Oscars: 24 Fest-Recognized Docs, Nine Foreign Pics Eligible for Doc Feature Nom Under New Rules

Voting to determine Oscar shortlists in nine categories closes at 5 p.m. PST today.
CDP/Anuheap Production
'Graves Without a Name' [Cambodia]

At 5 p.m. PT on Tuesday, voting to determine the shortlists for nine different Oscar categories — foreign language film, animated short, documentary feature, documentary short, live-action short, makeup and hairstyling, visual effects and, for the first time, original score and best original song — will come to a close. And, as The Hollywood Reporter was the first to report back in October, the selections for these shortlists will, for the first time, be simultaneously made public on Monday, Dec. 17.

Lovers of documentary features and foreign language films may wish to keep an eye on whether or not a new rule impacts documentary feature shortlist.

In recent years, the only way for a film to be eligible for the best documentary feature Oscar — shortlist, nomination or win — was to "complete both a seven-day theatrical release in Los Angeles County and a seven-day theatrical release in the City of New York during the eligibility period."

This season, as part of the Academy's goal to celebrate films from around the world, two other, less costly paths to eligibility were also introduced under the 91st Academy Awards Special Rules for the Documentary Awards, rule III.A: to (1) "have won a qualifying award at a competitive film festival, as specified in the Documentary Feature Qualifying Festival List, regardless of any prior public exhibition or distribution by nontheatrical means," or (2) "have been submitted in the Foreign Language Film category as its country’s official selection for the 91st Academy Awards."

One hundred sixty-six documentary features are eligible for the shortlist of 15 this season.

24 — or more than 14 percent — earned a spot on that list by winning a qualifying festival award: The Cleaners, Communion, The Distant Barking of Dogs, Family in Transition, Ghosthunter, Licu, a Romanian Story, New Moon, Of Fathers and Sons (which subsequently had a qualifying theatrical release anyway), Of Love & Law, Opera About Poland, The Other Side of Everything, Piripkura, Police Killing, Qiu (Inmates), The Raft, Samouni Road, The Silence of Others, Sisters of the Wilderness, Stan, The Trial, Up Down and Sideways, The Waldheim Waltz, We Could Be Heroes and Yellowing.

Nine titles — or more than 5 percent — qualified for a spot on the list because of the "official selection" provision: the aforementioned The Waldheim Waltz (Austria), plus Cambodia's Graves Without a Name, Ecuador's A Son of Man, Latvia's To Be Continued, Lithuania's Wonderful Losers: A Different World, New Zealand's Yellow Is Forbidden, Palestine's Ghost Hunting, Panama's Ruben Blades Is Not My Name and Switzerland's El Dorado.

It will be noteworthy — and, really, a victory for the Academy's "it's a small world after all" mantra — if any of those titles advance to the shortlist, to say nothing of a nomination or a win. Watch this space!