In a surprise twist, the Alex Gibney-helmed Scientology documentary Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief was snubbed by Oscar voters.
The doc, which is a critical exposé on the religion and features interviews with such Academy members as Scientology defector Paul Haggis, had been on the shortlist of 15 films for Oscar documentaries.
The HBO film also had won three Emmys, including for best documentary and best documentary director, and had made a strong presence among critics’ group awards.
Going Clear had stoked controversy in Hollywood when it took a critical look at the religion, which has many high-profile adherents in the industry, including Tom Cruise and John Travolta, who have five Oscar nominations between the two of them.
Gibney also is a familiar figure with Oscar voters, having won best documentary honors in 2008 for Taxi to the Dark Side. He also was previously nominated for 2005’s Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room.
Instead, the five feature-length documentaries competing for this year’s Oscar are Asif Kapadia and James Gay-Rees’ Amy; Matthew Heineman and Tom Yellin’s Cartel Land; Joshua Oppenheimer and Signe Byrge Sorensen’s The Look of Silence; Liz Garbus, Amy Hobby and Justin Wilkes’ What Happened, Miss Simone? and Evgeny Afineevsky and Den Tolmor’s Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom.
Going Clear isn’t the only high-profile documentary to get the cold shoulder from Oscar voters this year. Michael Moore’s Where to Invade Next, which also had been shortlisted by the Academy, failed to score a nomination.