2016 Academy Awards Predictions – Best Documentary

The Best Documentary category has developed into one of the more elusive categories at the Oscars. The Academy has a recent history of honoring the more lighthearted pieces of nonfiction film. Three of the past five years’ winners have been films that avoid politics or heavy issues.

This year, all five nominees deal with heavy issues to various degrees. And two of the three emerging frontrunners appear to be the most heavy of the lot. The Look of Silence and Cartel Land are hailed critically, and appear to be powerful enough films to elicit Academy recognition.

At least, that is the hope.


The Look of Silence is Joshua Oppenheimer’s follow up to 2012’s The Act of Killing.  The sequel may not pack the same wallop, but The Look of Silence is no less horrifying.

Cartel Land, on the other hand, has found massive success in the documentary market, and it depicts a cartel world with blurred lines of morality and justice.

Both films are phenomenal, yet “controversial.” If the Academy chooses to pick safe (which they’ve done in the past) Amy will likely take home the gold. Otherwise, it is a dogfight between the two films about hidden crime.

Update: Amy‘s continued success through the 2016 award season makes it clear that the biopic doc is the frontrunner for the Oscar. It is a strong film, sure, but it also perpetuates the trend outlined above. Amy won both the Critics Choice Award for Best Documentary and the BAFTA in the same category. Look for it to take home the gold on Feb. 28, barring any upsets from the remaining list of powerful contenders.


The Nominees:

  • Amy
  • Cartel Land
  • The Look of Silence
  • What Happened, Miss Simone?
  • Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight For Freedom


Will Win: Amy

Could Win: Cartel Land

Dark Horse: The Look of Silence


You can see a list of predictions in all Oscar categories here.

As always, thanks for reading!

What do you think? What film will take home the trophy for Best Documentary? What is your favorite documentary of all time? Let me know in the comments!

—Alex Brannan (@TheAlexBrannan)

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