2011 Oscar Documentary Feature Shortlist Revealed

The shortlist for the Documentary Feature category of the 2011 Academy Awards has been announced and has been met with equal amounts of pleasant surprise and puzzled scratching of heads. The joyous bemusement in reaction to the inclusion of Banksy’s Exit Through the Gift Shop, which many of us were convinced would be this year’s Anvil, and the shock that Laura Poitas‘ The Oath was notably absent.

It’s particularly refreshing to see the inclusion of Exit given the general view that the Academy only saw the more “worthy”-subject based documentaries as genuine contenders, and that more populist fare never stood a chance. As documentaries don’t compete within other filmmaking categories such as editing and cinematography (of which Armadillo would certainly deserve to be listed) the Documentary Feature category has always felt that it has to be an award based on overall filmmaking achievement, rather than subject, impact or agenda. With this in mind it is quite shocking to see The Oath missing and, previously mentioned, Armadillo directed by Janus Metz Pedersen. Fred Wiseman’s La Danse, Lixin Fan’s Last Train Home and Yael Hersonski’s A Film Unfinished were also seen as strong contenders but sadly didn’t make the list, and I was rooting for Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady’s 12th and Delaware to also make an appearance.

Moving on to the list itself, which is very strong, we have previous Academy Award winners Alex Gibney for Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer (which is one of four films he has directed or been involved with this year!) and Davis Guggenheim for Waiting for Superman. Of those that I’ve seen, it’s fantastic to see Restrepo by Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger, Lucy Walker’s Waste Land, Rob Lemkin and Thet Sambath’s Enemies of the People, Gasland by Josh Fox and The Tillman Story by Amir Bar-Lev make the list. Now we just have to wait to see which five make the official nominations and ruminate on how, or to who, the Oscar would be presented should Exit Through the Gift Shop take home the statue.

Check out the full shortlist after the jump.

  • Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer – Dir. Alex Gibney
  • Enemies of the People – Dir. Rob Lemkin and Thet Sambath
  • Exit through the Gift Shop – Dir. Banksy
  • Gasland – Dir. Josh Fox
  • Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould – Dir. Michele Hozer and Peter Raymont
  • Inside Job – Dir. Charles Ferguson
  • The Lottery – Dir. Madeleine Sackler
  • Precious Life – Dir. Shlomi Eldar
  • Quest for Honor – Dir. Mary Ann Smothers Bruni
  • Restrepo – Dir. Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger
  • This Way of Life – Dir. Thomas Burstyn
  • The Tillman Story – Dir. Amir Bar-Lev
  • Waiting for ‘Superman’ – Dir. Davis Guggenheim
  • Waste Land – Dir. Lucy Walker
  • William Kunstler: Disturbing the Universe – Dir. Emily Kunstler and Sarah Kunstler

Originally posted on The Documentary Blog.



  • Falsk

    Awww, it really warms my heart to see Gasland on there. I would be so overjoyed if it got a nomination…

  • Who’s going to accept for Banksy?

  • Oh, just caught the last line of the writeup. Scratch that last comment.

  • Werner

    Guess Bansky would make some piece of art out of the statue :)

  • the inclusion of the banksy film is indeed a bit of a shock. this is a man who appears to critique the fetishism of commodities, yet at the same time, rakes in the money by selling his works. it’s a carefully managed PR campaign that is based on the modernist paradigm of artist=genius. the film is just another piece in the puzzle.