January 20, 2007 / 1:05 AM / 12 years ago

Oscars narrow documentaries to 15 contenders

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Oscar voters named 15 documentaries on Wednesday to the short list of films vying for Academy Award nominations, including global warming film “An Inconvenient Truth” with former U.S. vice president Al Gore.

Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore poses during a photocall to promote his movie "An Inconvenient Truth" in Zurich October 7, 2006. Oscar voters named 15 documentaries on Wednesday to the short list of films vying for Academy Award nominations, including global warming film "An Inconvenient Truth" . REUTERS/Andreas Meier

Other documentaries range from “Deliver Us from Evil,” which tells of sexual abuse by a Catholic priest, to “Shut Up and Sing,” which follows country singers The Dixie Chicks after they criticized the Iraq war and President George W. Bush.

Several films about the war hit the list including “The Ground Truth,” about soldiers returning home, and “Iraq in Fragments,” which looks at how the war has impacted Iraqis.

Another notable “doc” is “Jesus Camp,” which tells of a summer school for Christian evangelicals. Co-directors Rachel Grady and Heidi Ewing of New York’s Loki Films called it “the ultimate recognition” to be singled out by their peers at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

In recent years, documentaries have increasingly earned screen time in mainstream cinemas as the storytelling of non-fiction films has become more like fictional films.

As a result, the box office tallies for these films has been rising. “Inconvenient Truth” raked in $23.8 million (12.6 million pounds) in U.S. cinemas to become the third highest-grossing documentary of all time, excluding concert and Imax films.

It is topped by No. 1 “Fahrenheit 9/11,” which took in a whopping $119 million in the United States in 2004, and No. 2 “March of the Penguins” with $77 million last year.

Documentary makers said the higher profile in cinemas has raised the bar for the types and quality of films they make.

“People’s expectations of documentaries are pushing us to make better films, and making every body rise to the occasion,” said Ewing of “Jesus Camp.”

The list of 15 was culled from 81 entries that were picked by committees of Oscar voters. From the list of 15, the final nominees will be named on January 23.

The Oscars will be given out in a gala ceremony in Los Angeles on February 25. A list of the 15 documentaries can be found at the Academy’s Web-site at www.oscars.org.

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