury Prize, shortlisted for DOC NYC, Best Nonfiction and Best Cinematography at the Cinema Eye Honors, won four IDA Awards, including Best Film and Best Director, and Indie Spirit, BAFTA, DGA, awards from Camerimage, ASC and PGA. noms. This gorgeously crafted Indian eco-documentary should attract admirers from across the Academy.
Venice Golden Lion winner Laura Poitras and critic favorite “All the Beauty and the Bloodshed” (HBO/Neon), Nan Goldin’s stunning portrait of artist-activist, was shortlisted for DOC NYC 15 and won Best Director at in the Cinema Eye category. Honors, DGA, BAFTA and Indie Spirit nominations and Best Documentary at both NYFCC and LAFCA. Poitras has already won the Oscar (“Citizenfour”), thus proving that the film was also in the documentary category. But will this searing portrait of a heroic but transgressive artist apply to the wider Academy?
The nominees are listed below in order of probability of winning.
Competitors: “Navalny” “Fire of Love” “All beauty and bloodshed” “Everything That Breathes” “A House of Shards”