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Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature

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First awarded  1942
Country  United States of America
Category of  Academy Awards
Official website  oscars.org
Instituted  1942
Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature httpslh3googleusercontentcomefIq8cCxtYAAA

Presented by  Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
People also search for  Academy Award for Best Documentary Short Subject
Currently held by  James Gay-Rees, Asif Kapadia
Winners & Nominees  OJ: Made in AmericaEzra Edelman - Caroline Waterlow, OJ: Made in America, Winner, I Am Not Your NegroRaoul Peck - Hébert Peck - Rémi Grellety, I Am Not Your Negro, Nominee, Life - AnimatedRoger Ross Williams - Julie Goldman, Life - Animated, Nominee, Fire at SeaGianfranco Rosi - Donatella Palermo, Fire at Sea, Nominee, 13thAva DuVernay - Spencer Averick - Howard Barish, 13th, Nominee, AmyAsif Kapadia - James Gay-Rees, Amy, Winner, The Look of SilenceJoshua Oppenheimer - Signe Byrge Sørensen, The Look of Silence, Nominee, Winter on Fire: Ukraine's Fight for FreedomEvgeny Afineevsky - Den Tolmor, Winter on Fire: Ukraine's Fight for Freedom, Nominee, Cartel LandMatthew Heineman - Tom Yellin, Cartel Land, Nominee, What Happened - Miss Simone?Liz Garbus - Justin Wilkes - Amy Hobby, What Happened - Miss Simone?, Nominee, CitizenfourLaura Poitras - Mathilde Bonnefoy - Dirk Wilutzky, Citizenfour, Winner, VirungaOrlando von Einsiedel - Joanna Natasegara, Virunga, Nominee, Last Days in VietnamRory Kennedy - Keven McAlester, Last Days in Vietnam, Nominee, The Salt of the EarthWim Wenders - Juliano Ribeiro Salgado - David Rosier, The Salt of the Earth, Nominee, Finding Vivian MaierJohn Maloof - Charlie Siskel, Finding Vivian Maier, Nominee, 20 Feet from StardomMorgan Neville - Gil Friesen - Caitrin Rogers, 20 Feet from Stardom, Winner, The SquareJehane Noujaim - Karim Amer, The Square, Nominee, Dirty WarsJeremy Scahill - Richard Rowley, Dirty Wars, Nominee, Cutie and the BoxerZachary Heinzerling - Lydia Dean Pilcher, Cutie and the Boxer, Nominee, The Act of KillingJoshua Oppenheimer - Signe Byrge Sørensen, The Act of Killing, Nominee, Searching for Sugar ManMalik Bendjelloul - Simon Chinn, Searching for Sugar Man, Winner, The Invisible WarKirby Dick - Amy Ziering, The Invisible War, Nominee, How to Survive a PlagueDavid France - Howard Gertler, How to Survive a Plague, Nominee, 5 Broken CamerasEmad Burnat - Guy Davidi, 5 Broken Cameras, Nominee, The GatekeepersDror Moreh - Estelle Fialon - Philippa Kowarsky, The Gatekeepers, Nominee

The Academy Award for Documentary Feature is an award for documentary films.


Winners and nominees

Following the Academy's practice, films are listed below by the award year (that is, the year they were released under the Academy's rules for eligibility). In practice, due to the limited nature of documentary distribution, a film may be released in different years in different venues, sometimes years after production is complete.


In 1942, there was one Documentary category, twenty-five nominees and four winners.

  • 1942 - Winners:
  • The Battle of Midway
  • Kokoda Front Line!
  • Moscow Strikes Back
  • Prelude to War
  • Nominees:
  • Africa, Prelude to Victory
  • Combat Report
  • Conquer by the Clock
  • The Grain That Built a Hemisphere
  • Henry Browne, Farmer
  • High Over the Borders
  • High Stakes in the East
  • Inside Fighting China
  • It's Everybody's War
  • Listen to Britain
  • Little Belgium
  • Little Isles of Freedom
  • Mr. Blabbermouth!
  • Mister Gardenia Jones
  • The New Spirit
  • The Price of Victory
  • A Ship Is Born
  • Twenty-One Miles
  • We Refuse to Die
  • The White Eagle
  • Winning Your Wings
  • From 1943 there were two separate documentary categories (features and short films)

  • 1943 - Desert Victory
  • Baptism of Fire
  • The Battle of Russia
  • Report from the Aleutians
  • War Department Report
  • 1944 - The Fighting Lady
  • Resisting Enemy Interrogation
  • 1945 - The True Glory
  • The Last Bomb
  • 1946 - none given
  • 1947 - Design for Death
  • Journey Into Medicine
  • The World Is Rich
  • 1948 - The Secret Land
  • The Quiet One
  • 1949 - Daybreak in Udi
  • Kenji Comes Home
  • 1950s

  • 1950 - The Titan: Story of Michelangelo
  • With These Hands
  • 1951 - Kon-Tiki
  • I Was a Communist for the FBI
  • 1952 - The Sea Around Us
  • The Hoaxters
  • Navajo
  • 1953 - The Living Desert
  • The Conquest of Everest
  • A Queen Is Crowned
  • 1954 - The Vanishing Prairie
  • The Stratford Adventure
  • 1955 - Helen Keller in Her Story (also known as The Unconquered)
  • Crèvecoeur
  • 1956 - The Silent World
  • Where Mountains Float (Danish: Hvor bjergene sejler)
  • The Naked Eye
  • 1957 - Albert Schweitzer
  • On the Bowery
  • Torero!
  • 1958 - White Wilderness
  • Antarctic Crossing
  • The Hidden World
  • Psychiatric Nursing
  • 1959 - Serengeti Shall Not Die
  • The Race for Space
  • 1960s

  • 1967 - The Anderson Platoon
  • Festival
  • Harvest
  • A King's Story
  • A Time for Burning
  • 1968 - Journey into Self Note: At the 41st Awards ceremony on April 14, 1969, Young Americans was announced as the winner of the Documentary Feature Oscar. On May 7, 1969, it was revealed that the film had played in October 1967, which rendered it ineligible for a 1968 Award. The first runner-up, Journey Into Self, was awarded the statuette on May 8, 1969.
  • A Few Notes on Our Food Problem
  • Legendary Champions
  • Other Voices
  • 1969 - Arthur Rubinstein – The Love of Life
  • Before the Mountain Was Moved
  • In the Year of the Pig
  • Olimpiada en México
  • The Wolf Men
  • Superlatives

    For this Academy Award category, the following superlatives emerge:

  • Most awards: Walt Disney – 4 awards (resulting from 7 nominations)
  • Most nominations: Charles Guggenheim – 10 nominations (resulting in 3 awards)
  • Controversies

    While accepting the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress award in 1978, Vanessa Redgrave made a scornful reference to the Jewish Defense League, which was picketing the event in protest of Redgrave's involvement in the documentary The Palestinian, which advocated for a Palestinian state. She was both cheered and booed when she praised the Academy for ignoring "the threats of a small bunch of Zionist hoodlums whose behavior is an insult to the stature of Jews all over the world."

    Many critically acclaimed documentaries were never nominated. Examples include Salesman, Dont Look Back, Gimme Shelter, Grey Gardens, Sans Soleil, Shoah, The Thin Blue Line, Roger & Me, Touching The Void, Hoop Dreams, Wordplay, Crumb, Paris is Burning, Position Among the Stars, Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck, Grizzly Man, Metal: A Headbanger's Journey, The Interrupters, The Last Waltz, Stories We Tell, Crime After Crime, Waltz with Bashir, Project Nim, Blackfish, Rivers and Tides, Waiting for "Superman", The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters, Senna, We Were Here, Nostalgia for the Light, Life Itself, The Overnighters, The Internet's Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz, Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief, Listen to Me Marlon, any entry from the Up Series, Hitchcock/Truffaut, Best of Enemies, Heart of a Dog, Cameraperson, Tower, Weiner and Fahrenheit 9/11 (see below).

    Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11, at the time the highest-grossing documentary film in movie history, was ruled ineligible because Moore had opted to have it played on television prior to the 2004 election. Previously, the 1982 winner Just Another Missing Kid had already been broadcast in Canada and won that country's ACTRA award for excellence in television at the time of its nomination.

    The controversy over Hoop Dreams' exclusion was enough to have the Academy Awards begin the process to change its documentary voting system. Roger Ebert, who had declared it to be the best 1994 movie of any kind, looked into its failure to receive a nomination: "We learned, through very reliable sources, that the members of the committee had a system. They carried little flashlights. When one gave up on a film, he waved a light on the screen. When a majority of flashlights had voted, the film was switched off. "Hoop Dreams" was stopped after 15 minutes."

    The Academy's executive director, Bruce Davis, took the unprecedented step of asking accounting firm Price Waterhouse to turn over the complete results of that year's voting, in which members of the committee had rated each of the 63 eligible documentaries on a scale of six to ten. "What I found," said Davis, "is that a small group of members gave zeros (actually low scores) to every single film except the five they wanted to see nominated. And they gave tens to those five, which completely skewed the voting. There was one film that received more scores of ten than any other, but it wasn't nominated. It also got zeros (low scores) from those few voters, and that was enough to push it to sixth place."

    In 2000, Arthur Cohn, the producer of the winning One Day in September boasted, "I won this without showing it in a single theater!" Cohn had hit upon the tactic of showing his Oscar entries at invitation-only screenings, and to as few other people as possible. Oscar bylaws at the time required voters to have seen all five nominated documentaries; by limiting his audience, Cohn shrank the voting pool and improved his odds. Following protests by many documentarians, the nominating system was subsequently changed.

    Hoop Dreams director Steve James said "With so few people looking at any given film, it only takes one to dislike a film and its chances for making the short list are diminished greatly. So they’ve got to do something, I think, to make the process more sane for deciding the shortlist." Among other rule changes taking effect in 2013, the Academy began requiring a documentary to have been reviewed by either the New York Times or Los Angeles Times, and be commercially released for at least one week in both of those cities. Advocating for the rule change, Michael Moore said, "When people get the award for best documentary and they go on stage and thank the Academy, it's not really the Academy, is it? It's 5% of the Academy."

    The awards process has also been criticized for emphasizing a documentary's subject matter over its style or quality. In 2009, Entertainment Weekly's Owen Gleiberman wrote about the documentary branch members' penchant for choosing "movies that the selection committee deemed good because they’re good for you... a kind of self-defeating aesthetic of granola documentary correctness."

    Although documentaries are eligible for the Academy Award for Best Picture, none has yet earned a nomination. Documentaries are ineligible for the other awards such as Best Original Screenplay and Best Director due to their realistic elements.


    Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature Wikipedia