Oscars Predictions: Best Documentary Feature – ‘Gunda’ Is Charming AMPAS’ International Members

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Clayton Davis
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Variety's Awards Circuit is home to the official predictions for the upcoming Oscars from Film Awards Editor Clayton Davis. Following Academy Awards history, buzz, news, reviews and sources, the Oscar predictions are updated regularly with the current year's contenders in all categories. Variety's Awards Circuit Prediction schedule consists of four phases, running all year long: Draft, Pre-Season, Regular Season and Post Season. Eligibility calendar and dates of awards will determine how long each phase lasts and will be displayed next to revision date.

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UPDATED: Mar. 4, 2021

AWARDS PREDICTION COMMENTARY: The documentary branch has a lot of international voters that have been added over the last few years. Some of the American stories that center around politics and social issues may get passed over in favor of more European stories. Films like “Collective” and “Gunda” could benefit greatly from that, while others like “All In: The Fight for Democracy” and “MLK/FBI” could be penalized. “Boys State” has the right amount of positivity and politics that engages, and some AMPAS members have shared that it’s popular. I worry about some of the more critical leaders like “Dick Johnson Is Dead” and “Time,” and they could go the way of “Apollo 11” and “Won’t You Be My Neighbor,” past precursor darlings that missed in the end. “76 Days” tugs at the heartstrings, and there’s charisma in many of the others like “My Octopus Teacher.”

WATCH RECOMMENDATIONS BEFORE VOTING: All of them? Yes, all of them. If there’s a shortlist, the responsible thing is to watch them all before voting or don’t vote at all.

“Time” (Amazon Studios)
Awards Circuit Winners Chart (2020-2021)
2021 Awards Season Calendar


  1. "Time" (Amazon Studios)
    Lauren Domino, Kellen Quinn, Garrett Bradley

    OSCAR HISTORY: Never nominated

    DIRECTOR: Garrett Bradley
    SYNOPSIS: Fox Rich fights for the release of her husband, Rob, who is serving a 60-year sentence in prison.
    STARRING: Rob Rich II, Fox Rich

  2. "The Truffle Hunters" (Sony Pictures Classics)
    Michael Dweck, Gregory Kershaw

    OSCAR HISTORY: Never nominated

    DIRECTOR: Michael Dweck, Gregory Kershaw
    SYNOPSIS: Deep in the forests of Piedmont, Italy, a handful of men, seventy or eighty years young, hunt for the rare and expensive white Alba truffle-which to date has resisted all of modern science's efforts at cultivation.
    STARRING: Piero Botto, Sergio Cauda, Maria Cicciù

  3. "Boys State" (Apple TV Plus)
    Amanda McBaine, Jesse Moss

    OSCAR HISTORY: Never nominated

    DIRECTOR: Amanda McBaine, Jesse Moss
    SYNOPSIS: A thousand 17-year-old boys from Texas join together to build a representative government from the ground up.
    STARRING:Ben Feinstein, Steven Garza, Robert MacDougall

  4. "Gunda" (Neon)
    Anita Rehoff Larsen, ,Viktor Kossakovsky

    OSCAR HISTORY: Never nominated

    DIRECTOR: Viktor Kossakovsky
    SYNOPSIS: Documentary looks at the daily life of a pig and its farm animal companions: two cows and a one-legged chicken.
    STARRING: Gunda

  5. "Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution" (Netflix)
    Nicole Newnham, James Lebrecht, Sara Bolder Hittman

    OSCAR HISTORY:: Never nominated

    DIRECTOR: Nicole Newnham, James Lebrecht
    SYNOPSIS: Down the road from Woodstock, a revolution blossomed at a ramshackle summer camp for teenagers with disabilities, transforming their lives and igniting a landmark movement.
    STARRING: S Larry Allison, Dennis Billups, William Bronston


  1. "76 Days" (MTV Documentary Films)
    Hao Wu, Jean Tsien

    OSCAR HISTORY: Never nominated

    DIRECTOR: Hao Wu, Jean Tsien, Anonymous
    SYNOPSIS: Raw and intimate, this documentary captures the struggles of patients and frontline medical professionals battling the COVID-19 pandemic in Wuhan.
    STARRING: Unknown

  2. "Collective" (Magnolia Pictures and Participant)
    Alexander Nanau, Bernard Michaux, Hanka Kastelicová, Bianca Oana

    OSCAR HISTORY: Never nominated

    DIRECTOR: Alexander Nanau
    SYNOPSIS: Director Alexander Nanau follows a crack team of investigators at the Romanian newspaper Gazeta Sporturilor as they try to uncover a vast health-care fraud that enriched moguls and politicians and led to the deaths of innocent citizens.
    STARRING: Razvan Lutac, Mirela Neag, Catalin Tolontan

  3. "MLK/FBI" (IFC Films)
    Benjamin Hedin, Sam Pollard

    OSCAR HISTORY: Never nominated

    DIRECTOR: Sam Pollard
    SYNOPSIS: Based on newly declassified files, Sam Pollard's resonant film explores the US government's surveillance and harassment of Martin Luther King, Jr.
    STARRING: James Comey, Beverly Gage, Martin Luther King

  4. "Welcome to Chechnya" (HBO)
    David France, Alice Henty, Askold Kurov, Joy A. Tomchin

    France: 1 nomination (2012's "How to Survive a Plague")
    Henty: Never nominated
    Kurov: Never nominated
    Tomchin: 1 nomination (2012's "How to Survive a Plague")

    DIRECTOR: David France
    SYNOPSIS: A group of activists risk their lives fighting for LGBTQ+ rights in Chechnya.
    STARRING: Olga Baranova, David Isteev, Maxim Lapunov

  5. "Dick Johnson Is Dead" (Netflix)
    Katy Chevigny, Marilyn Ness, Kirsten Johnson

    OSCAR HISTORY: Never nominated

    DIRECTOR: Kirsten Johnson
    SYNOPSIS: A daughter helps her father prepare for the end of his life.
    STARRING: Michael Hilow, Ana Hoffman, Dick Johnson


  1. "The Painter and the Thief" (Neon)
    Ingvil Giske, Benjamin Reel

    OSCAR HISTORY: Never nominated

    DIRECTOR: Benjamin Ree
    SYNOPSIS: An artist befriends the thief who stole her paintings. She becomes his closest ally when he is severely hurt in a car crash and needs full time care, even if her paintings are not found. But then the tables turn.
    STARRING: Karl Bertil-Nordland, Barbora Kysilkova, Øystein Stene

  2. "All In: The Fight for Democracy" (Amazon Studios)
    Liz Garbus, Lisa Cortés, Dan Cogan, Stacey Abrams

    Garbus: 2 nominations (1998's "The Farm: Angola, USA")
    Cortés: Never nominated
    Cogan: 1 nomination, 1 win (2017's "Icarus")
    Abrams: Never nominated

    DIRECTOR: Liz Garbus, Lisa Cortés
    SYNOPSIS: The documentary takes a look at the history, and current activism against voter suppression; barriers to voting that most people don't even know is a threat to their basic rights as citizens of the United States.
    STARRING: Stacey Abrams, Debo Adegbile, Jayla Allen

  3. "My Octopus Teacher" (Netflix)
    Pippa Ehrlich, James Reed

    OSCAR HISTORY:: Never nominated

    DIRECTOR: Pippa Ehrlich, James Reed
    SYNOPSIS: A filmmaker forges an unusual friendship with an octopus living in a South African kelp forest, learning as the animal shares the mysteries of her world.
    STARRING: Craig Foster, Tom Foster

  4. "The Mole Agent" (Gravitas Ventures)
    Marcela Santibañez, Maite Alberdi

    OSCAR HISTORY: Never nominated

    DIRECTOR: Maite Alberdi
    SYNOPSIS: A private investigator in Chile hires someone to work as a mole at a retirement home where a client of his suspects the caretakers of elder abuse.
    STARRING: Romulo Aitken, Sergio Chamy

  5. "Notturno" (Neon)
    Gianfranco Rosi

    OSCAR HISTORY: Never nominated

    DIRECTOR: Gianfranco Rosi
    SYNOPSIS: Gianfranco Rosi's new documentary is an immersive portrait of those trying to survive in the war-torn Middle East.
    STARRING: None

† = no release date scheduled / could be delayed / may not be eligible
†† = could be campaigned in the lead or supporting categories / original or adapted screenplay categories


The Academy Awards, better known as the Oscars, is Hollywood’s most prestigious artistic award in the film industry. The most awarded films in Oscar history are “Ben-Hur,” “Titanic” and “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” at 11 statuettes. The most nominated films in Academy history are “All About Eve,” “Titanic” and “La La Land” at 14. “La La Land” is the only film of the three to have lost best picture. The biggest Oscar “losers,” meaning most nominated and walk away with zero awards, are 1977’s “The Turning Point” and 1985’s “The Color Purple” at 11 each.

Academy Awards Predictions (All Categories)

2021 Golden Globes Predictions (Film)

2021 SAG Awards Predictions (Film)

About the Academy Awards (Oscars)

The Academy Awards, better known as the Oscars, is Hollywood’s most prestigious artistic award in the film industry. Since 1927, nominees and winners are selected by members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS). 17 branches are represented within the near 10,000 person membership. The branches are actors, associates, casting directors, cinematographers, costume designers, directors, documentary, executives, film editors, makeup and hairstylists, marketing and public relations, members-at-large, members-at-large (artists’ representatives), music, producers, production design, short films and feature animation, sound, visual effects and writers.

  • The Oscars are scheduled for Sunday, April 25, 2021.

About the Golden Globes

The Golden Globes Awards, hosted by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, is held annually with 93 members since 1944. The group recognizes excellence in film and television across drama and comedy or musical categories. Damien Chazelle’s “La La Land” holds the record for the most awards won by a single film with seven. Milos Forman’s “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and Alan Parker’s “Midnight Express” are next in line with six each. Robert Altman’s “Nashville” has the record for most nominations received by a film with 11 while Colin Higgins’ “Foul Play,” Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Godfather Part III” and Mike Nichols’ “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” share the record for receiving the most nominations and not winning a single award at seven.

  • The Golden Globes are scheduled for Feb. 28, 2021.

About the SAG Awards

The Screen Actors Guild Awards, hosted by SAG-AFTRA, is an annual award show that has become one of the most important and key indicators for the Oscars. Four films have won the most SAG awards with three: 1999’s “American Beauty,” 2002’s “Chicago,” 2011’s “The Help” and 2017’s “Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri.” Three movies have been nominated for the most SAG awards with five: 1998’s “Shakespeare in Love,” “Chicago” and 2008’s “Doubt.”

  • The SAG Awards are scheduled to take place on Sunday, April 4, 2021

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