Field narrowed for Oscar's docu shorts

Academy lists final eight out of 31 submissions

The assassination of Martin Luther King, Cesar Chavez's grape boycott, gay men in China and historian David McCullough are among the subjects of the films vying for Oscar nominations for best documentary short subject.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on Wednesday released a shortlist of eight titles, culled from 31 submissions. Three to five of them will be named when the nominees are announced Jan. 22.

The films making the cut are:

-- "The Conscience of Nhem En," directed by Steven Okazaki, a study of Cambodia 30 years after the reign of the Khmer Rouge. Okazaki won in the category for 1990's "Days of Waiting."

-- "David McCullough: Painting With Words," by Mark Herzog, an HBO documentary offering a portrait of the historian who wrote "John Adams," the basis for HBO's Emmy-winning miniseries.

-- "Downstream," by Leslie Iwerks, a nominee for 2006's "Recycled Life," that looks at Canada's oil sands industry and its effects on aboriginal natives.

-- "The Final Inch," Irene Taylor Brodsky's account of efforts to eradicate polio.

-- "Smile Pinki," Megan Mylan's portrait of a young girl in India who is treated for a cleft lip.

-- "Tongzhi in Love," a film about gay men in China by Ruby Yang, who was nominated for 2006's "The Blood of Yingzhou District."

--  "Viva la Causa," Bill Brummel and Alonso Filomeno Mayo's study of the grape strike and boycott led by Chavez and Dolores Huerta.

-- "The Witness From the Balcony of Room 306," by Adam Pertofsky, an account of the King assassination as witnessed by Rev. Samuel "Billy" Kyles.