With final voting complete, the 96th Oscars telecast will be broadcast on Sunday, March 10 and air live on ABC at 8:00 p.m. ET/ 5:00 p.m. PT. We update predictions through awards season, so keep checking IndieWire for all our 2024 Oscar picks.

The State of the Race

With a fragile theatrical market for non-fiction features and a dwindling number of active documentary buyers, many Sundance 2023 films did not get picked up for distribution. As the top American film festival for docs, Sundance usually supplies as many as four out of the final five Oscar nominees each year.

And usually, by late summer, Oscar promotion is well underway. Last year, three Sundance grads — eventual Oscar nominees “Fire of Love” (Neon), “All that Breathes” (HBO), and the winner, “Navalny” (CNN) — were actively campaigning.

One Sundance World Cinema entry that built a following during the year was Pulitzer Prize winner Mstyslav Chernov’s harrowing war journalist story “20 Days in Mariupol” (August, Frontline/PBS), which won the Audience Award. It also picked up wins from the BAFTAs and DGA, and couldn’t be more timely, as the wars in Ukraine and Gaza continue to make headlines.

With the international membership now representing more than 20 percent of the total voters, this year all five documentary nominees were international. No American movie made the cut.

This has been a growing trend, as films like “All That Breathes” and “Writing with Fire” from India, Oscar-winner “My Octopus Teacher,” from Australia, “Flee” from Denmark, “Honeyland” from Macedonia, and “The Mole Agent” from Chilean filmmaker Maite Alberdi all landed Oscar nods. Alberdi returns with “The Eternal Memory” (MTV Documentary Films), winner of the Sundance World Cinema documentary jury prize, a four-hankie romantic story about Alzheimer’s that could resonate with the senior Oscar voters that favored Michael Haneke’s “Amour.”

Similarly, like “Writing with Fire,” “To Kill a Tiger” (National Film Board of Canada) shows how hard it is for rural folks in India to find justice for women in a deeply misogynistic society.

One-week Oscar-qualifying runs in six major cities demand resources, as does participating in major and regional festivals, International Documentary Association screenings, and other doc series with Q&As. However, a small distributor and marketing budget does not mean all is lost, as surprise documentary nominee “Writing with Fire” proved in 2021.

Tunisian Kaouther Ben Hania’s edgy hybrid Cannes Competition title “Four Daughters” (Kino Lorber), which shared the festival’s Best Documentary prize, made it into the documentary race.

NatGeo promoted International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam Audience Award winner and IDA and CInema Eye Honors Best Feature winner “Bobi Wine: The People’s President,” featuring the former presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu aka Bobi Wine, who is still fighting the good fight against a vicious dictator in Uganda.

Contenders are listed in order of their likelihood to win.

“20 Days in Mariupol”
“Bobi Wine: The People’s President”
“Four Daughters”
“The Eternal Memory”
“To Kill a Tiger”

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