‘Apollo 11,’ ‘Diego Maradona,’ ‘Knock Down the House’ Are on the Awards Track, Says DOC NYC Short List

The annual list from the documentary festival has a strong track record of predicting Oscar nominees and winners

Apollo 11
Sundance Film Festival

Next year’s Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature will go to “Apollo 11,” “The Cave,” “Diego Maradona,” “For Sama,” “Knock Down the House” or one of 10 other nonfiction films, if the track record for DOC NYC’s annual Short List proves to be as accurate as it has been in past years.

Those five films were included on the documentary festival’s 2019 list, along with “American Factory,” “The Apollo,” “Ask Dr. Ruth,” “The Biggest Little Farm,” “The Edge of Democracy,” “The Elephant Queen,” “The Great Hack,” “Honeyland,” “The Kingmaker” and “One Child Nation.”

All of the films will screen at this year’s festival, which runs in New York City from Nov. 6 through Nov. 15, and will be eligible for juried awards in four categories for the first time.

DOC NYC has been compiling its Short List, which identifies the documentaries that its programming team considers to be the year’s strongest awards contenders, since 2012. It expanded the list to 15, the same size as the Oscar doc short list, in 2014. Since then, the DOC NYC list has included nine or 10 of the films that end up on the Oscar list every year, along with four or five of the eventual nominees and every Oscar winner.

Showing just how blurred the lines are between film and television in nonfiction filmmaking, four of the 15 films – “American Factory,” “The Edge of Democracy,” “The Great Hack” and “Knock Down the House” – are from Netflix; two are from HBO, and others are from Amazon, Showtime, National Geographic, PBS, Apple and Hulu/Magnolia. Three are from NEON, the closest thing to a traditional film distributor on the list.

In the documentary shorts category, the festival identified 12 likely awards contenders, including Orlando von Einsiedel’s “Lost and Found,” Amy Shatz’ “Song of Parkland” and Alexander A. Mora’s “The Nightcrawlers.” Last year, four of the short docs on the DOC NYC list ended up on the Oscar short list, and one was nominated.

In addition, the 10th anniversary edition of DOC NYC added a new section, Winner’s Circle, made up of awards-worthy documentaries that may not have a high profile but that have won prizes at international festivals. The films include Mads Brugger’s “Cold Case Hammarskjold” and Richard Ladkani’s “Sea of Shadows.”

The festival also announced that directors Michael Apted and Martin Scorsese, both of whom will receive the Visionaries Lifetime Achievement Award, will be represented at the festival by screenings of “63 Up,” the latest film in Apted’s groundbreaking “Up” series, and “Rolling Thunder Revue,” Scorsese’s playful pseudo-doc on Bob Dylan’s 1975 tour.

Finally, three members of the DOC NYC programming team – director of programming Basil Tsiokos, shorts programmer Opal H. Bennett and artistic director Thom Powers – selected 40 notable nonfiction directors, producers, editors and cinematographers under the age of 40 for the second annual “40 Under 40” list. The honorees, who include Oscar nominees Bing Liu and RaMell Ross, directors Alexandria Bombach and Alan Hicks and producer Nicholas Ma.

The DOC NYC lists:

Short List: Doc Features:
“American Factory,” Julia Reichert, Steven Bognar (Netflix)
“The Apollo,” Roger Ross Williams (HBO Documentary Films)
“Apollo 11,” Todd Douglas Miller (NEON)
“As Dr. Ruth,” Ryan White (Hulu / Magnolia Pictures)
“The Biggest Little Farm,” John Chester (NEON)
“The Cave,” Feras Fayyad (National Geographic Documentary Films)
“Diego Maradona,” Asif Kapadia (HBO Sports)
“The Edge of Democracy,” Petra Costa (Netflix)
“The Elephant Queen,” Mark Deeble, Victoria Stone (Apple)
“For Sama,” Waad al-Kateab, Edward Watts (PBS Distribution/FRONTLINE)
“The Great Hack,” Karim Amer, Jehane Noujaim (Netflix)
“Honeyland,” Tamara Kotevska, Ljubomir Stefanov (NEON)
“The Kingmaker,” Lauren Greenfield (Showtime Documentary Films)
“Knock Down the House,” Rachel Lears (Netflix)
“One Child Nation,” Nanfu Wang, Jialing Zhang (Amazon Studios)

Short List: Doc Shorts:
“Fire in Paradise,” Drea Cooper and Zackary Canepari (Netflix)
“Ghosts of Sugar Land,” Bassam Tariq (Netflix)
“In the Absence,” Yi Seung-Jun (Field of Vision)
“Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (If You’re a Girl),” Carol Dysinger (Lifetime Films/A&E IndieFilms)
“Little Miss Sumo,” Matt Kay (Netflix)
“Lost and Found,” Orlando von Einsiedel (National Geographic Documentary Films)
“Mack Wrestles,” Erin Sanger, Taylor Hess (ESPN Films)
“The Nightcrawlers,” Alexander A. Mora (National Geographic Documentary Films)
“Song of Parkland,” Amy Shatz (HBO Documentary Films)
“St. Louis Superman,” Smitri Mundhra, Sami Kahn (MTV Documentary Films)
“Stay Close,” Luther Clement, Shuhan Fan (New York Times Op-Docs/POV Shorts)
“Tungrus,” Rishi Chandra (New York Times Op-Docs)

Winner’s Circle:
“Advocate,” Rachel Leah Jones, Philippe Bellaïche (Film Movement)
“Cold Case Hammarskjold,” Mads Brügger (Magnolia Pictures)
“The Fourth Kingdom” Adán Aliaga, Àlex Lora Cercos
“Hope Frozen,” Pailin Wedel
“Midnight Family,” Luke Lorentzen (1091 Media)
“Midnight Traveler,” Hassan Fazili (Oscilloscope Laboratories)
“Sea of Shadows,” Richard Ladkani (National Geographic Documentary Films)

40 Under 40:
Cecilia Aldarondo, director/producer, “Memories of a Penitent Heart”
Puloma Basu, director/producer, “Other Music”
Alexandria Bombach, director, “On Her Shoulders”
Shane Boris, producer, “The Edge of Democracy”
Jamie Boyle, editor, “Jackson”
Jennifer Brea, director/producer, “Unrest”
Bryan Chang, producer, “Island Soldier”
Ian Cheney, director/producer, “Picture Character”
Lauren Cioffi, producer, “Jawline”
Erika Cohn, director/producer, “The Judge”
Cristina Costantini, director/producer, “Science Fair”
Trevor Davidoski, producer, “The Clinton Affair”
Bennett Elliott, producer, “Bisbee ’17”
Lawrence Everson, sound editor, “American Factory”
Rob Hatch-Miller, director/producer, “Other Music”
Alan Hicks, director, “Quincy”
Yuqi Kang, director, “A Little Wisdom”
Bess Kargman, director, “First Position”
Sonia Kenneback, director/producer, “National Bird”
Sofian Khan, director/producer, “The Interpreters”
Amanda Lipitz, director/producer, “Step”
Bing Liu, director/producer/cinematographer, “Minding the Gap”
Ivete Lucas, director/producer/editor, “Pahokee”
Nicholas Ma, producer, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”
Crystal Moselle, director/producer, “The Wolfpack”
Kristina Motwani, co-editor, “Midnight Traveler”
Tadashi Nakamura, director/editor, “Mele Murals”
Anjali Nayar, director/producer, “Silas”
Nico Opper, director/producer, “The F Word”
Clair Popkin, cinematographer, “Inside Bill’s Brain: Decoding Bill Gates”
RaMell Ross, director/producer/editor/cinematographer, “Hale County This Morning, This Evening”
Deia Schlosberg, director/producer, “The Story of Plastic”
Martha Shane, director/producer, “Narrowsburg”
Yvonne M. Shirley, producer, “Black 14”
Erick Stoll, director/producer/cinematographer/editor, “América”
Kareem Tabsch, director/producer, “The Last Resort”
Izabella Tzenkova, producer, “Walking on Water”
Lindsay Utz, editor, “American Factory”
Chase Whiteside, director/producer/editor, “América”
Shuling Yong, cinematographer, “The Feeling of Being Watched”