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2023 Oscars Best Documentary Feature Predictions

2023 Oscars Best Documentary Feature Predictions

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 are Davis’ assessment of the current standings of the race and do not reflect personal preferences for any film or performance. Like any organization or body that votes, each individual category is fluid and subject to change. Predictions are updated every Thursday.

LAST UPDATED: Jan. 19, 2023

2023 Oscars Predictions: Best Documentary Feature

CATEGORY COMMENTARY: The only safe pick is “All That Breathes.”

The next tier of “good bets” are “Navalny” and “Fire of Love.”

The rest are on the bubble but seem to stop at “The Territory” at no. 10, but who really knows?

As you can see, I’m predicting the quintessential “snub the frontrunner” move by the doc branch, which explains the exclusion of “All the Beauty and the Bloodshed.”

NOTE: All credited nominees are ultimately determined by the Academy.

You can read the final Variety Awards Circuit column before nominations here. Nominations will be announced on Tuesday, Jan. 24.

See the latest film predictions, in all 23 categories, in one place on Variety’s Oscars Collective. To see the ranked predictions for each individual category, visit Variety’s Oscars Hub.

See the 2022-2023 Awards Season calendar for all key dates and timelines.


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And The Predicted Nominees Are:
Rank Film Director(s) and Producer(s) Distributor
1 “All That Breathes” Shaunak Sen (director and producer), Teddy Leifer, Aman Mann (producers) HBO Documentary Films / Sideshow
The darkening backdrop of Delhi’s apocalyptic air and escalating violence, two brothers devote their lives to protect one casualty of the turbulent times: the bird known as the Black Kite.
2 “Navalny” Daniel Roher (director), Diane Becker, Shane Boris, Melanie Miller, Odessa Rae (producers) CNN/Warner Bros.
Follows the man who survived an assassination attempt by poisoning with a lethal nerve agent in August 2020. During his months-long recovery he makes shocking discoveries about the attempt on his life and decides to return home
3 “Fire of Love” Sara Dosa (director, producer), Shane Boris, Ina Fichman (producers) National Geographic Documentary Films/Neon
Intrepid scientists and lovers Katia and Maurice Krafft died in a volcanic explosion doing the very thing that brought them together: unraveling the mysteries of volcanoes by capturing the most explosive imagery ever recorded.
4 “Descendant” Margaret Brown (director, producer), Essie Chambers, Kyle Martin (producers) Netflix
Follows descendants of the survivors from the Clotilda, the last ship that carried enslaved Africans to the United States, as they reclaim their story.
5 “Hallelujah: Leonard Cohen, a Journey, a Song” Daniel Geller, Dayna Goldfine (directors, producers) Sony Pictures Classics
This feature-length documentary explores the life of singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen as seen through the prism of his internationally renowned hymn, Hallelujah.
Next in Line
6 “Retrograde” Matthew Heineman (director, producer), Caitlin McNally (producer) National Geographic Films
Tells the story of the last months of the 20-year war in Afghanistan through the intimate relationship between American Green Berets and the Afghan officers they trained.
7 “Bad Axe” David Siev (director, producer), Jude Harris, Diane-Moy Quon, Katarina Vasquez (producers) IFC Films
A real-time portrait of 2020 unfolds as an Asian-American family in Trump’s rural America fights to keep their restaurant and American dream alive in the face of a pandemic, Neo-Nazis, and generational scars from the Killing Fields.
8 “All the Beauty and the Bloodshed” Laura Poitras (director and producer), Howard Gertler, Nan Goldin, Yoni Golijov, John S. Lyons (producers) Neon
It follows the life of artist Nan Goldin and the downfall of the Sackler family, the pharmaceutical dynasty who was greatly responsible for the opioid epidemic’s unfathomable death toll.
9 “Moonage Daydream” Brett Morgen (director, producer) Neon
A cinematic odyssey exploring David Bowie’s creative and musical journey. From visionary filmmaker Brett Morgen, and sanctioned by the Bowie estate.
10 “The Territory” Alex Pritz (director, producer), Darren Aronofsky, Sigrid Dyekjær, Lizzie Gillett, Will N. Miller, Gabriel Uchida National Geographic
When a network of Brazilian farmers seizes a protected area of the Amazon rainforest, a young Indigenous leader and his mentor must fight back in defense of the land and an uncontacted group living deep within the forest.
Other Top-Tier Contenders
11 “Last Flight Home” Ondi Timoner (director), David Turner (producer) MTV Documentary Films
12 “A House Made of Splinters” Simon Lereng Wilmont (director), Monica Hellström (producer) Madman Entertainment
13 “The Janes” Tia Lessin (director), Emma Pildes (producer and director), Daniel Arcana, Jessica Levin (producers) HBO Documentary Films
14 “Hidden Letters” Violet Du Feng (director, producer), Mette Cheng Munthe Kaas, Su Kim, Jean Tsien (producers) Cargo Film & Releasing
15 “Children of the Mist” Ha Le Diem (director), Swann Dubus, Phuong Thao Tran (producers) CAT&Docs

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2023 Academy Awards Predictions


The 95th Oscars ceremony will be held at the Dolby Theatre and televised live on ABC on Sunday, March 12, 2023.

2022 category winner: “Summer of Soul” (Onyx/Searchlight Pictures)

About Variety Awards Circuit:

Variety’s unmatched coverage gives its readership unbeatable exposure in print and online and provides inside reports on all the contenders in this year’s awards season races. In addition to predictions, the section includes — Awards Circuit Column, a weekly analysis dissecting the trends and contenders in the race; Awards Circuit Podcast, a weekly series featuring interviews with the top contenders in the awards race and an expert roundtable discussion with Variety’s leading editors and columnists; Awards Circuit Predictions Video Series, a deep dive into specific categories, led by the leading pundits.

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Monica has a BA in Journalism and English from the University of Massachusetts and an MS in Journalism and Communications from Quinnipiac University. Monica has worked as a journalist for over 20 years covering all things entertainment. She has covered everything from San Diego Comic-Con, The SAG Awards, Academy Awards, and more. Monica has been published in Variety, Swagger Magazine, Emmy Magazine, CNN, AP, Hidden Remote, and more. For the past 10 years, she has added PR and marketing to her list of talents as the president of Prime Entertainment Publicity, LLC. Monica is ready for anything and is proudly obsessed with pop culture.

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