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Academy Award for Best Documentary (Feature)

Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature
Country United States
Presented by Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
Currently held by Malik Bendjelloul
Simon Chinn
Searching for Sugar Man (2012)
Official website

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.

  • 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)








  • 2011: Undefeated  – TJ Martin, Dan Lindsay and Richard Middlemas
  • 2012: Searching for Sugar Man  – Malik Bendjelloul and Simon Chinn
    • 5 Broken Cameras – Emad Burnat and Guy Davidi
    • The Gatekeepers - Dror Moreh, Philippa Kowarsky, and Estelle Fialon
    • How to Survive a Plague - David France and Howard Gertler
    • The Invisible War - Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering


Many critically acclaimed documentaries were never nominated. Examples include Shoah, The Thin Blue Line, Roger & Me, Touching The Void, Hoop Dreams, The Interrupters, and Fahrenheit 9/11 (see below). The controversy over Hoop Dreams was enough to force the Academy Awards to change their documentary voting system.[2] 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 zero to ten. "What I found," said Davis, "is that a small group of members gave zeros 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 from those few voters, and that was enough to push it to sixth place."[3]

Other documentaries have fallen victim to the Academy's eligibility requirements. In 2005, Grizzly Man, a documentary that had appeared on many critics' top 10 lists[4] was not nominated, and had not even made the Academy's internally distributed top 15 list. Grizzly Man's exclusion was later revealed to be the result of an Academy rule disqualifying documentary films that are constructed entirely out of archive footage. However, Grizzly Man included new interviews and other footage shot exclusively for the film. Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11, at the time the highest-grossing documentary film in movie history, was ineligible because Moore had opted to have it played on television prior to the 2004 election, an ironic circumstance in light of the 1982 winner, Just Another Missing Kid. The documentary, directed by John Zaritsky, was edited together with footage originally shot for the Canadian investigative journalism TV show The Fifth Estate.

Although documentaries are eligible for the Academy Award for Best Picture, none have yet earned a nomination.

See also


External links

  • Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences official site
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