‘Summer of Soul,’ ‘Flee,’ ‘Ascension’ Land on DOC NYC Short List of Awards-Worthy Documentaries

Other films on the list, a reliable Oscar predictor, include “Becoming Cousteau,” “Faya Dayi,” “Introducing, Selma Blair,” “The Rescue” and “The Velvet Underground”

Summer of Soul Nina Simone
"Summer of Soul" / Searchlight Pictures/Hulu

“Ascension,” “Flee” and “Summer of Soul” are among the 15 documentaries that have made DOC NYC’s 2021 “Short List,” an annual round-up of the nonfiction films most likely to figure in the upcoming awards season.

Those three films also appeared on the International Documentary Association’s shortlist of semifinalists for the IDA Documentary Awards and were nominated in the top category at the Critics Choice Documentary Awards and the Gotham Awards. They are the only films to have been honored by all four groups this year.

Other films on the Short List include “Attica,” “Becoming Cousteau,” “Bring Your Own Brigade,” “Faya Dayi,” “Homeroom,” “In the Same Breath,” “Introducing, Selma Blair,” “Julia,” “Procession,” “The Rescue,” “Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain” and “The Velvet Underground.”

All of the films will be screened in a special section at the DOC NYC festival, the largest U.S. festival devoted to nonfiction film.

The festival also announced a second Short List for documentary shorts. It included “A Broken House” and “Eagles” (“Aguilas”), both of which were also on recent shortlists from the IDA and the Cinema Eye Honors.  

The DOC NYC list is overseen by Thom Powers, artistic director of DOC NYC. The list has included the eventual Oscar winner eight times in the last nine years, and 39 of the last 45 Oscar-nominated documentary features.

Last year was atypical, with the DOC NYC short list including only three of the five Oscar nominees, missing “The Mole Agent” and also the eventual winner, the late-breaking “My Octopus Teacher.” It did, however, contain 10 of the 15 films that made the Oscar shortlist for doc features.

The 2021 DOC NYC festival will run from Nov. 10-18 in New York City, and will continue online screenings until Nov. 28.

The lists, from the DOC NYC release:

Short List: Features

Dir/Prod: Jessica Kingdon
Prod: Kira Simon-Kennedy, Nathan Truesdell 
Winner of the Best Documentary Feature Award at the Tribeca Film Festival, “Ascension” is an impressionistic portrait of China’s industrial supply chain that depicts a thriving capitalism in a communist state. (Courtesy of MTV Documentary Films)

Dir/Prod: Stanley Nelson, Traci Curry 
Filmmakers Stanley Nelson, a 2016 DOC NYC Lifetime Achievement Award recipient, and Traci Curry team up to revisit the 1971 New York prison uprising that was the largest in U.S. history. (Courtesy of SHOWTIME® Documentary Films)

“Becoming Cousteau”
Dir/Prod: Liz Garbus 
Prod: Dan Cogan, Mridu Chandra, Evan Hayes
Oscar-nominated filmmaker Liz Garbus takes a nuanced look at Jacques Cousteau’s passions, achievements, blind spots, and tragedies. (Courtesy of Picturehouse)

“Bring Your Own Brigade”
Dir/Prod: Lucy Walker
​Prod: Holly Becker, Julian Cautherley, Lyn Davis Lear, Martha Mitchell
Oscar-nominated director Lucy Walker focuses on one day in California’s 2018 megafire season to discover why these infernos are growing more common. (Courtesy of CBS/Paramount)

“Faya Dayi”
Dir/Prod: Jessica Beshir
Winner of multiple festival prizes, “Faya Dayi” takes us on an ethereal journey through Harar, Ethiopia, the hometown of director Jessica Beshir, as she follows the harvesting of the euphoria-inducing khat plant. (Courtesy of Janus Films)

Dir: Jonas Poher Rasmussen
Prod: Monica Hellström, Signe Byrge Sørensen, Charlotte De La Gournerie
Denmark’s official Academy Awards submission for Best International Film, “Flee” uses animation to tell the story of Amin Nawabi (a pseudonym), who fled Afghanistan as a boy, relying on human smugglers to reach Denmark. (Courtesy of NEON)

Dir/Prod: Peter Nicks
Prod: Sean Havey
Director Peter Nicks, the recipient of DOC NYC’s 2021 Robert and Anne Drew Award, follows the senior class of Oakland High School through the tumultuous year of 2019-2020. (Courtesy of Hulu)

“In the Same Breath”
Dir/Prod: Nanfu Wang
Prod: Jialing Zhang, Julie Goldman, Christopher Clements, Carolyn Hepburn
In this penetrating film essay, filmmaker Nanfu Wang seeks to understand how governments shaped information about the Covid-19 pandemic both in China and the United States. (Courtesy of HBO Documentary Films)

“Introducing, Selma Blair”
Dir: Rachel Fleit
Prod: Mickey Liddell, Pet Shilaimon, Troy Nankin
Filmmaker Rachel Fleit documents actress Selma Blair as she adapts to living with multiple sclerosis with humor and unflinching candor.  (Courtesy of Discovery+)

Dir/Prod: Betsy West, Julie Cohen
Prod: Justin Wilkes, Sara Bernstein, Holly Siegel 
The Oscar-nominated directors of “RBG” deliver a touching portrait of the iconic television chef Julia Child who became a celebrity in her fifties, defying expectations for women of her generation. (Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics)

Dir: Robert Greene
Prod: Susan Bedusa, Bennett Elliott, Douglas Tirola
Six midwestern men — all survivors of childhood sexual assault at the hands of Catholic priests and clergy — come together to direct a drama therapy-inspired experiment designed to collectively work through their trauma. (Courtesy of Netflix)

“The Rescue”
Dir/Prod: E. Chai Vasarhelyi, Jimmy Chin
Prod: P.J. van Sandwijk, John Battsek
The Oscar-winning directors of “Free Solo” take us inside the dramatic rescue of 12 young soccer players and their coach trapped by monsoon floods inside a cave in Thailand. (Courtesy of National Geographic Documentary Films)

“Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain”
Dir/Prod: Morgan Neville
Prod: Caitrin Rogers
Oscar-winning director Morgan Neville creates a multifaceted portrait of Anthony Bourdain, drawing upon extensive unseen footage from his travels and emotional memories from his friends. (Courtesy of Focus Features)

“Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised)”
Dir: Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson
Prod: Joseph Patel, David Dinerstein, Robert Fyvolent
Acclaimed musician Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson makes his directorial debut shaping a treasure trove of footage from the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival. (Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures / Onyx Collective / Hulu)

“The Velvet Underground”
​​Dir/Prod: Todd Haynes
Prod: Christine Vachon, Julie Goldman, Christopher Clements, Carolyn Hepburn, David Blackman
Filmmaker Todd Haynes explores the history of The Velvet Underground and the 1960s New York scene of experimental art, music, and film. (Courtesy of Apple Original Films)

Short List: Shorts

Dir: Matt Ogens
Prod: Geoff McLean
After breaking their winning streak, Maryland School for the Deaf’s championship high school football team shares their triumphs, trials, and how they will bounce back. (Courtesy of Netflix)

“The Bree Wayy: Promise Witness Remembrance” 
Dir: Dawn Porter
Prod: Niema Jordan, Kimberly Reynolds, Cubie King
Dawn Porter’s uplifting short takes us behind the scenes of Amy Sherald’s Breonna Taylor portrait, bringing grace and dignity to the tragic loss of her life. (Courtesy of MTV Documentary Films)

“A Broken House” 
Dir/Prod: Jimmy Goldblum
Prod: Dick Gephardt, Matt Weaver, Harrison Nalevansky
Artist Mohamad Hafez rebuilds monuments, neighborhoods, and cities of his beloved Syria, working through his longing for home. (Courtesy of POV Shorts / The New Yorker)

“Camp Confidential: America’s Secret Nazis” 
Dir/Prod: Daniel Sivan, Mor Loushy
Prod: Benji Bergmann, Jono Bergmann
Camp Confidential reveals the secret government-sanctioned camp that smuggled Nazis into the United States after World War II, as camp workers come forward for the first time in history. (Courtesy of Netflix)

“Coded: The Hidden Love of J.C. Leyendecker” 
Dir: Ryan White
Prod: Christopher Leggett, Marc Gilbar, Jessica Hargrave, Conor Fetting-Smith, Rafael Marmor
Exploring the work of one of the grandfathers of  modern marketing, Coded unpacks illustrator J.C. Leyendecker’s advertisements that animated his male partner and became an easter egg of queer coding in art. (Courtesy of MTV Documentary Films)

“Don’t Go Tellin’ Your Momma” 
Dir: Topaz Jones, rubberband
Prod. Luigi Rossi
Accompanying Topaz Jones’s album, Don’t Go Tellin’ Your Momma is a visual marvel documenting the Black ABCs and growing up in New Jersey.  (Courtesy of The New York Times Op-Docs)

“Eagles” (“Águilas”) 
Dir/Prod: Kristy Guevara-Flanagan, Maite Zubiaurre
A raw portrait of the team of people called Aguilas del Desierto, who search for missing migrants along the southern border of Arizona. (Courtesy of POV Shorts / The New Yorker)

“Joe Buffalo” 
Dir/Prod: Amar Chebib
Prod: Hayley Morin, Mack Stannard
Skateboard legend Joe Buffalo faces himself in this raw portrait of trauma, addiction, and finding freedom in skating. (Courtesy of The New Yorker)

“Lynching Postcards: Token of a Great Day” 
Dir: Christine Turner
Prod: ​​Lily Plotkin
This chilling reflection examines the horrific history of lynchings as cultural events and celebrations that included souvenirs and postcards. (Courtesy of MTV Documentary FIlms)

“Nothing to Declare” 
Dir/Prod: Garret Daly
Prod: Martina McGlynn
Two men laugh about their days of mischief and wonder as they remember their most iconic adventure: hopping on a one-way plane to New York. 

“The Queen of Basketball”
Dir: Ben Proudfoot
Prod: Elizabeth Brooke, Abby Lynn Kang Davis, Gabriel Berk Godoi, Brandon Somerhalder, Sarah Stewart
Lusia Harris, the first and only woman ever officially drafted to the NBA, takes a seat and shares her story as a woman before her time and a legend in the women’s basketball community. (Courtesy of The New York Times Op-Docs)

“A Ship from Guantánamo” 
Dir: Dara Kell, Veena Rao
Prod: Beth Jacob, Mansoor Adayfi
Unjustly stuck behind bars for more than 20 years, Moath al Alwi builds elaborately detailed ships out of scrap materials from Guantánamo Bay. (Courtesy of The New York Times Op-Docs)

Dir: Kaitlyn Schwalje, Alex Wolf Lewis
Prod: Rebecca Stern, Justin Levy 
Stuck in the trenches of the family basement, the beloved family pet Snowy is about to get a new lease on life.  (Courtesy of TIME Studios)

“What You’ll Remember” 
Dir: Erika Cohn
Prod: Marcia Jarmel
This emotional video diary profiles a family struggling with housing insecurity and what the parents hope remains in their children’s memories. (Courtesy of The New York Times Op-Docs)

“They Won’t Call It Murder” 
Dir: Melissa Gira Grant, Ingrid Raphaël
Prod: Ruun Nuur, Chase Whiteside
A sobering chronicle of police killings in Columbus, Ohio, this documentary captures some of the countless stories of police brutality that have  never been classified as murders by law enforcement. (Courtesy of Field of Vision)