Oscars Predictions: Documentary Feature – Could Netflix’s ‘American Symphony’ Score Noms Outside Its Category?

Variety Awards Circuit section is the home for all awards news and related content throughout the year, featuring the following: the official predictions for the upcoming Oscars, Emmys, Grammys and Tony Awards ceremonies, curated by Variety senior awards editor Clayton Davis. The prediction pages reflect the current standings in the race and do not reflect personal preferences for any individual contender. As other formal (and informal) polls suggest, competitions are fluid and subject to change based on buzz and events. Predictions are updated every Thursday.

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2024 Oscars Predictions:
Best Documentary Feature

20 Days in Mariupol
20 Days in Mariupol

Weekly Commentary (Updated Nov. 17, 2023): As always, we expect an arsenal of documentary feature titles to flood the field for the voters to sift through.

One question on my mind is, how long will the Oscars wait to nominate a movie for best picture? There’s a very worthy entrant in the form of Matthew Heineman’s emotionally moving “American Symphony” following Grammy and Oscar-winning composer Jon Batiste. The film will also have an original song to help its campaign pick up steam outside of its own branch.

Wim Wenders, who received a tribute at Telluride, has two films in the race this year. The first is Japan’s official selection, “Perfect Days” from Neon (which even if the film wins, doesn’t make Wenders an Oscar-winner, as the country is officially awarded the prize), and the other is his three-dimensional doc, “Anselm.” The three-time nominee of “Buena Vista Social Club” (1999), “Pina” (2011) and “The Salt of the Earth” (2015). This could be the overdue veteran’s year to get a trip to the Dolby Theatre stage.

Read: Variety’s Awards Circuit for the latest Oscars predictions in all categories.

The submission deadline for general categories is Nov. 15, 2023. The preliminary shortlist for eight categories is from Dec. 14-18, with the results announcement dropping on Dec. 21. The Oscar nomination period will run from Jan. 11-16, 2024, with the official nominees named on Jan. 23.

The 96th Oscars will be held on Sunday, March 10.

***The list below is not final and will be updated throughout the awards season.

And the Predicted Nominees Are:

  1. American Symphony” (Netflix) — Matthew Heineman (director, producer), Lauren Domino, Joedan Okun (producers)

  2. Little Richard: I Am Everything” (Magnolia Pictures) — Lisa Cortes (director, producer), Caryn Capotosto, Robert Friedman, Liz Yale Marsh (producers)

  3. 20 Days in Mariupol” (PBS) — Mstyslav Chernov (director, producer), Derl McCrudden, Michelle Mizner, Raney Aronson-Rath (producers)

  4. The Mission” (National Geographic) — Amanda McBaine, Jesse Moss (directors, producers), Jonathan Chinn, Simon Chinn, Will Cohen (producers)

  5. They Shot the Piano Player” (Sony Pictures Classics) — Javier Mariscal, Fernando Trueba (directors), Cristina Huete (producer)

Next in Line

  1. Anselm” (Janus/Sideshow) — Wim Wenders (director), Karsten Brünig (producers)

  2. Kokomo City” (Magnolia Pictures) — D. Smith (director, producer), Bill Butler, Harris Doran (producer)

  3. Beyond Utopia” (Roadside Attractions) — Madeleine Gavin (director), Rachel Cohen, Jana Edelbaum, Sue Mi Terry (producers)

  4. Silver Dollar Road” (Amazon Studios) — Raoul Peck (director, producer), Blair Foster, Rémi Grellety, Hébert Peck (producers)

  5. The Eternal Memory” (MTV Documentary Films) — Maite Alberdi (director, producer), Rocío Jadue, Juan de Dios Larraín, Pablo Larraín, Andrea Undurraga (producers)

Other Top-Tier Possibilities

  1. Stamped From the Beginning” (Netflix) — Roger Ross Williams (director, producer), Alia Payne, David Teague (producers)

  2. Orlando, My Political Biography” (Janus Films/Sideshow) — Paul B. Preciado (director), Yaël Fogiel, Laetitia Gonzalez (producers)

  3. Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie” (Apple Original Films) — Davis Guggenheim (director, producer), Jonathan King, Annetta Marion (producers)

  4. 32 Sounds” (Abramorama) — Sam Green (director), Josh Penn, Thomas O. Kriegsmann (producers)

  5. The Pigeon Tunnel” (Apple Original Films) — Errol Morris (director), Simon Cornwell, Stephen Cornwell, Dominic Crossley-Holland, Steven Hathaway (producers)

  6. The Deepest Breath” (Netflix) — Laura McGann (director), John Battsek, Jamie D’Alton, Anne McLoughlin, Sarah Thomson (producers)

  7. The Lady Bird Diaries” (Hulu) — Dawn Porter (director)

  8. Every Body” (Focus Features) — Julie Cohen (director), Tommy Nguyen, Molly O’Brien (producers)

  9. 26.2 to Life” (Film Halau) — Christine Yoo (director, producer), Carolyn Mao, Sara Jane Sluke, Hella Winston (producers)

  10. Bobi Wine: The People’s President” (National Geographic) — Moses Bwayo (director), Christopher Sharp (director, producer), John Battsek (producer)

Also In Contention

  1. High & Low: John Galliano” (Mubi)

  2. In Viaggo: The Travels of Pope Francis” (Magnolia Pictures)

  3. Wild Beauty: Mustang Spirit of the West” (Gravitas Ventures)

  4. Black Ice” (Lionsgate)

  5. The League” (Magnolia Pictures)

  6. Nothing Lasts Forever” (Showtime)

  7. January 6th” (Discovery Channel)

  8. Joan Baez I Am a Noise” (Magnolia Pictures)

  9. Bono & The Edge: A Sort of Homecoming, With David Letterman” (Disney+)

  10. Stan Lee” (Disney+)

All Eligible Titles (Alphabetized by Studio)**

  • “Occupied City” (A24)

  • “Exposing Parchman” (A&E)

  • “32 Sounds” (Abramorama)

  • “Have You Got It Yet? The Story of Syd Barrett and Pink Floyd” (Abramorama)

  • “Judy Blume Forever” (Amazon Studios)

  • “Reggie” (Amazon Studios)

  • “Silver Dollar Road” (Amazon Studios)

  • “Boom! Boom! The World vs. Boris Becker” (Apple Original Films)

  • “The Pigeon Tunnel” (Apple Original Films)

  • “Stephen Curry: Underrated” (Apple Original Films)

  • “Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie” (Apple Original Films)

  • “Aurora’s Surise” (Bars Media Films)

  • “It’s Basic” (Blowback Productions)

  • “American Pain” (CNN)

  • “Chowchilla” (CNN)

  • “Against the Tide” (Deckert Distribution)

  • “January 6th” (Discovery Channel)

  • “Bono & The Edge: A Sort of Homecoming, With David Letterman” (Disney+)

  • “Stan Lee” (Disney+)

  • “Who I Am Not” (Double 4 Studios)

  • “Into the Spotlight” (Double Life Films)

  • “Once Upon a Time in Uganda” (Drafthouse)

  • “King Coal” (Drexler Films)

  • “Finding Her Beat” (Emergence Pictures)

  • “The American Gladiators Documentary” (ESPN)

  • “Bullies of Baltimore” (ESPN)

  • “Jeanette Lee Vs.” (ESPN)

  • “26.2 to Life” (Film Halau)

  • “Sam Now” (Film Movement)

  • “The Thief Collector” (FilmRise)

  • “Every Body” (Focus Features)

  • “Grandpa Was an Emperor” (Freestyle Digital Media)

  • “Out of the Ring” (Fuse)

  • “The New York Times Presents: The Legacy of J. Dilla” (FX)

  • “The New York Times Presents: The Crimes of Anthony Pellicano” (FX)

  • “Isolated Land: The Murder of Bruno and Dom” (Globoplay)

  • “The Holly” (Gravitas Ventures)

  • “Wild Beauty: Mustang Spirit of the West” (Gravitas Ventures)

  • “The Elephant 6 Recording Co.” (Greenwich Entertainment)

  • “In the Company of Rose” (Greenwich Entertainment)

  • “The Melt Goes on Forever: The Art and Times of David Hammons” (Greenwich Entertainment)

  • “Nam June Paik: Moon is the Oldest TV” (Greenwich Entertainment)

  • “Smoke Sauna Sisterhood” (Greenwich Entertainment)

  • “Subject” (Greenwich Entertainment)

  • “1000% Me: Growing Up Mixed” (HBO Documentary Films)

  • “A Revolution on Canvas” (HBO Documentary Films)

  • “After the Bite” (HBO Documentary Films)

  • “Donyale Luna: Supermodel” (HBO Documentary Films)

  • “Going To Mars: The Nikki Giovanni Project” (HBO Documentary Films)

  • “Anthem” (Hulu)

  • “The Lady Bird Diaries” (Hulu)

  • “Jelly Roll: Save Me” (Hulu)

  • “The Disappearance of Shere Hite” (IFC Films)

  • “Lakota Nation vs. United States” (IFC Films)

  • “Orlando, My Political Biography” (Janus Films/Sideshow)

  • “Film, the Living Record of Our Memory” (Kino Lorber)

  • “Four Daughters” (Kino Lorber)

  • “Black Ice” (Lionsgate)

  • “A Compassionate Spy” (Magnolia Pictures)

  • “In Viaggo: The Travels of Pope Francis” (Magnolia Pictures)

  • “The Invisible Beauty” (Magnolia Pictures)

  • “Joan Baez I Am a Noise” (Magnolia Pictures)

  • “The League” (Magnolia Pictures)

  • “Kokomo City” (Magnolia Pictures)

  • “Little Richard: I Am Everything” (Magnolia Pictures)

  • “Periodical” (MSNBC)

  • “The Eternal Memory” (MTV Documentary Films)

  • “Pay or Die” (MTV Documentary Films)

  • “High & Low: John Galliano” (Mubi)

  • “Bobi Wine: The People’s President” (National Geographic)

  • “The Mission” (National Geographic)

  • American Symphony” (Netflix)

  • “The Deepest Breath” (Netflix)

  • “Stamped From the Beginning” (Netflix)

  • “aka Mr. Chow” (No U.S. Distribution)

  • “Anonymous Sister” (No U.S. Distribution)

  • “Copa 71” (No U.S. Distribution)

  • “Defiant” (No U.S. Distribution)

  • “Hollywoodgate” (No U.S. Distribution)

  • “Imagining the Indian: The Fight Against Native American Mascoting” (No U.S. Distribution)

  • “In the Shadow of Beirut” (No U.S. Distribution)

  • “To Kill a Tiger” (No U.S. Distribution)

  • “Your Fat Friend” (No U.S. Distribution)

  • “20 Days in Mariupol” (PBS)

  • “While We Watched” (POV)

  • “Beyond Utopia” (Roadside Attractions)

  • “All Up in the Biz” (Showtime)

  • “Nothing Lasts Forever” (Showtime)

  • “Personality Crisis: One Night Only” (Showtime)

  • “Carlos” (Sony Pictures Classics)

  • “It Ain’t Over” (Sony Pictures Classics)

  • “They Shot the Piano Player” (Sony Pictures Classics)

  • “What The Hell Happened To Blood, Sweat & Tears?” (Veep)

  • “Desperate Souls, Dark City and the Legend of Midnight Cowboy” (Kino Lorber/Zeitgeist Films)

  • “Menus-Plaisirs Les Troisgros” (Zipporah)

2022 category winner: “Navalny” (CNN Films) — Daniel Roher, Odessa Rae, Diane Becker, Melanie Miller and Shane Boris

** indicates an unconfirmed release date in 2023 or could campaign in the lead or supporting categories. All release dates are subject to change.

Oscars Predictions Categories


About the Academy Awards

The Academy Awards, better known as the Oscars, is Hollywood’s most prestigious artistic award in the film industry. Since 1927, nominees and winners have been selected by members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS). Seventeen branches are represented within the nearly 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.

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