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Oscar documentary shortlist includes 'Paradise Lost 3,' 'Project Nim'

November 18, 2011 |  2:56 pm


"Bill Cunningham New York," a look at the veteran New York fashion photographer, "Buck," the story of acclaimed "horse whisperer" Buck Brannaman; and "Under Fire: Journalists in Combat," from director Martyn Burke, were among the 15 feature-length documentaries deemed eligible to compete for an Academy Award today.

Also on the roster was Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky's continued investigation of the case of the West Memphis 3, "Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory," which chronicles legal wrangling leading up to the eventual release of the three men convicted in the murders of children in Arkansas in the early 1990s.

A total of 124 films qualified in the category; members of the documentary branch of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will select the five eventual nominees in the feature documentary category from the titles on the shortlist.

Other films on the list include "Project Nim," the story of a chimpanzee taken from its mother and raised as a human child in New York City; "Pina," Wim Wenders' 3-D documentary about German choreographer Pina Bausch; and "Hell and Back Again," a portrait of a soldier in Afghanistan and his attempts to adjust to life at home after the war.

As is the case almost every year, there were a number of notable omissions — Werner Herzog's "Into the Abyss" and "Cave of Forgotten Dreams," Errol Morris' "Tabloid" and Steve James' "The Interrupters."  Also excluded were the lighter docs "Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey" and "Senna," about Brazilian Formula One driver Ayrton Senna.

Rounding out the list of the 15 films that might be competing for an Oscar are "Semper Fi: Always Faithful"; the Harry Belafonte documentary "Sing Your Song"; "Undefeated," the story of the underdog high school football team the Manassas Tigers; and "We Were Here," about the arrival of AIDS in San Francisco.

Oscar nominations will be announced Jan. 24.


Snubs and surprises on the Oscar foreign-language film short list

WM3 documentary 'Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory' to open in L.A.

— Nicole Sperling

Photo: Buck Brannaman, the subject of the documentary "Buck." Photo credit: Al Seib/Los Angeles Times.