• Sheldon Gaskell

2020 Oscar Predictions: Best Documentary (Feature)

Nominees: American Factory (Netflix - Steven Bognar, Julia Reichert and Jeff Reichert), The Cave (National Geographic - Feras Fayyad, Kirstine Barfod and Sigrid Dyekjaer), The Edge of Democracy (Netflix - Petra Costa, Joanna Natasegara, Shane Boris and Tiago Pavan), For Sama (PBS - Waad al-Kateab and Edward Watts), Honeyland (Neon - Ljubo Stefanov, Tamara Kotevska and Atanas Georgiev)



Will Win: American Factory (Netflix - Steven Bognar, Julia Reichert and Jeff Reichert)

Runners-up: The Edge of Democracy (Netflix - Petra Costa, Joanna Natasegara, Shane Boris and Tiago Pavan), For Sama (PBS - Waad al-Kateab and Edward Watts)



Should Win: Honeyland (Neon - Ljubo Stefanov, Tamara Kotevska and Atanas Georgiev)

Runners-up: For Sama (PBS - Waad al-Kateab and Edward Watts)



My Choice: Apollo 11 (CNN - Todd Douglas Miller, Thomas Petersen, and Evan Krauss)

My Nominees: Honeyland (Neon - Ljubo Stefanov, Tamara Kotevska and Atanas Georgiev), For Sama (PBS - Waad al-Kateab and Edward Watts), American Factory (Netflix - Steven Bognar, Julia Reichert and Jeff Reichert), One Child Nation (Amazon - Nanfu Wang, Jialing Zhang, and Christopher Clements)


American Factory has the political weight, endorsement and producer-credit of former President Obama, and backing of the streaming giant Netflix, which has a history of winning awards in the smaller categories. The film, though providing powerful insight into harrowing working conditions of Americans in a Chinese-run company, does not do much beyond the scope of simple documentation and is out-shined by other documentaries this year that take creative risks in style as well as content. Honeyland, also nominated for Best International Feature Film for North Macedonia, is more deserving as one of the most beautifully shot films of the year, with stunning cinematography and a touching story of hope for the preservation of bees and the vibrant culture of a small town in the countryside.


The criminally non-nominated Apollo 11 is epic in proportion and feels at times more like a narrative film than a documentary. Its perfect splicing of footage from the 1969 launch is a marvel to witness, especially in how it captures the experiences of Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, Buzz Aldrin, and others in present tense as though they are characters in an adrenaline-inducing drama. Comparisons can be drawn to Kubrick here in the film's ability to capture the wonder and terror of space from the mechanization of technological forces working in tangent with humankind. Such film-making is rare and worthy of applause.

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