The headline-grabbing "Bully," the AIDS-activism documentary "How to Survive a Plague" and "Searching for Sugar Man," about a folk-rock singer rediscovering his fans are among the films chosen for the short list of possible nominees in the Documentary Feature category at the 85th Academy Awards, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences said Monday.
"Searching for Sugar Man" has already picked up a win at the International Documentary Festival and nominations from the Producers Guild, the International Documentary Association and the Cinema Eye Honors.
It is the only 2012 doc to be nominated by both the IDA and Cinema Eye, the top two organizations that honor non-fiction filmmaking.
Overall, four of the Cinema Eye's top six nominees made the Oscar shortlist, and two of the IDA's top five.
Surprisingly, "West of Memphis," Amy Berg's documentary about the young men convicted of murdering three 8-year-old boys in Arkansas who were innocent of the crime, did not make the cut.
Other high-profile docs that do not appear on the shortlist include "The Queen of Versailles," "The Central Park Five," "Samsara," "Jiro Dreams of Sushi" and "Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present."
Still, the shortlist includes many of the most acclaimed docs of the year, including Kirby Dick's investigation into rape in the military, "The Invisible War," and Alex Gibney's "Mea Maxima Culpa," about deaf children preyed upon by pedophile priests'.
The result of rule changes that took the first-round voting out of the hands of small committees but forced voters to wade through a stack of 126 screeners, many of them arriving in the fall, the list does center on better-known, more widely publicized titles.
Among the smaller titles that made the shortlist are "The Waiting Room," a cinema verite chronicle of life in an Oakland emergency room, and "5 Broken Cameras," which follows the conflict along the Israeli/Palestinian border through the story of an amateur filmmaker whose cameras are repeatedly damaged in the conflict.
"Bully," about the phenomenon of teenaged bullying, was distributed by The Weinstein Company and battled with the Motion Picture Association over an R rating, arguing that adolescents should be able to see the film.
The 15 films on the list, which were culled from 126 films originally qualified for the category, will be whittled down to five final contenders by members of the Academy's Documentary Branch.
Read the full list below.
"Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry," Never Sorry LLC
"Bully," The Bully Project LLC
"Chasing Ice," Exposure
"Detropia," Loki Films
"Ethel," Moxie Firecracker Films
"5 Broken Cameras," Guy DVD Films
"The Gatekeepers," Les Films du Poisson, Dror Moreh Productions, Cinephil
"The House I Live In," Charlotte Street Films, LLC
"How to Survive a Plague," How to Survive a Plague LLC
"The Imposter," Imposter Pictures Ltd.
"The Invisible War," Chain Camera Pictures
"Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God," Jigsaw Productions in association with
Wider Film Projects and Below the Radar Films
"Searching for Sugar Man," Red Box Films
"This Is Not a Film," Wide Management
"The Waiting Room," Open’hood, Inc.
The 85th Academy Awards will air Feb. 24 on ABC.