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Oscars 2009: Predictions for Best Documentary Film

Sounds a little premature to be speaking about it
this early in the game, but what’s more fun than predicting and prognosticating some of the choice offerings that we’ll be seeing at the next Oscar ceremonies. There are less than 10 months to go before the next round of noms and plenty of film offerings ahead will easily change all this speculating below.

Today we begin with what I think will be the Best Non-Fiction nominations for 08’.
Always a tough nut to crack – simply put, the Academy are predictable in selecting some obscure choices, this in part due to the voters whose agenda relates more to what a 60+ year
old might consider of value. This year we should see some clearer, more
popular choices that are part of broader critical consensus. Stay tuned for tomorrow’s next Oscar category.



Predictions: Four Noms:

American Teen (Paramount Vantage) Nanette Burstein, Eli Gonda, Christopher Huddleston, Jordan Roberts

Burning down the House (Magnolia Pictures), Alex Gibney

Standard Operating
(Sony Pictures Classics) Julie Ahlberg and Errol Morris

Religulous (Lionsgate Films) Bill Maher, Jonah Smith, Palmer West

Last time I checked, Michael Moore was not releasing a docu this year and I though it should make considerable box office money, I don’t think the Oscar-nominated Morgan Spurlock’ docu-comedy Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden? will make a top five finish. What we can expect to see are two staple docu-subjects: a war-related documentary (see my pick below) and something in relation to the human condition: a portrait from a 3rd world country (that title is TBD).

Having preemed at Berlin, a non-blinded folded pick should come in the form of Errol Morris’ Standard Operating
. A favorite among the academy, Morris examines the series of photographs that changed the world, changed the war, and changed America’s image of itself. Though this is an edgy choice among the noms, the real controversy should come with Religulous. The Cannes bound doc film, sees Bill Maher as he travels around the globe interviewing people about God and religion. It will be a loaded gun issue great for a long summer play at theaters.

This year’s Frederick Wiseman-like example of the Americana might go to the hot Sundance title American Teen. Nanette Burstein’s cinema vérité styled doc was a fav at the festival and follows the lives of four teenagers in one small town in Indiana through their senior year of high school.

The long shot in my predictions (only because I’m thinking this may be release) is Burning down the House . In a year of presidential campaigns and million dollar primaries, this looks at the world of political lobbying focusing on Jack Abramoff who was sent to prison after being convicted on a series of criminal felony counts relating to his lobbying activities. Gibney just picked up the Best Doc Oscar so there is more incentive to leave the dorr open for this doc filmmaker.

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Eric Lavallée is the founder, CEO, editor-in-chief, film journalist, and critic at, established in 2000. A regular at Sundance, Cannes, and Venice, Eric holds a BFA in film studies from the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema. In 2013, he served on the narrative competition jury at the SXSW Film Festival. He was an associate producer on Mark Jackson’s "This Teacher" (2018 LA Film Festival, 2018 BFI London). In 2022, he was a New Flesh Juror for Best First Feature at the Fantasia International Film Festival. Current top films for 2023 include The Zone of Interest (Glazer), Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell (Pham Thien An), Totem (Lila Avilés), La Chimera (Alice Rohrwacher), All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt (Raven Jackson).

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