The Rundown 2020: Documentary Feature

For our fifth Rundown article, we examine Best Documentary Feature. After the jump, you’ll find our winner and runner-up predictions for Best Documentary Feature as well as general commentary about the race. Thursday, we’ll cover Best Documentary Short Subject.

Best Documentary Feature

Winner Predictions

  • Collective (PP O)
  • Crip Camp (TB O)
  • The Mole Agent
  • My Octopus Teacher (WL O)(TL O)
  • Time

Runner-Up Predictions

  • The Mole Agent (PP R) [New]
  • My Octopus Teacher (TB R) [New]
  • Time (WL O)(TL O)

(color and symbol key at bottom of page)

Wesley Lovell: When two of the most talked about documentaries of the year (Dick Johnson Is Dead and All In: The Fight for Democracy) left out of the Oscar race, it comes down to other big names of the season, of which each of these five titles has some measure of support. The Mole Agent is probably least likely of the five while Crip Camp might have the Obama name attached executively, but the film was notably absent from a lot of Oscar season. Collective is the first film nominated for both International Feature Film and Documentary Feature in the same year, which might give it a boost, but the language barrier might also be a hit. That brings us to Time and My Octopus Teacher. It’s a tough call for me as one is clearly a fanciful name that now has a PGA Award and the other is a zeitgeist kind of documentary. We’ll see how things turn out, but this is my thinking right now.
Peter J. Patrick: I’m going to go with two films, one from Romania, the other from Chile, that are about health care abuses. The Romanian film, Collective, is also an Oscar contender for Best International Film that gives it a slight edge over the Chilean film, The Mole Agent, which is about a spy in an old folks’ nursing home.
Tripp Burton: Like many years, a case could be made for any of these nominees winning, but the two Netflix contenders seem to be the front runners. My Octopus Teacher has turned out to be the surprise dark horse of the season, including a PGA win last week, and could be the crowd pleaser that plays well today. The Obamas’ Higher Ground Productions won the award last year for their first film, though, and the entertaining and enlightening Crip Camp could very well make them 2 for 2.
Thomas La Tourrette: I found the story and photography of My Octopus Teacher enthralling, and figure that might be enough to take it to the winner’s circle. A South African man visited an octopus every day for a year, and it was fascinating to see their bond form. The underwater photography was beautiful and different than what one normally sees in documentaries. The use of drones in filming the mountain climbing doc, Free Solo, probably helped it win two years ago, so I could see that happening here too. Time, which follows a woman trying to get her husband out of prison over a 20-year span was interesting but felt a little disjointed. It will get the social vote, but the emotional vote might go to Octopus. Crip Camp is a feel good film about a camp that opens up the world to people who had led sheltered lives due to their disabilities and follows many into lives of social activism. I have not seen The Mole Agent or Collective yet, though Collective is supposed to be searing and could be a wildcard underdog. I am hoping that My Octopus Teacher wins the Oscar.


Appears on Four Lists
Appears on Three Lists
Appears on Two Lists

Wesley Lovell Peter Patrick Tripp Burton Thomas LaTourrette
[New] = New Prediction
[Return] = Prior Prediction Returning
(O) = Original Prediction
(R) = Rundown Series

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