LOS ANGELES - Fifteen documentary features, out of 124 submitted, will advance in voting for this year's Oscar for Best Documentary, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences announced Tuesday.
In what has been a particularly strong year for non-fiction films, today's shortlist contains powerful stories by such filmmakers as Alex Gibney, Joshua Oppenheimer and Michael Moore, on such varied topics as revolution, the drug war, economic inequality, religion, gun laws, music, and mountain climbing.
Though some are in theatrical engagements, most are currently available to view on cable outlets (HBO, Showtime, CNN), VOD or online (via Digital HD or streaming services such as Netflix). Details, along with trailers for each film, are below.
The 15 films (in alphabetical order) are:
"Amy" - Director Asif Kapadia's acclaimed portrait of the turbulent life and tragic death of six-time Grammy-winning singer Amy Winehouse.
- New Amy Winehouse documentary depicts turbulent artistry ("CBS This Morning")
- Official site
"Best of Enemies" - Conservative pundit William F. Buckley Jr. and library literary firebrand Gore Vidal were matched in on-air debates during the 1968 Republican and Democratic national conventions -- a harbinger of the vitriolic, partisan debates that are so prevalent on the cable channels and Internet tubes of today. Co-directed by Morgan Neville, an Oscar-winner for "Twenty Feet From Stardom."
- Official site (Magnolia Pictures)
"Cartel Land" - Winner of directing and cinematography awards at this year's Sundance Film Festival, the movie traces efforts on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border to combat violent drug cartels.
Available on iTunes.
"Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief" - Alex Gibney's award-winning expose of the rise of L. Ron Hubbard's Church of Scientology, its efforts to have itself declared a religion for tax purposes, and the tactics the church uses to suppress dissent within its ranks.
- Scrutinizing Scientology: Filmmaker goes inside secretive religion ("CBS This Morning")
- Official site
"He Named Me Malala" - A portrait of Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani schoolgirl who survived an assassination attempt by the Taliban and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
In theatres; Available on Blu-ray/DVD and on Digital HD beginning December 15.
"Heart of a Dog" - A beautifully conceived visual essay by performance artist and composer Laurie Anderson for her beloved rat terrier, Lolabelle.
In theatres from Abramorama; to be shown on HBO in 2016.
"The Hunting Ground" - An exposé of sexual assaults on college campuses, and their cover-ups. Directed by Kirby Dick, a two-time Oscar-nominee (for "The Invisible War" and "Twist of Faith").
"Listen to Me Marlon" - A riveting documentary on actor Marlon Brando, told in large measure by way of excerpts from hundreds of hours of private audio recordings he had made over the years.
Currently showing on Showtime and Showtime On Demand; Also available on Blu-Ray/DVD and on iTunes.
"The Look of Silence" - This sequel to Joshua Oppenheimer's award-winning documentary, "The Act of Killing," looks at the anti-Communist genocide waged by Indonesia's military regime, and its victims' search for reconciliation and peace.
Available on iTunes, and coming this month to Netflix; Available on Blu-Ray/DVD in January 2016.
"Meru" - Shark's Fin on India's Mount Meru has been called one of the hardest climbs on the planet, and has defeated many of the greatest mountaneers in history. This documentary looks at the irresistible summit from the eyes of a climber.
- New documentary looks at Mount Meru from the eyes of a climber ("CBS This Morning")
- Official site
"3 1/2 Minutes, 10 Bullets" - Florida's controversial Stand Your Ground self-defense law is the target of this film about the murder trial of Michael Dunn, a middle-aged white man who shot and killed a 17-year-old black teenager, Jordan Russell Davis, in 2012, over the volume of his car stereo.
Streaming on HBO.
"We Come as Friends" - A look at the challenges facing the people of South Sudan and their exploitation by business interests in a not-quite post-colonial era in Africa.
"What Happened, Miss Simone?" - A portrait of singer, musician and civil rights activist Nina Simone, the "High Priestess of Soul."
Available on Netflix.
"Where to Invade Next" - Michael Moore ("Bowwing for Columbine," "Fahrenheit 9/11") travels around the world, "invading" countries to learn about and steal their bright ideas about social justice and economic equality that would make America an even greater place.
Opens in New York and Los Angeles December 23, nationwide January 15, 2016.
"Winter on Fire: Ukraine's Fight for Freedom" - A view from the street of the 2014 protest movement in Ukraine, and the uprising that ousted President Viktor Yanukovych.
Watch on Netflix.
Documentary Branch members will select the five final nominees from among these 15.
Oscar nominations will be announced live on Thursday, January 14, 2016, at 8:30 a.m. ET at the Academy's Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills.
The 88th Academy Awards will be held at the Dolby Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center in Hollywood on Sunday, February 28, 2016.