'Exit Through the Gift Shop,' 'Superman' Advance in Documentary Oscar Race

Paranoid Pictures
"Exit Through the Gift Shop"


Fifteen documentaries, including Alex Gibney's scandal-probing Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer and Emily Kunstler and Sarah Kunstler's portrait of their activist father William Kunstler: Disturbing the Universe, have advanced to the next step in their quest for a best documentary Oscar.

On Thursday, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences released its shortlist of 15 films, culled from 101 submissions by the documentary branch screening committee.

The list includes such presumed front-runners as Inside Job, Charles Ferguson's look at the 2008 financial crisis, and Davis Guggenheim's Waiting for "Superman," an examination of America's failing school system.

A number of documentaries that have attracted a following this year, including Thomas Balmes' Babies, Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman's Catfish, Ricki Stern and Anne Sundberg's Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work and Werner Herzog's 3D Cave of Forgotten Dreams, did not make the cut.

But the committee did opt for at least one offbeat choice, Exit Through the Gift Shop, directed by the elusive graffiti artist who goes by the name of Bansky.

The other titles on the list are Rob Lemkin and Thet Sambath's Enemies of the People, which returns to the killing fields of Cambodia; Josh Fox's Gasland, which looks at the dangers of drilling for natural gas; Michele Hozer and Peter Raymont's Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould, a portrait of the celebrated pianist; Madeleine Sackler's The Lottery, another look at public education; Shlomi Eldar's Precious Life, in which an Israeli pediatrician and a Palestinian mother bridge their differences to care for the mother's ill child; Mary Ann Smothers Bruni's Quest for Life, which examines honor killings in Iraq; Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger's Afghanistan-set Restrepo; Thomas Burstyn's This Way of Life, a portrait of a Maori family; Amir Bar-Lev's The Tillman Story, an account of the military cover-up surrounding the death of Army Ranger Pat Tillman; and Lucy Walker's Waste Land, about the artist Vik Muniz, who works in the landfills of Rio de Janeiro.

Nominations for the 83rd annual Academy Awards will be announced Jan. 25.

The 15 films in alphabetical order are:

Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer, Alex Gibney, director (ES Productions LLC)

Enemies of the People, Rob Lemkin and Thet Sambath, directors (Old Street Films)

Exit through the Gift Shop, Banksy, director (Paranoid Pictures)

Gasland, Josh Fox, director (Gasland Productions, LLC)

Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould, Michele Hozer and Peter Raymont, directors (White Pine Pictures)

Inside Job, Charles Ferguson, director (Representational Pictures)

The Lottery, Madeleine Sackler, director (Great Curve Films)

Precious Life, Shlomi Eldar, director (Origami Productions)

Quest for Honor, Mary Ann Smothers Bruni, director (Smothers Bruni Productions)

Restrepo, Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger, directors (Outpost Films)

This Way of Life, Thomas Burstyn, director (Cloud South Films)

The Tillman Story, Amir Bar-Lev, director (Passion Pictures/Axis Films)

Waiting for 'Superman', Davis Guggenheim, director (Electric Kinney Films)

Waste Land, Lucy Walker, director (Almega Projects)

William Kunstler: Disturbing the Universe, Emily Kunstler and Sarah Kunstler, directors (Disturbing the Universe LLC)