As we continue our annual Academy Awards prediction series, we turn to Best Documentary Feature. This year’s slate of nominees include two Netflix documentaries, a PBS film, a National Geographic film, and a film distributed by Neon.
- American Factory
- For Sama
- The Cave
- The Edge of Democracy
Will Win: American Factory
Could Win: Honeyland
Dark Horse: For Sama
The Best Documentary category can sometimes be a bit nebulous, given there are so few precursors for it and the general buzz for docs is lower than those in the main categories. Awards season site GoldDerby currently has American Factory leading the pack, this according to their 22 “experts,” and I am inclined to agree with them. Although, I agree with caution.
I like the position Honeyland is in, given that it received a nomination in another category. It is the second film from North Macedonia to receive an Oscar nomination, and the first to earn two nominations. A critical darling, Honeyland is beautifully shot. It is an intimate and rich narrative. Voters might like it, as its personal story stands out from the pack (For Sama, for what it’s worth, also contains a personal story, but it is one wrapped up in a much larger sociopolitical context).
Conversely, the Academy sometimes prefers to lean more political in their documentary voting, which would work against Honeyland. Given the Academy has a generally liberal membership, the Obamas’ involvement in American Factory may be a big motivator for some voters. Or the liberal bent of the Brazilian doc The Edge of Democracy could get some support. The problem with this is both films are Netflix distributed, and I think Netflix is putting more of their campaigning effort into American Factory.
There are also two competing docs about the conflict in Syria. While one is arguably of a higher quality than the other, the two may ultimately cancel each other out in terms of voter support. If it is going to come down to one of the two, I would expect to see For Sama take the prize. All the same, it seems like this race is a split between American Factory and Honeyland.
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—Alex Brannan (@TheAlexBrannan)